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Google’s latest idea would make it harder to drop your phone

A new patent filed by Google shows an innovative method for preventing you from dropping your smartphone and smashing all of the delicate circuitry inside. It’s actually a new type of housing designed to give your fingers better grip around the sides of the device — even if it doesn’t look particularly stylish, it could save you a few hundred dollars in repair costs.

Google smartphone patent

“Despite the significant advances in handheld electronic devices, the physical form of these devices has seen little evolution,” notes Google in its patent filing. “Most are shaped like a more or less smooth brick with increasingly smooth front, back, and side surfaces. This configuration can easily slip from the hand of the user, and risk damaging the phone with potential loss of valuable data as well as hardware.”

Related: Four flagship phones put through paces in drop/dunk durability test

The ideas contained in patent applications don’t always make their way to consumers — they’re just an indication of what the engineers at a particular company are exploring — so this strange casing may not arrive in time for the next batch of Nexus devices. It certainly looks more grippable based on Google’s diagrams but there would still be a chance of your smartphone taking a tumble.

Apple has also been looking at ways to protect your mobile devices against unexpected drops: In a patent approved at the end of last year, the Cupertino company suggests the idea of your iPhone using jets of air or an electric ion propulsion system to cushion the impact. Of course the best solution of all is to be careful while you’re Instagramming and making calls, but failing that you can look at investing in a case.

If the worst should happen, we’ve put together a guide to getting your smartphone fixed on a budget.