Apple May Finally Solve One of the iPhone's Biggest Problems

Source: AP
Source: AP

If you've ever accidentally dropped your phone in the toilet or had it in your pocket while you jumped into a pool, Apple may have some good news for you.

A patent filed by the company in June 2014 includes plans for "an electronic device [that] has a self-healing elastomer applied over one or more external electronic connectors." That patent was published Thursday by the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

In plainer language, Apple is trying to waterproof its ports. Currently, the inside of the new iPhone 6s is water-resistant thanks to the nifty, wetsuit-like material surrounding its logic board. But as Popular Mechanics notes, while this is great for the inside, no such technology exists for ports — meaning that if you accidentally get your phone wet, you may well be up shit creek without a paddle.

Apple can't use that technology for its ports because we plug things into them all the time. (A logic board involves no direct user interaction.) That's where the "self-healing" part of the patent comes in.

In fig. 4, the port is plugged up; in fig. 5, the jack is inserted; in fig. 6, after the jack is removed, the port seals itself back up.
Source: 
U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

It works like this: When a user wants to use the headphone or charger port, they would insert the jack normally. The jack would travel through the elastomer to the port underneath. When they remove the jack, the self-healing elastomer would seal itself back up, thereby reducing the chance of debris or water entering the device.

The patent includes a handy flowchart that illustrates how the process works: 

While there's no promise that Apple will actually put this idea into production — plenty of its patented ideas go unused — its previous efforts to make its products water-resistant seem to suggest that it's a priority for the company.

It's certainly a priority for Apple users: 

Mic has reached out to Apple for comment and will update if we hear back.

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Sophie Kleeman

Sophie is a staff writer at Mic covering the intersection of tech and culture. She's based in New York and can be reached at sophie@mic.com.

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