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Newly revealed research shows that Apple is investigating how to keep iPhone sensors functioning accurately while being protected from high water pressure or low air pressure.
Usually, when Apple gets a patent on pressure, it’s about controlling a device with touch. But iPhones are also regularly exposed to environmental pressures, including being transported and used in flight or underwater.
“Electronic Device with Built-in Pressure Sensor” is a recently granted patent that aims to prevent external pressure or changes in pressure from damaging the iPhone or affecting the accuracy of its sensors.
“These devices travel with people away from home on their way to work, updating people with bus routes, traffic updates, game-of-the-day scores, and more,” the patent says. . “As users increasingly rely on these devices, the devices are designed to be more robust.”
“For example, plastic components can be replaced with metal components or glass components can be thicker and made with tempered glass,” he continues. “The devices are also designed to be used in a wider variety of environments.”
Apple lists examples of environments that cause problems for devices, such as when carried mountaineering or skiing/hiking where temperatures drop well below freezing.” Or “devices can generally be taken in or around some water”.
“For this reason, devices are typically designed to have some level of water resistance, as water can cause electrical components inside devices to fail,” Apple explains.
One way to prevent water from damaging a device is to remove the type of ports it would enter. This will be one of the reasons why Apple removed the headphone jack from the iPhone 7, in 2016.
There is a catch, however, and it’s more than disappointing users who have wired headphones that they can no longer plug into their iPhones. Instead, it’s the ripple effect of removing ports or sealing a device.
“However, sealing the device so that it can be submerged,” Apple continues, “at least to some extent in water can have unintended consequences that affect the operation of some of the sensors included in the device.” .
Specifically, “sealing the device may cause an increase in operating temperature because the components are encapsulated or enclosed in a sealed environment.”
So instead of water damage, you could take heat damage. The iPhone will shut down if it gets too hot, but that’s clearly not ideal.
The additional problem of sealing an iPhone is also not the same.
“As another example,” Apple explains, “sensors, such as temperature sensors or pressure transducers, can be less accurate because they are sealed inside the device and not in direct contact with the environment. outside”.
“Therefore, what is desired is an improved way of integrating various sensors into a portable electronic device,” Apple continues.
This is followed by approximately 7,000 words of patent description that detail multiple fine differences in how to approach a central idea. This idea includes options on water inlet and outlet, but the main concern is to create a way for the iPhone, or any other electronic device, to become a pressure transducer.
By creating a sealed cavity inside the device, it can measure environmental pressure.
“The cavity is sealed to form a volume of air within the cavity that is vented to the outside environment via a barometric vent fluidly coupled to a first opening in the enclosure,” Apple explains. “A sensor measures a characteristic of a second volume of air inside an insulated chamber that is vented to the outside environment through a second opening in the housing.”
Application of the patent
Apple’s patent does not detail what can be done when, for example, high pressure is detected. That’s outside the scope of this patent, which wants to establish just how much use such pressure cavities could be, especially since Apple says you can’t just completely enclose and seal the components.
“[Sealing] gas in a container can lead to structural failures when a pressure difference occurs between the gas in the sealed container and the gas surrounding the sealed container,” the patent continues. “For example, the gas pressure inside the sealed container may increase as the temperature of the gas increases.”
“Because the operational components generate heat, the gas must be able to vent pressure to the external environment,” he says.
Similarly, a drop in pressure due to a change in altitude can cause damage. “The positive pressure differential between the gas in the cavity and the gas in the external environment can force the display assembly away from the housing, causing the seal created by the adhesive to fail.”
“Rupture of the seal may allow water to enter cavity 202,” he continues. “One solution to correct this problem is to include a barometric vent in an orifice included in the housing between the cavity and the external environment.”
The way to prevent the screen from being pulled away from the device and the heat causing a pressure buildup is to equalize these internal and external pressures.
This patent only relates to the ways in which the pressure can be equalized. There are also limits to what a device can do to, for example, create internal pressure to match the outside world.
Still, being able to detect changes in pressure and being able to use at least some methods to mitigate issues means iPhones should increase their depth and height tolerances.
The newly issued patent is awarded to 10 inventors. They include Eric N. Nyland, whose previous work includes patents regarding water ejection in the Apple Watch, and the iPhone.