There's been much debate over what Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) next killer iPhone feature will be. This year may see the integration of a fingerprint sensor to beef up security capabilities, and will likely correspond to a big foray into mobile payments to tap those 500 million active iTunes accounts. What about after that, though? How about a flying iPhone?

Ok, "flying" may be a bit of an exaggeration, but how about an iPhone that can rotate itself in midair? That's something Apple is looking into according to a recent patent application that was just made public. Future Apple devices could include a sensor that could detect when a device has been dropped, and subsequently adjust the center of mass to change the orientation of the device in an effort to protect critical components like the glass display. Display repairs can be quite costly for users, and most would likely prefer a little ding on the device's casing.

Apple even considers using an air foil to "change the aerodynamics" of the device, which can reduce "velocity of the free-fall" by "producing a lift force." That actually does sound kind of like flying.

This isn't the first time that Apple has pursued innovative solutions to device dropping. The MagSafe power cord in MacBooks is meant to disconnect easily to prevent drops. MacBooks with traditional hard drives also include a sudden motion sensor, which locks the spinning hard drive heads in place if a drop is detecting in order to minimize damage to the drive.

The more mobile that devices become, the more we risk dropping them, and Apple continues to look out for its users. Although, it's worth mentioning that Apple files countless patent applications, and many of them never find their way into products, or take quite a while before they can be realistically implemented.

A flying iPhone may not be imminent, but perhaps one day, shattered screens will be a rare occurrence.

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