According to a USPTO filing, as reported by appleinsider, Apple has patented protection mechanisms for dropped iPhones, which would shift a centre of mass or the rotation axis of the device and change it’s direction mid-fall.
The mechanism would enable the phone to control the landing in the best manner and protect the most fragile parts. Their patent involves a sensor which would be connected to the processor and the protection mechanism. It also speaks of a built-in enclosure that would somewhat enclose the sensor and processor.
The Apple patents filing mentions the activation of an air foil by the protective mechanism, which would reduce the impact of the fall, and the inclusion of a gripping part, in a situation where the device is connected to the charger or perhaps headphones, which would decrease the speed of the fall or allow the device owner to catch it.