Pundits have assumed for months that when Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) unveils the new iPhone 7 in September, it will offer increased water resistance. However, a patent filed by Apple and uncovered by Patently Apple suggests the iPhone 7 may go a step further and be completely waterproof.
Apple’s patent was granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office last week and covers underwater image editing tools for mobile devices. Specifically, it lets a user edit the tint of objects and people photographed underwater without affecting the tint of the water itself. The end result is the photograph is recognizably snapped underwater.
So why would this patent covering image editing software be touching off iPhone 7 rumors?
As Quartz’s Mike Murphy points out, if Apple is working on tools to ensure that underwater photos look great, then it’s not a great leap to assume that the photos would be snapped on an iPhone. And if an iPhone is snapping photos underwater, it seems reasonable to also assume that AAPL will be making the iPhone 7 itself waterproof.
Not water-resistant. The competing Samsung (OTCMKTS:SSNLF) Galaxy S7 is IP68 rated water-resistant, which is great for protection from rain and the smartphone can even survive up to 30 minutes in 5 feet of water.
You don’t spend the time and money to develop specialized image enhancement software for snapping photos just below the surface of a swimming pool.
Why Apple Needs to Go Waterproof
Apple needs something to one-up Samsung’s phones when the iPhone 7 is launched. Going beyond water resistance to being actually waterproof would be a marketing coup. It would also end one of the biggest (and costliest) issues facing current iPhone owners: water damage.
Could the iPhone 7 be the device that gets the waterproof treatment? While the patent was just granted last week, Apple actually filed in back in 2013. So the company has had plenty of time to work on the software and the design modifications needed to achieve a waterproof rating.
In fact, a waterproof enclosure dovetails nicely with one of the longest-running iPhone 7 rumors: that Apple is ditching the headphone jack. The space savings in eliminating this standard port are minimal, though the headphone jack is one of the primary ways water can enter the device.
Eliminate the headphone jack, and waterproof gets a lot easier to achieve.
Besides having a feature to beat Samsung on when it comes to marketing, there clearly is consumer demand for a waterproof iPhone. Dozens of companies make waterproof iPhone cases. Firms like Otterbox have become accessory powerhouses primarily by selling iPhone cases that protect against water. Offering this as a standard feature on the iPhone 7 would let all Apple customers enjoy their phones every day without worrying about bricking them when they get caught in the rain. The more adventurous could actually take them underwater — perfect for vacations, and without the bulk and added expense of a traditional waterproof case.
Of course, a patent application — even one that has been granted — doesn’t actually mean AAPL will act on it. The company filed over 2,000 patents in 2014 alone, and patents often act as protection against infringement lawsuits as much as predictors of future products.
But a waterproof iPhone 7 doesn’t seem like a stretch. The technology is there, the demand is there and the competition has been using susceptibility to water damage against the iPhone.
The iPhone 7 could well be the point where Apple finally fights back.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.
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