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Did your iPhone 'just stop working' - or did you drop it in your BEER?

No more lying at the Genius Bar - Apple patents water detection

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Apple was awarded patents on 21 of its design and engineering applications yesterday - including one for a head-mounted immersive visual display.

The other 20 are a little less visionary, but at least one of the patents awarded could have an impact on fanbois who have given their phones an immersive watery experience.

Patent 8,210,032 is designed to help Apple staff determine whether or not a dysfunctional iPhone had in fact been dropped in a pint of beer/the toilet/the swimming pool/etc. Good news for warranty-enforcing Apple store staff, not good news when your boss subsequently rumbles you for ruining a corporate handset.

Apple says in the patent:

Water exposure is among major reasons that may cause significant malfunction of devices [...] Therefore, verification of significant water exposure (or water immersion) is important to manufacturers of the devices. For example, for purposes such as warranty claim assessment, trouble-shooting for repairs, and product development.

The design outlines a water-detecting component that would fit into the case of a gadget and would determine whether – and to what degree – the device had been dunked in water.

It ain't rocket science – it consists of a water reactive material that includes a soluble dye and small hole. From the patent's description the water-detecting module would fit inside the case – somewhere that a Genius Bar operative could reach it, but a fiddling fanboi can't.

To determine whether device 100 has previously been immersed in water, an inspector 170, such as a representative of the manufacture of device 100, may open cover 108 and remove removable module 110 to see whether detector 102 has changed color.

Alternatively a little display hole on the gadget's surface would reflect whether you'd dunked your iPhone in water.

Apple has submitted some pretty weird patents: such as its privacy by cloneware idea. But the rest of this batch are fairly mundane: there's whole patent on new packaging design, another on an iPod stand and others deal with small software tweaks: for example one which allows you to view multiple application windows in a user interface and one which will allow you to listen to certain tracks in a fixed sequence even when playing tracks on random shuffle.

The patent 'Water detection arrangement' was filed on 15 January, 2010 and awarded on 3 July, 2012. ®

The next step in data security

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