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Apple looking to improve water sensors for detecting iPhone damage

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 
Apple has shown interest in detecting water damage on portable devices like an iPhone or iPad through circuitry rather than the current color-coded liquid contact indicators found on existing devices.

The pursuit of a better, more fair and more accurate water sensor was revealed this week in a new patent application discovered by AppleInsider. Entitled "Mechanisms for Detecting Exposure to Water in an Electronic Device," it describes circuit-based methods, including the use of a water-soluble glue, as potentially a better way of detecting water damage.

Apple's filing notes that when a customer attempts to return a malfunctioning product, personnel at the point of sale are sometimes unqualified to properly check whether or not the device has water damage. As a result, customers frequently receive replacements for products that were damaged in methods not covered under warranty.

These erroneous replacements can prove costly to a company, and so Apple has shown interest in devising a better and more accurate way of assessing water damage to its portable devices. Pictured in the patent applications are an iPhone, iPad and iPod.

In one potential solution, Apple describes an "immersion detection mechanism" included as part of the internal components of a device. This water sensor could be covered in a water-soluble conductive glue that would electrically insulate the gap between two conducting pieces.

In the event that an iPhone or another device were to be submerged in water, this conductive glue would be permanently eroded by the water. The system would detect a change in impedance of the path, and would signal an alert to a data processor that would log water exposure events within the device.




Another potential method described by Apple involves several water sensors arranged and connected as a randomly accessible sensor array. A current can be passed through these conductive paths, and a change in impedance can be detected, which would signal an alert to a data processor that would log potential water damage events.

The application, made public this week, was first filed in August of 2010. It is credited to inventor Timothy M. Johnson.




Currently, all of Apple's mobile products come LSIs (Liquid Submersion Indicators) or LCIs (Liquid Contact Indicators) that turn from white or silver to a pinkish red when they come in contact with liquid. The sensors are used by Apple to make it easier for its retail store "Geniuses" and third-party repair technicians to determine whether a device has failed as a result of liquid damage, which isn't covered under warranty.

But those sensors occasionally result in false positives, an issue that has led to at least one lawsuit. Apple's proposed invention could be a fairer and more accurate way of detecting water damage.

Apple has apparently shown interest in water-proofing future devices with technology made by HzO. Their product, called "WaterBlock," was shown off at last month's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nev.

Officials with HzO indicated that they have been in talks with Apple about using WaterBlock in future devices like the iPhone. In fact, the company used the iPhone 4S, along with iPads and iPods, for demonstrations of their product at the show.

[ View article on AppleInsider ]
post #2 of 25
Innovations for detecting water damage are great if they do not have false positives invalidating legitamate warranty claims. Apple can absorb false negatives.
post #3 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


But those sensors occasionally result in false positives, an issue that has led to at least one lawsuit. Apple's proposed invention could be a fairer and more accurate way of detecting water damage.

This is why, according to my sources, they open all phones to check for internal liquid damage if only one of the two external sensors is tripped or if it is only a light color (the more water the darker the color of the sensor). particularly if the sensor tripped isn't related to the issue being reported. So tripping the sensor in the dock connector wouldn't affect the headphone jack not working and thus shouldn't be the only reason for refusing service. Tripping the sensor and the phone won't charge is a different case. Tripping the dock connector sensor and there is water in the phone, tripped sensors in the phone or signs that someone replaced the sensors inside and you are SOL

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A non tech's thoughts on Apple stuff 

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post #4 of 25
That's clever. They could plug in the phone and see what the results are without looking inside the device with a flashlight and magnifying glass. They might be able to get a time stamp when the impedance happened.

