Apple exploring MagSafe data, headphone connections for iPhone, iPad

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited January 2014
Apple's standard 30-pin iPod cable and even its headphones could be replaced on future iPhones and iPads by new magnetic cables, much like the MagSafe power adapters currently used on MacBooks.



Apple's interest in a magnetic data and power cable for portable devices was revealed this week in a patent application discovered by AppleInsider. Named "Programmable Magnetic Connectors," the filing describes a series of "coded magnets" found in both a portable device and a data and power cable.



The filing includes an illustration of an iPad 2 with a forward-facing camera and associated cable that are described as having a "coded magnetic structure."



In its application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Apple notes that current coupler designs, like with the 30-pin dock connector or headphone jack found on existing iPhones and iPads, prevent a device from being properly sealed. This is why the connector port and headphone jack feature water sensors, to determine if water entered the device through one of these openings.



The use of MagSafe connectors not only for the data and power cable, but also headphones, could allow Apple to properly seal its devices and make it more difficult for moisture to damage the valuable electronics.



Apple's filing also notes that the male half of a data and power cable usually has pins or prongs that are exposed when it is not coupled to a device.









"Due to this exposure, the pins or prongs may be damages and render the connector/cable unusable," the application reads. "Additionally, many connectors are device and/or purpose specific. For example, they may have a certain number of pins or prongs that are configured in a particular manner. As such, each device may have multiple unique cables and connectors that are not compatible with other devices."



The solution proposed by Apple is a new universal cable, much like the existing 30-pin iPod connector, but one that features programmable magnets. These coded magnets, found inside both the cable and the portable device, would share identifying information on the device with the cable.



By sharing information from the magnets about the device, the cable could appropriately connect to it and provide the correct number of pins. The application describes a controller that would repurpose one or more of the pins on a cable to connect certain communication channels.



"The magnets (would) create a universal port that detects the coded magnet 'signature' of a particular cable type and reconfigures itself accordingly," the filing reads.









The magnets found in the device and cabling could also be used to "repulse, eject, and/or prevent coupling of certain cables." In one example, a heat sensor is triggered and the device is automatically ejected.



The filing also describes a unique, magnet-powered headphone connector. In Apple's concept, the male headphone plug has multiple segments, but its full size would be concealed until it is paired with a smart magnet found on an iPhone, iPad or iPod.



Connecting the plug to a headphone jack would then fully extend the plug, revealing all of the connectors and segments, and allowing it to receive stereo audio and transmit microphone data.



Much like the pins in the data and power cable, the size of the audio plug could be determined based on the needs of the device as transmitted through the programmed magnet. In this way, a smaller device, like an iPod nano, could have a shallower headphone port, while larger devices could accommodate the full plug and all of its available connectors.



The application, made public by the USPTO this week, was first filed in July of 2011. It is credited to Brett Bilbrey, Aleksandar Pance, Peter Arnold, David I. Simon, Jean Lee, Michael D. Hillman, Gregory L. Tice, Vijay Iyer, and Bradly Spare.
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Comments

  • irnchrizirnchriz Posts: 1,451member
    Magsafe sounds like a good way to go in replacing the dock connectors etc. Nice way of collecting a license fee too.
  • clefmeisterclefmeister Posts: 1member
    "Apple's filing also notes that the mail half of a data and power cable"



    I'm pretty sure you mean "male half." As in, the opposite of "female."
  • solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    So is this magnetic latching like MagSafe so it can easily popped off or more to create a more solid connection with less force by the user.





    Quote:
    Originally Posted by clefmeister View Post


    "Apple's filing also notes that the mail half of a data and power cable"



    I'm pretty sure you mean "male half." As in, the opposite of "female."



    That's bad. I accept it from tech writers because they have a major time crunch but from a patent you have plenty of time for several people to read over it carefully.
  • jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,936member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post


    So is this magnetic latching like MagSafe so it can easily popped off or more to create a more solid connection with less force by the user.







    That's bad. I accept it from tech writers because they have a major time crunch but from a patent you have plenty of time for several people to read over it carefully.



    I don't understand this one even if there is a time crunch. Someone that knows how to discuss technology doesn't know the difference between mail and male? Homophones are sometimes annoying, but I think that's a fourth grade error, tops.



    I find the way to protect the headphone cable & jack is to not use one. Bluetooth is so freeing in that regard, I can wear a BT headphone and often leave the room the device is in before I run into signal trouble.



    That said, I haven't ruined a headphone jack in 10 years, and that was because I was using an adapter to connect a headphone with a 1/4" cable down to a 1/8" jack. Given the size of the adapter, it was a recipe for trouble anyway.



    On data and power, the proportion of time I have an iPad connected to a cord is small, but I guess it would be nice to have this feature. It was more beneficial for notebooks because most have such a short run time, mine is on the cord about half the time it is used.
  • mrstepmrstep Posts: 446member
    I like the MagSafe concept - great for the power, seems like it would be nice to replace the 30-pin and headphone jacks... but hopefully they'll extend the 'flex protector' part of the cord so the wires don't fray? They don't even need a patent for that one!
  • benjammin54benjammin54 Posts: 3member
    Controllable pins? Sounds like something that could break and malfunction, causing worse problems. And it certainly won't make the cables any less expensive.
  • solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post


    That said, I haven't ruined a headphone jack in 10 years, and that was because I was using an adapter to connect a headphone with a 1/4" cable down to a 1/8" jack. Given the size of the adapter, it was a recipe for trouble anyway.



    I ruined the male connector on my Shure headphones. Completely broke off in my iPhone. I had to use tweezers to get the bottom of the pin out of my iPhone. I am admittedly rough with my CE. Because it's Shure I'll send them in to see if it's covered under the warranty; you end to get a little better service when you pay a few hundred for headphones.
  • evilutionevilution Posts: 1,049member
    I'm not convinced that magsafe headphones would work, they disconnect too easily and people would moan that they can't use their own favorite headphones.



