Will cell phones come equipped with airbags in the future?

Taylor Martin
 from  Concord, NC
| August 11, 2011

We all have done it before. Dropping your phone is never a good thing, for the device itself or for your nerves and temper. Each time, it's just as gut-wrenching as the last. I dropped my iPhone this week and even though it was in a (very “barely there”) case, it still suffered some scuffs and a few nicks on the antenna. Ouch. Luckily, the case took the blunt of the crash and managed to save the display.

Despite being an accessory junkie, I don't normally like carrying my phone in a case. I love to feel and hold the device as it was intended to feel. The iPhone is no exception to that. But I feel like I'm asking for trouble when I carry the iPhone naked.

What if there was a way to carry your phone without a case and it still be fully protected? According to a recent post over at Android and Me, those interested in naked phone protection may just be in luck. Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos, was just listed as “inventor” on a patent application filed in 2010, described as a “method for protecting a portable device that includes an airbag deployable from a side of the portable device.” In further detail:

“Prior to impact between a surface and a device, a determination of a risk of damage to the device is made. If the risk of damage to the device exceeds a threshold, a protection system is activated to reduce or substantially eliminate damage to the device."

The idea is novel, there's no doubt about that. But how feasible is it? If it can save a device from a busted LCD or shattered glass, it may just be worth it. But I have my usual suspicions.

Airbags in cars, once deployed, need to be replaced. If you've ever been in a fender bender and had your airbag deploy, you know it can make a substantial difference on the repair costs. If the airbag in your cellphone deploys, will it be reusable? Or will you have to replace it? If so, how much will it cost? Of course an airbag fit for a cell phone would certainly cost less than one meant to save a person's life, but even at $100, they would be no more efficient than having to replace a display. (It is also worth noting that if the airbag is replaceable, it is also removable, thus it could be optional – maybe an add-on feature.)

Also, how much bulk would it add to the device itself? Displays are growing in size, resulting in larger devices. But at the same time, some manufacturers are putting extra effort in making devices super thin and pocketable. That said, LTE is becoming the 4G standard in the US, which is resulting in slightly thicker devices. Packing an airbag in with an LTE radio could result in an extra plump device, not to mention if one had a QWERTY keyboard. (Just the thought is bringing back memories of the HTC Mogul.)

Lastly, what are the odds of a false deployment? Sometimes I toss my phone when sitting down in the car or when walking into my bedroom, especially when it's in a case. Sure, tossing my phone may be a bad idea to begin with, but what would the odds of the airbag deploying unnecessarily? I'm sure the “determination of a risk of damage” can't possibly account for the way everyone uses (and/or abuses) their phone. If the airbag is falsely or unnecessarily deployed, that could be a costly, accidental repair that you wouldn't have needed in the first place.

Of course, all of this is hypothetical. It is only a patent and could be years before the technology ever makes it to a device … if it ever does. Regardless, what do you guys and gals think of a cell phone airbag? Yay or nay? Don't care? Spill your opinions and concerns in the comments below.

(Side-note: When I first read about this, the first thing that popped into my mind was the OtterBox Oh Snap! Series.)

Image via OtterBox

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