July 6, 2012

Apple Wins Water Tattle-Tale Patent

Michael Harper for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

There´s an unfortunate situation that´s been created with the rising popularity of Apple´s iPhone. The Cupertino company has sold millions and millions of these smartphones to millions and millions of people. People, as you may very well know, can be clumsy creatures, capable of doing some very silly things and dropping precious, expensive items in sinks, toilets, rivers and even washing machines. When these little accidents happen, these clumsy iPhone owners sheepishly take their ruined smartphones to the Apple store, seeking either repair or replacement.

You may also be well aware that not every human being is an honest one. Some people may accidentally drop their iPhone in a river and try to take it back to the Apple store for a free replacement, claiming the thing just stopped working one day.

Whenever an iPhone is taken to the Apple store with an issue, the first thing a Genius does is shine a light in the port. They´re not just looking for dust, they´re looking for a little red strip.

Apple, and many other electronics manufacturers, use these little red water-indicator strips to tell if the device has been wet. As soon as moisture hits these things, they turn bright red, acting as a sort of lie-detector for those who may wish to game the system.

Now, as more people are buying the iPhones (and a few months before a brand new iPhone) Apple has been awarded a patent to this very technology which they´ve been using since the very first iPhone was ever in danger of being dropped in a pitcher of beer, for whatever reason.

The patent, number 8,210,032, details a method by which Apple customer service representatives can quickly determine if a product has been damaged by water.  The patent filing says the detector would be placed inside an “enclosed” device and provide "at least one visual indication after being immersed in water."

Apple´s standard, 1-year warranty covers your basic malfunctions, but does not cover water damage. For that kind of coverage, Apple offers AppleCare and, more recently, AppleCare +, which allows for 2 iPhone replacements for any reason.

This little red tattle tale strip is a big deal for Apple. According to the patent, “Water exposure is among major reasons that may cause significant malfunction of devices, such as electronic devices, which include electronic, mechanical, or chemical components," Apple writes in its patent. "Therefore, verification of significant water exposure (or water immersion) is important to manufacturers of the devices. For example, for purposes such as warranty claim assessment, trouble-shooting for repairs, and product development, a manufacturer of electronic devices typically needs to verify whether a malfunctioning device has been immersed in water."

Elsewhere in Apple patents, blog Patently Apple has also discovered a few other recent Apple patents.

Apple was awarded a patent for:

  • Systems and methods for prioritizing mobile media player files (8,214,315)
  • Song flow methodology in random playback (8,214,740), and
  • "Method, system, and graphical user interface for viewing multiple application windows," (8,214,768)

Now that Apple has been awarded this patent, any other company that wishes to employ these little red tattle tale strips will have to speak with Apple first. Hopefully, this patent won´t appear in an upcoming legal battle between Apple and another Android-based competitor.