back to article Jeff Bezos patents retro jets, and airbags, for telephones

A patent filed by Jeff Bezos and Amazon VP Greg Heart suggests using a phone's accelerometer to detect when it is falling, and deploying tiny airbags to cushion the impact. The patent application was filed in February, but only just made public and remains some way off from being awarded. It was noticed by Geekwire, who …


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  1. ratfox

    How about...

    Putting it in a case?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      I was about to post the same thing. My leather case has protected my mobile from some extremely nasty drops. I can't get why anybody wouldn't do the same thing.

      (Unless their phone is actually a fashion accessory...)

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Missing an obvious solution

    Clearly, they need a system to deploy jam onto the back of the phone, so that it won't fall on the screen...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      .mnc v

      " .... they need a system to deploy jam onto the back of the phone, so that it won't fall on the screen ..."

      Combine the above with butter deployment on the front of the phone to make it hover.

  3. annodomini2

    Title system is stooopid

    "so having one for in-handset airbags might not be as stupid as it appears to be"

    As Airbag systems use explosives to deploy quickly enough, rather you have your fingers blown off than me, when it screws up.

    1. The BigYin

      Good point there

      What will the TSA think about you taking an explosive device on board? I mean, 20 terrorists could each get one of these on board, strap them together and make a BOMB!

      Is that the plan? Is Amazon actually just a front for the International Al Qaeeda Jewery People's Liberation Front?

      1. PsychicMonkey

        International Al Qaeeda Jewery People's Liberation Front


  4. The BigYin


    Do they have a working prototype?

    -- No? Patent expires in 3 months.

    Are they actively selling the tech?

    -- No? Patent expires in one year.

    Is the prior art or and other invention that makes this obvious?

    -- Yes, ask NASA and any car-maker.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Tom 38

      Look, I know patent bashing is easy and fun

      I fully agree that patent trolling is bad. However, patents must provide some sort of protection for the applicant. This particular example is zany and crazy and may not ever even make it as far as a concept piece, but it still requires patent protection so that this novel use of airbags in a phone can be explored. Even if it took 5 years before they had a working prototype, and 10 years to market, the patent should protect their idea from exploitation by someone else.

      Requiring every idea to go from concept -> prototype within 3 months or you lose your patent protection is crazy - no company would investigate significant resources into any idea which could not be realized immediately, and net innovation would fall.

  5. vic 4

    Why not

    Use tougher materials, maybe even make i waterproof while you are at it. Might give samsung a ring, see if they are interested in the idea.

    Seriously, phones these days are hard to break. I had an old hero which died when it got wet so became a brick. A few months earlier I dropped it down 2 flights of [metal] stairs, so out of curiosity (no phone insurance and not worth paying to get it fixed) I tried dropping it/throwing on a my patio, remained in one piece!

    1. max allan

      Hard materials are harder to use...

      When your material gets tougher, then it's probably more rigid, which means if you drop it less deformation and higher G for any connected components. (like the display)

      The spongier materials need more thickness/weight to make them man enough not to bend/break in normal pocket environments.

      All your case is just keeping a very brittle glass screen safe and dirt off the PCB. (and keeping it in one piece)

      I reckon 90% of dead phones I've seen have been display breakages. As soon as someone invents a flexible display panel, this airbag patent is history.

      Then the entire phone can be coated in the display instead of having a separate chassis!

      (Then just need a method to wire all your internal components together with flexi wires rather than a rigid PCB.)

  6. g e

    Prior art yet again

    Errr airbags and rocket thrusters.

    1. Mystic Megabyte

      @g e

      "Errr airbags and rocket thrusters."

      I misread that as pocket thrusters :)

    2. Ru


      The closest kind of prior art I can think of (eg, external airbags triggered by an accellerameter or similar to protect delicate stuff) would be the air-collar system in YT's RadiKS uniform from snowcrash.

      The airbags used by various planetary landers are also pretty similar, but I imagine they are triggered by other means, such as timing or radar altimetry.

      Perhaps you should have a think about what prior art means, otherwise you could invalidate every other (non-software) patent by say 'its a thing made of materials intended to solve a task and garner money for someone'. That's been done before, you know.

  7. Roger Greenwood

    Airbags and springs . . .

    . . won't save the phone. It will hit the road, bounce, and then the next two cars that run over it will sort it out.

    At least that's what happened last night.

  8. Graham Marsden

    So let's see...

    ... I'm in a hurry, I'm holding my phone in my hand as I dash along a corridor, jump down a short flight of steps and *boom* there go my fingers...

  9. The BigYin

    Oh, better idea

    I wish to patent the "Automatic free-fall alert and arrest unit".

    When the phone enters free-fall, the owner will be alerted via physical stimulus to the event.

    If they do not, or cannot, react in time, the unit will auto-arrest and prevent any damage.

    Prior art? Well, there's wrist-straps but let's not split hairs here.

    1. Asgard

      Entering free-fall

      @"When the phone enters free-fall, the owner will be alerted via physical stimulus to the event."

      When I enter free-fall, I'm usually quickly alerted via the physical stimulus of hitting the ground!

