The system, registered with the US Patent and Trademark Office as a ‘Protective Mechanism for an Electronic Device’, reportedly uses sensors to deduce when a phone has been dropped.
Apple's "Protective Mechanism for an Electronic Device" could be a system that potentially save the most fragile component of an iPhone by detecting when the device is falling and shifting the handset's center of mass to control its landing.
The system needs a sensor or sensor array that can detect when a device is in freefall and how it is positioned relative to the ground. Coupled to the sensor is a processor that can help determine a freefall state. Statistics of various fall heights, speeds and other data can be stored on system memory to aid the processor in making a decision on how best to land the device.