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Clever mobile ‘airbag’ could save your phone when (not if) you drop it

Philip Frenzel/Landesschau Baden-Württemberg

If you’ve never dropped your smartphone, then guess what? It’s going to happen sooner or later.

While most phone cases do a stellar job of protecting handsets when they hit the deck, some drops prove too much, leaving you with a damaged handset and a costly repair bill.

Ever since the first phone slipped from some poor soul’s hand, a number of tech firms have been looking into how to better protect the devices from breaking on impact.

Taking their cue from automakers, companies such as Amazon and Sony filed patents outlining designs for miniaturized airbag systems that inflate when the system detects the phone is falling.

But while those ideas remain as plans sketched out on paper, an engineering student at Aalen University in Germany has taken it upon himself to design a fully working phone protector that springs into action just before the handset hits the ground.

The German Mechatronics Society was so taken by the design that it awarded the student, Philip Frenzel, a national prize for his efforts.

Frenzel’s device comprises a slim case with four prongs located inside each corner. When the sensor detects the phone is falling, the prongs automatically deploy, preventing any part of the phone from hitting the ground.

One notable advantage over airbag systems is that the device can be quickly reset by pushing the prongs back inside the case.

While the design looks like something you might see flying about in a martial arts movie, the prongs have actually been designed to be quite springy in order to absorb the shock when the phone hits the ground. Though admittedly they still look as if they could cause some damage in a bar brawl.

You can watch the device in action in the video below.

Frenzel says that next month he plans to launch a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter for his creation, which, if it receives sufficient backing, could prove popular with those who have a habit of handling their smartphone like a bar of wet soap.

But in the meantime, if you need some advice on how to pick the best smartphone case for your needs, be sure to check out Digital Trends’ useful guide. Alternatively, if you’d prefer a sturdier smartphone that’s built to take bashes and splashes (to a limit, of course!), then here are some suggestions for the best rugged smartphones on the market today.

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