More details are emerging on the killer specs of the upcoming Apple iPhone 6 as the D-day for the unveiling of the next iteration of the iPhone draws nearer.
On Thursday we told you about some of the rumoured specs and features of iPhone 6, including a Sharp sensitive touchscreen, the ability to make 3D video conferencing and calls, and that the next-gen iPhone could well be powered by an Intel chip.
News also trickled in that a UAE company has now enabled the popular iPhone 5 to make satellite phone calls – a world first, and a game changer.
Now, further details have materialised on the features of the next generation iPhone. These details include Apple introducing crash-sensors and parachute-like mechanisms (we kid you not) in the iPhone 6 to prevent or at least limit crash damage, besides sapphire glass (the one in your high-end watch) to enable you to scribble on it with a regular pencil or ballpoint pen, and doubling the top storage to 128GB. Here’s what we know so far:
Limiting Crash Damage
The new version of the iPhone could see the inclusion of crash sensors and an air foil – like a small airbag or a parachute – to prevent damage to your treasured handy candy in case the all-glass smartphone happens to slip from your grip.
In a patent published yesterday (March 21, 2013) by the US Patent and Trademark Office, Apple has registered two methods of making the iPhone, iPad or any of its other iDevices better survive a fall by means of its application called ‘Protective Mechanism for an Electronic Device.’
The so-called protective mechanism aims at protecting the iPhone 6 in case of a fall by employing various techniques, including the deployment of airbags and enforcing a tilt in the iPhone during the fall, which will help it land in a secure way on a curve rather than on the screen or flat.
In the air foil method, the drop of a falling iPhone will get slowed, like a parachute slows the descent of a skydiver. According to Patently Apple, the protective mechanism may activate an air foil in the iPhone 6 or future Apple iDevices to change the aerodynamics of the mobile electronic device.
“The air foil may help to reduce a velocity of the free-fall of the device by producing a lift force. In this example, the air foil may help to reduce the force of impact as the device hits the surface, as the momentum of the device may be reduced (as the velocity of the fall may be reduced),” it elaborates.
The other method involves crash sensors that will detect how far and how fast the iPhone is falling, and reorient its position for it to land at a safer angle. The on-board sensors would enforce a shift in the iPhone’s centre of gravity, thus rotating it so that it may impact a surface on its edge, rather than on a screen portion. Similarly, the protective mechanism may alter the device orientation by altering the angular momentum of the device.
As such, the phone would actually be rotated mid-flight to land on a more durable spot, such as its edge or back, rather than on a more fragile location, such as its display screen.
In addition, the protective mechanism may alter the angular momentum via a rotating or linearly sliding a mass. “The mass may rotate or change its position within the mobile device, which alters a centre of mass and rotation axis for the device. For example, if the device is rotating in a horizontal manner, if the mass is rotated in an opposite direction or moved linearly to another side of the device, the device may change rotation patterns and rotate vertically (with respect to its in use orientation).”
And if all this wasn’t enough, Apple’s patent for protecting the iPhone 6 against crash-damage also includes a thrust mechanism, which may produce a thrust force in one or multiple directions in order to reorient the device. For example, the thrust mechanism may include a gas canister that may deploy the compressed gas outside of the device to change its orientation.
There are more methods too, but it’ll suffice to say that Apple is planning to give its customers a literal free hand with the iPhone 6 in that if all this indeed introduced, it’ll survive in the hands of my three-year-old. Or maybe not.
The other killer feature that Apple is planning to introduce is a scratch-resistant touchscreen that will allow users to scribble notes with an ordinary pencil or pen, without the need for a specialist stylus.
This technology isn’t new – it is the same sapphire crystal glass used in high-end watches, which makes such timepieces scratch-proof. Its strength also makes it an ideal material for use as transparent armour in military vehicles. To get an idea of its endurance, it’ll suffice to note that sapphire crystal is harder than any natural material except diamond.
With Apple’s penchant for saving its iPhones from crash-damage (as detailed above), it is only logical that it also bolsters the screen enough to make the phone virtually unbreakable. Sapphire crystal glass doesn’t crack when dropped, and can’t be scratched with keys, or even by a concrete sidewalk – definitely not by a fingernail, pencil or pen. In fact, Apple already uses it to protect the camera on its iPhone 5.
However, there are at least two hiccups that Apple will have to overcome before the use of sapphire crystal as the next iPhone’s screen can become a reality.
One is that sapphire crystal glass is heavier than the Gorilla Glass that Apple currently uses in its iPhones and iPads, and the second problem is that it is about 10 times more expensive than Gorilla Glass.
Both these issues, however, are not insurmountable.
According to MIT Technology Review, economies of scale are moving towards making manufactured sapphire glass cheap enough to replace the current glass display covers on mobile phones.
Even so, the price may never come down to the level of Gorilla Glass, says MITTR. “Sapphire, a crystalline form of aluminum oxide, probably won’t ever be as cheap as Gorilla Glass, the durable material from Corning that’s used to make screens on iPhones and other smartphones,” the report states.
A Gorilla Glass display costs less than $3, while a sapphire display would cost about $30. But that could fall below $20 in a couple of years thanks to increased competition and improving technology, says Eric Virey, an analyst for the market research firm Yole Développement. And since sapphire performs better than glass, that price could make it cheap enough to compete, he says.
As far as the other problem of weight is concerned – which will multiply Apple’s worldwide shipping costs and go against its drive to make every new version of the iPhone lighter than the previous one – there is a solution too.
“An alternative to using pure sapphire is to laminate an ultrathin layer of sapphire with another, cheaper transparent material, maintaining much of the performance advantage of sapphire at a cost comparable to that of the glass typical in mobile-phone displays,” writes Kevin Bullis of MIT.
“For this purpose, GT Advanced Technologies, based in Nashua, New Hampshire, is developing a method for making sapphire sheets thinner than a human hair – much thinner than the nearly millimetre-thick glass used now on mobile phones.”
Problem solved, then.
Extra Storage Space
Rumours about a 128GB iPhone 6 are getting hotter, especially after the launch of the 128GB iPad 4. The iPad 3 had a maximum capacity of 64GB (similar to the capacity of the current iteration of iPhone), but that changed with the unveiling of the iPhone 4.
Analysts expect Apple to follow the same routine with the iPhone as well. It certainly has the available capacity – it’s just a matter of replicating it for the next-gen iPhone. No reason it shouldn’t.
Obviously, there will be more to share as things progress, and we will keep you updated when we know more.