Dropping an iPhone into the drink often comes with numerous technical problems or a hefty out-of-warranty replacement bill. But future iPhones and other iOS devices could find themselves with waterproof features, thanks to a new invention from Apple, first spotted by Apple Insider.
An Apple Inc. patent application published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Thursday, titled "Methods for Shielding Electronic Components from Moisture,” details a new way for the company to protect its smartphone from water damage. Instead of just outright sealing the phone from the outside elements, Apple would coat essential components -- such as the circuit board -- with a hydrophobic coating. This would be applied in layers between 1 and 10 microns thick, through a process called plasma-assisted chemical vapor deposition, or PACVD.
Though the process would be able to coat most of the circuit board, electromagnetic interference (EMI) shielding can prevent the coating from being applied to some of the iPhone’s components. To remedy this, the patent proposes adding small holes to the shield -- enough to coat the components but also maintain effectiveness against EMI.
This would only protect the circuit board itself, not the soldered endpoints, where ribbon cables and wires are attached to link up different components of the iPhone, such as the display, battery and lightning connector. Apple proposes using silicone to seal those vulnerable points.
It’s not known if or when Apple plans to integrate waterproofing into its iPhones or iPads. But the Apple Watch may come with some water-resistant features. Apple CEO Tim Cook hinted at this during a visit to a Berlin Apple Store, saying that he even wears his in the shower, according to French blog iGen.
Apple filed the patent March 31, 2014, and credits engineers Nicholas Merz, Scott Myers, Gregory Stephens and Joseph C. Poole for the method.