Apple is granted a patent for ‘coverglass fracture detection’

Future iPhones, iPads and Apple Watches (and perhaps Mac laptops) may tell you when their display gets tiny, perhaps imperceptible (to your eyes) cracks. And the device could also give Apple some info about the damage. The company has been granted a patent (number 9,703,325) for “coverglass fracture detection.”

In the patent filing, Apple notes that its portable electronic devices are built to withstand any number of stresses and strains caused by daily use. The company realizes that, due to the portable nature of these devices, they’re likely to be subjected to drops and impacts.

While various ways of reinforcing and strengthening these devices to account for these types of events have been developed, certain portions of the devices can still remain quite susceptible to breakage and/or degradation. In particular, the display cover or coverglass portion of a portable electronic device can be an area in which damage is likely when the portable electronic device is dropped or subjected to a high impact force. 

Forces acting upon the coverglass can cause any number of different types of breaks and/or cracks to occur in the coverglass. Unfortunately, device designers are often unable to get much data about how and in what circumstances a coverglass component is most likely to break. For this reason, the device designers don’t always have the data necessary to add features to the device that can help to mitigate coverglass breakage in common fall scenarios. Apple wants to change this. 

According to the company’s patent filing, a touch sensor can be utilized in a mobile device screen for detection and characterization purposes. Alternatively, a crack detection specific sensor or sensors can be added to a device. In some embodiments, when formation of a crack is detected, a device having a sensor that detects a crack can adjust its behavior depending upon how the crack is characterized. 

For example, the device can be configured to notify a user of the device of any or all systems of the device that will be affected by the detected crack. In some embodiments, crack characterization data can be sent to a device manufacturer to improve subsequent device models.

Of course, Apple files for — and is granted — lots of patents by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Many are for inventions that never see the light of day. However, you never can tell which ones will materialize in a real product.