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"There is no rule that says the best phones must have the largest screen." ~RoundaboutNow

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post #5 of 25
This is good news. My iPhone 4 went totally bonkers a couple of months ago. When I took it into the Apple Store, they said the moisture sensors in the phone jack and dock connector were both showing exposure to moisture. Having never gotten my phone wet, I couldn't believe it. They said it could have been condensation if I had left the iPhone on the bathroom counter while I took a shower, the steam causing it to trip. So they'd replace the phone for $150. When the tech went back to make the exchange, he opened the phone and saw that there was absolutely no water damage and that the *internal* moisture sensors were NOT flipped. So he gave me a new iPhone 4 under my regular Applecare warranty. For a while I was really disappointed, but I'm glad he did a double-check on the insides and made the right call. I hope better sensors can alleviate these kinds of false-positives.
post #6 of 25
Apple should invest the time and money on water detectors in just making the devices waterproof. iPads, iPhones, etc. are not openable by the user and only have three openings, the headphone jack, the 30-pin connector and the micro sim slot. Make these water resistant. It does not have to have a 15m rating, just as good as some of the weather resistant cameras. I you can make a DSLR weather resistant with all the doors, speakers, ports and buttons on them a iPhone should be easy.
post #7 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

That's clever. They could plug in the phone and see what the results are without looking inside the device with a flashlight and magnifying glass. They might be able to get a time stamp when the impedance happened.

What happens when it fails to switch on?
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post #8 of 25
They could still crack it open. If there were visible signs of water seepage, they wouldn't need to verify it with circuitry.

If there were no visible signs, it would be judged as a manufacturing defect since there would be little or no evidence of water damage. Full immersion would almost certainly leave some visual trace of damage though.
post #9 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by hill60 View Post

What happens when it fails to switch on?

If the sensors fail to switch on and your phone is dead then Apple Geniuses will have no evidence that there is water damage so you're more likely to get a replacement.

"The real haunted empire?  It's the New York Times." ~SockRolid

"There is no rule that says the best phones must have the largest screen." ~RoundaboutNow

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"The real haunted empire?  It's the New York Times." ~SockRolid

"There is no rule that says the best phones must have the largest screen." ~RoundaboutNow

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post #10 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by wally626 View Post

Apple should invest the time and money on water detectors in just making the devices waterproof.

Exactly. From the end of the article:

Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

Apple has apparently shown interest in water-proofing future devices with technology made by HzO. Their product, called "WaterBlock," was shown off at last month's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nev.

Officials with HzO indicated that they have been in talks with Apple about using WaterBlock in future devices like the iPhone. In fact, the company used the iPhone 4S, along with iPads and iPods, for demonstrations of their product at the show.

Apple should get their act together and just do it. Stop fiddling about with water sensors and just make the devices waterproof!
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post #11 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. H View Post

Apple should get their act together and just do it. Stop fiddling about with water sensors and just make the devices waterproof!

Apple is the most successful company in the world and this was just shown at CES in January so I don't understand your "get your act together" comment. I don't think this type of tech would need too much testing to make sure it doesn't cause other issues or make the equipment that can handle what Apple needs for all its devices but there would surely be some, perhaps no less than 6 months.

For instance, how would the battery work with this coating? Can it work just as well with the connectors on both end are coated or would Apple have to solder it again like it did with the original iPhone... which made people unhappy.

"The real haunted empire?  It's the New York Times." ~SockRolid

"There is no rule that says the best phones must have the largest screen." ~RoundaboutNow

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"The real haunted empire?  It's the New York Times." ~SockRolid

"There is no rule that says the best phones must have the largest screen." ~RoundaboutNow

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post #12 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

Apple is the most successful company in the world and this was just shown at CES in January so I don't understand your "get your act together" comment.

Yes, only shown at CES in January but I've known about this tech. for years so Apple really should have as well.
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post #13 of 25
I thought some of the newer water repelling treatments, which allow the electronics to operate, while submerged in liquid water, would make this effort completely wasted.

http://www.phonesreview.co.uk/2012/0...roof-liquipel/
post #14 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. H View Post

Yes, only shown at CES in January but I've known about this tech. for years so Apple really should have as well.

This might be a company worth purchasing if they have a patent on the product. Apple certainly has the cash - try to copy that Samsung, HTC, Moto, etc
post #15 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. H View Post

Yes, only shown at CES in January but I've known about this tech. for years so Apple really should have as well.

Then I wonder why Apple and or haven't contracted them at this point. I don't think I've read of any companies that sell waterproof CE that are also using this tech as an added precaution in case your sealed electronics obtain moisture.

