While your Hello Kitty phone case may look fashionable, it might not do a lot to protect your cell phone if it’s dropped on a hardwood floor. Dozens of manufacturers have created rubber, silicone, and plastic cases that are intended to mitigate damage to plummeting devices, but they’re not foolproof. In 2015, Motorola conducted a survey in which they found 50 percent of cell phone owners globally had dealt with a cracked screen. An average out-of-warranty screen repair for an Apple iPhone is $200.
Fortunately, German engineering student Philip Frenzel has a solution. His AD Case is a slim add-on that houses four metal springs. When the device senses a free-fall via an accelerometer, the springs deploy and give the phone four points of contact buffering before hitting the floor.
Frenzel, who attends Aalen University in Aalen, Germany, won a Mechatronics Prize that acknowledges student innovation. The 25-year-old inventor got the idea four years ago after throwing his coat over a bannister and watching his brand-new cell phone fall from a pocket onto the floor. Finding bulky shell cases cumbersome, he tried expanding foam before settling on the spring-loaded approach.
While Frenzel has applied for a patent, he’s not the first to think of a deployed-protection case. In 2012, Amazon patented a device that would shoot compressed air to cushion impact, though they never brought it to market.
The AD Case is not yet commercially available, though that could change fast: Frenzel hopes to launch a Kickstarter in July.