apple samsungThe next iPhone could sense when it’s been dropped and eject its battery to fall the right way up and avoid damage, or pop out air foils and glide safely down to earth.

This is after the US Patent Office this week approved a patent submitted by Apple that describes a technology that would allow the phone to sense when it has been dropped, and shift itself around to ensure that it landed the right way up.

To do this, the phone would use the motor that usually allows the phone to vibrate to alert users, and the patent lays out a number of technical ways that the motor could re-orient the phone.

The phone could also determine where it’s about to fall and eject its battery to propel it to fall the right way. It could also use ‘air foils’ to glide to the right place, or it could grab hold of the headphone socket so that the wire would act like a climbing rope, the patent says.

The solutions might sound ridiculous, but certain versions of the technology are already present in Apple’s laptops. The company’s ‘suddent motion sensor’, which is awaiting its own patent, uses sensors to work out if the laptop is falling or has been dropped, and protects the hard drive to minimise damage from the crash.

The inventors said that as more and more people use their phones, they often “enter a freefall state” — that is, people drop them or they fall off counters. They end up broken, even if they are in cases, and the inventors filed the patent as a way of addressing the problem.

Submitted by engineers Nicholas King and Fletcher Rothkopf in 2011, the patent was published in 2013, and was approved yesterday.