Apple continues to work on waterproof (not just water resistant) iPhones and Apple Watches. The tech giant has been granted a patent (number 11,305,984) for “water proofing and water detection schemes for MEMS-based environmental sensing devices.”
About the patent
In the patent filing, says that portable communication devices (e.g., smart phones and smart watches) are becoming increasingly waterproof by implementing electronic components inside sealed enclosures. However, certain components such as environmental (e.g., pressure, temperature and humidity) sensors, gas sensors, particulate matter (PM) sensors, speakers and microphones rely on physical interaction with the external environment for proper functionality.
The physical interaction can be through a small opening provided on the enclosure. Exposure to the environmental aggressors such as fresh and salt water, skin oil, dust, sunscreens can cause a variety of system integration problems.
Port occlusion by water or debris is among the problems, which can result in degradation in user experience, poor device reliability and/or device misreading. As an example, the accuracy of pressure sensors, when detecting external pressure changes, can be greatly reduced if residual water occludes the sensor surface resulting in misreading. As the water evaporates (which can take hours), false pressure-change signals can be detected.
Apple wants to overcome such problems in future iPhones and Apple Watches. Along these lines, the company has also been granted, or applied for, patents regarding: a waterproof button assembly, a “vacuum sealed connector” for Lightning, USB-C ports, and other ports; an internal cavity and a sensor that detects and expels water; and an underwater user interface.
Summary of the patent
Here’s Apple’s abstract of the patent: “A waterproofed environmental sensing device with water detection provisions includes an environmental sensor to sense one or more environmental properties. The device further includes an electronic integrated circuit implemented on a substrate and coupled to the environmental sensor via a wire bonding. An air-permeable cap structure is formed over the environmental sensor, and a protective layer is formed over the wire bonding to protect the wire bonding against damage.”