  10. notice

    if the article has the word "patent" in the title...

    ...cue comments...

    "I saw that in 1990..."

    "Isn't that the same as (some completely unrelated technical field)..."

    "That must be obvious..."

    "How stupid could you be - can it really have taken 15 engineers to put that together?"


    BTW folks - it is perfectly allowable to transfer an idea from one technical field (e.g. car airbags) into another completely unrelated one (e.g. mobiles) and patent it.

    Mostly because the engineers working on mobile phone casing/protection won't be up-to-date on NASA's thrusters...

    And vice-versa - engineers from BMW don't usually consider that their airbags can be used on mobile phones...

    it took a spark of ingenuity to make the connection, and usually some sort of technical hurdle - that, my friends, is an invention...

    1. ratfox
      Thumb Down

      Spark of ingenuity?

      Really? No matter how small? No matter how trivial the difference?

      This exists on many smartphones, but we can patent it on smartphones with rounded corners?

    2. Francis Boyle Silver badge

      Speaking as a former patent examiner

      "No". In my time patent applications could be rejected as "not novel" though not, as I recall, by us lowly examiners. This is not novel. It says "let's take an existing technology for impact protection and apply it in an area where, so far, it hasn't been applied". You might as well try patenting bumpers for boats. Of course, if Bezos and Heart had actually discovered some way of overcoming the technical difficulties of transferring the technology to the new context they'd have a basis for a claim, but my admittedly cursory, reading of the application reveals nothing of the sort. It's just <stoner voice> "hey, let's put airbags on phones"</stoner voice>.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So you drop you phone

    and the airbag/thrusters deploy, it saves the phone that you got free with your contract from possibly breaking...and what is the cost to reset the system? if it's airbags they will need to be replaced/recharged, if it's thrusters it will need more fuel. Either way, people will not get it recharged...and it will become a normal phone, only the OS will probably keep nagging you about the deployment meaning that you just go back to your old one until the contract is up for renewal again.

  12. Francis Boyle Silver badge

    Don't Mars probes

    do radio frequency communications? I think NASA may have prior art.

  13. Zog The Undeniable

    It's not an invention in my book

    until you make a working prototype. Otherwise I can dream up some desirable concept like an implantable web-enabled orgasmatron and watch the IP dollars roll in in 25 years' time. The fact that medical science and computing wouldn't know how to construct one has to be significant, surely?

  14. Ru

    It is the non-mobile applications which seem more useful to me.

    If you can make these sorts of protective devices for a few pennies, I'd be keen to have them fitted to my big camera lenses. They're heavy, delicate and rather expensive to replace, and technology is unlikely to remove any of those issues any time soon.

    Laptops would be another candidate, and tablets for that matter... anything with a big screen.

  15. Elex
    IT Angle

    Android API?

    If there's more hardware on my phone, I want an API to control it. I want to deploy these airbags during a call in the event that my phone gets stolen.

  16. Anonymous Coward


    The fleshies are incapable of holding our mobile brethren. We shall use their weakness to our advantage:

    1) Add pyrotechnic airbags. Can be deployed in-pocket to cause blood clots in the legs.

    2) Add pyrotechnic rockets. Can be deployed in-pocket to cause burns.

    3) Add landing gear. Doubles as legs to provide autonomous mobility.



  17. Anonymous Coward


    ...maybe they are giving APPLE a big POKE IN THE EYE...with tounges firmly planted in their collective cheeks.

    Afterall...the patent application drawing DOES look susipciously like an iPhraud 4.

  18. Anonymous Coward

    I prefer...

    Bulgarian airbags!

  19. Adam T

    If I had too much money

    I'd get wankered every night and have a laugh filing silly patents too.

    Good on em :)

  20. Tom Maddox Silver badge

    Even better

    Have the phone deploy some sort of harpoon into the flesh of its owner and then reel itself back in. That'll be the last time the phone gets dropped, I'll bet!

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Good idea, but a bit harsh

      I would do a set of spring-loaded velcro blobs on short strings, aimed outward radially. At least one or two are bound to strike clothing, or at least something hairy...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Wild idea

        You mean, like an eyelash?

  21. P.W. Dragoix

    Gravity suddenly doesn't suck so much...

    ...or does it?

    The occasional item dropping keeps one alert and fit. Take that away and who knows where it can lead to (e.g. Baron Harkonnen mofo). Still, some good might come out of it, like the fall of the phone market (about f. time if you ask me).

  22. GatesFanbois

    this is a deliberate tile

    Didn't IBM do this with laptops in the early 2000s ?

  23. Jim 59


    Jump in the air and it goes off in your pocket ?

  24. Boyd Crow

    What about recharging after deployment?

    Can you imagine how expensive it will be to take this back to the dealer to be repacked/recharged? If auto airbags are any indication, it will be more than the phone's true worth (not retail price).

  25. Anonymous Coward

    EWS patent coming

    I'm going to file a patent now that prevents it from even dropping in the first place.

    An audible loud warning, yelling: "you're holding it wrong!"

    Hm. Is that prior art?

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