"The real haunted empire?  It's the New York Times." ~SockRolid

"There is no rule that says the best phones must have the largest screen." ~RoundaboutNow

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"The real haunted empire?  It's the New York Times." ~SockRolid

"There is no rule that says the best phones must have the largest screen." ~RoundaboutNow

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post #16 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

In one potential solution, Apple describes an "immersion detection mechanism" included as part of the internal components of a device. This water sensor could be covered in a water-soluble conductive glue that would electrically insulate the gap between two conducting pieces.

Hmmm . . .
electrically conductive glue that electrically insulates the gap between two conductors.
That would indeed be a trick!
post #17 of 25
Quote:
The sensors are used by Apple to make it easier for its retail store "Geniuses" and third-party repair technicians to determine whether a device has failed as a result of liquid damage

This is in incorrect.
It allows the technicians to see if the device was exposed to water.
It does nothing to indicate if the water caused the damage.
It is simply an easier way to void the the warranty for the device manufacturer.
post #18 of 25
Anybody know if Apple use these with any other products? (like keyboards)
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post #19 of 25
I wish the article was written as "Apple looking to improve water resistance to eliminate iPhone damage" . If that is difficult, then add sensors that turn off circuitry before the damage can occur and provide the way to dry the phone.
post #20 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

Then I wonder why Apple and or haven't contracted them at this point. I don't think I've read of any companies that sell waterproof CE that are also using this tech as an added precaution in case your sealed electronics obtain moisture.

Samsung already said they planned to use HzO waterproofing in some of their phones this year. That should probably be a big ol' flag that Apple will end up buying them before letting Samsung use it.
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post #21 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post

Samsung already said they planned to use HzO waterproofing in some of their phones this year. That should probably be a big ol' flag that Apple will end up buying them before letting Samsung use it.

Samsung says a lot of things.

"The real haunted empire?  It's the New York Times." ~SockRolid

"There is no rule that says the best phones must have the largest screen." ~RoundaboutNow

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"The real haunted empire?  It's the New York Times." ~SockRolid

"There is no rule that says the best phones must have the largest screen." ~RoundaboutNow

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post #22 of 25
It's good to see the wise folks at Apple are using some of its $100B cash surplus to find better ways to justify denying a few customers warranty service.

No doubt doing so is more profitable than building water-resistant electronics. After all, it's not like human beings routinely have liquids in our environments, or that it would be reasonable to expect an expensive, all-purpose, general-use device whose portability is its major selling point to be able to cope with a little water.
post #23 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris_CA View Post

This is in incorrect.
It allows the technicians to see if the device was exposed to water.
It does nothing to indicate if the water caused the damage.
It is simply an easier way to void the the warranty for the device manufacturer.

Confirmed. Apple personnel routinely refuse to further examine any device the sensor of which shows it was exposed to moisture. They make no attempt to determine if a failure is in any way related to moisture.

They also get all Stepfordy when one stands beneath a huge in-store ad of someone dancing like cardiac arrest with an iPod, and waves one's own sweat-devastaed toy while pointing out the irony of the fact that the gadget's response to a little water resembles that of the Wicked Witch of the West.

I particularly love the 4S ad of the ruggedly handsome, deliciously fit plutocrat running along San Francisco's Embarcadero while instructing his 4S on how to manage his busy-but-oh-so-gratifying life. I keep waiting for Suri to start shrieking "I'm melting, I'm melting What a world, what a world" and confuse his date with his wife.
post #24 of 25
or at least resistant due to the fact that kids don't wear jackets in the rainy season and are totally saturated but they need their phones . Simply put it only allows for a better product if it can withstand damage from the elements. iphone , iphone 3 , 3gs , iphone 4 , 4s iphone 5 , 5s , iphone .........., 100s water-resistant . The iphone is exorbitantly priced in NZ and each upgrade is a little , little little different. Come on and just make the product the best it can be so it stays ahead of the competition , sharp and casio 16 megapixel cell phones .
post #25 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by miquet View Post

Most if not all phones for sale in Japan are Waterproof or at least resistant due to the fact that kids don't wear jackets in the rainy season and are totally saturated but they need their phones.

Actually, they are water resistant due to the fact that that they were manufactured this way.
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