    Apart from that, a magsafe power connecter would be awesome and one that unplugged itself if there was over heating issues (or a complete charge had occurred) would be very clever.
  • scartartscartart Posts: 156member
    this would make it much easier, together with the coating shown at CES, to make a waterproof device.
  • curmudgeoncurmudgeon Posts: 483member
    Quote:

    ... allow Apple to properly seal its devices and make it more difficult for moisture to damage the valuable electronics.



    So how are speakers and microphones handled? Are they in separate compartments than the main system?
  • jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,936member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Curmudgeon View Post


    So how are speakers and microphones handled? Are they in separate compartments than the main system?



    Sound can pass through a sealed membrane. In fact, the earpiece on the iPhone 4 looks like a sealed membrane behind the grille.
  • prof. peabodyprof. peabody Posts: 2,860member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by irnchriz View Post


    Magsafe sounds like a good way to go in replacing the dock connectors etc. ...



    I agree, but the headphone magsafe sounds like a bad idea to me.



    Ignoring the problem of having magnets within half a millimetre of the audio pickup, the fact that the current headphone jacks Apple makes have such a strong physical connection that you can safely pick up an iPod or iPhone by the headset cord is a very strong positive.



    Headphones that constantly fell out of the plug-hole are a pin in the ass and Apple's are some of the only ones that don't do this at the moment. I can't see how a magsafe audio jack would be anything but a weaker connection.



    It's also not necessary in the case of the audio jack as it's mostly sealed when outside in the weather by the jack itself and it would be trivial to have a mechanical cover of some kind that snapped over it when the plug was out.
  • prof. peabodyprof. peabody Posts: 2,860member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post


    ... I find the way to protect the headphone cable & jack is to not use one. Bluetooth is so freeing in that regard, I can wear a BT headphone and often leave the room the device is in before I run into signal trouble. ....



    True, but there care no good bluetooth headphone solutions for music, only for talking on the phone.



    You either have to deal with mono and/or poor quality sound, or you have to connect a giant dongle to the phone (and even then deal with a sub par headphone connecting to it).



    I will never understand how we have had the iPhone so long with built in blue-tooth and yet still there is no good quality wireless solution for sound. It seems like a natural to me but I guess there just isn't a market for it. I was assuming in 2008 that it was just around the corner but here we are years later and still nothing.
  • jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,936member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Prof. Peabody View Post


    True, but there care no good bluetooth headphone solutions for music, only for talking on the phone.



    You either have to deal with mono and/or poor quality sound, or you have to connect a giant dongle to the phone (and even then deal with a sub par headphone connecting to it).



    I will never understand how we have had the iPhone so long with built in blue-tooth and yet still there is no good quality wireless solution for sound. It seems like a natural to me but I guess there just isn't a market for it. I was assuming in 2008 that it was just around the corner but here we are years later and still nothing.



    Have you tried anything recently? I was very happy with my Sony DR-BT50. I thought it did pretty well with stereo music, and it made a good phone headset too, I think better than a mono earpiece. Sennheiser has a couple I was thinking of trying.
  • matrix07matrix07 Posts: 1,993member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Prof. Peabody View Post


    I agree, but the headphone magsafe sounds like a bad idea to me.



    Ignoring the problem of having magnets within half a millimetre of the audio pickup, the fact that the current headphone jacks Apple makes have such a strong physical connection that you can safely pick up an iPod or iPhone by the headset cord is a very strong positive.



    Headphones that constantly fell out of the plug-hole are a pin in the ass and Apple's are some of the only ones that don't do this at the moment. I can't see how a magsafe audio jack would be anything but a weaker connection.




    +1. Absolutely my experience as well. Love a nice tight headphone jack on my iPod. Much better than everything's I owned.
  • rot'napplerot'napple Posts: 1,839member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post


    On data and power, the proportion of time I have an iPad connected to a cord is small, but I guess it would be nice to have this feature. It was more beneficial for notebooks because most have such a short run time, mine is on the cord about half the time it is used.



    My iPad resides mostly by my beds nightstand whether charging or not. One day I came in and grabbed my iPad, only to have it yanked from my hand, thanks to the securely fitting charging cord. It was only a three foot drop onto a padded plush carpet, but still... magsafe would have saved the day. \

    /

    /

    /
  • prof. peabodyprof. peabody Posts: 2,860member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post


    Have you tried anything recently? I was very happy with my Sony DR-BT50. I thought it did pretty well with stereo music, and it made a good phone headset too, I think better than a mono earpiece. Sennheiser has a couple I was thinking of trying.



    I haven't looked since last summer, but I haven't seen any announcements of anything I like either. I may have missed some stuff and I may have been overly sweeping in my statements.



    On the other hand even if there are a couple of solutions (like the Sony DR-BT50), that work as I described, I would have thought that there would be dozens of such solutions to chose from by now.



    Aesthetics are a problem for me also. If I'm going to walk around with a set of headphones on they have to be attractive, match my outfits etc. also (shallow I know, but true).
  • inklinginkling Posts: 731member
    It's a great idea, but Apple should also look into creating a replacement for the RJ-45 connector now used for Ethernet. It's large, ugly and clumsy to connect or disconnect. It hasn't been upgraded in at least thirty years and even a casual glance will tell you it was designed in the era of desktop computers to be hard for anyone but IP staff to disconnect.



    Keep in mind that there are numerous situations where wireless simply won't work. High-density environments, electrically noisy environments, and fields such as banking, medicine and lawyer, where security is critical. A quick and easy to connect Ethernet connector would be a big plus.
  • digitalclipsdigitalclips Posts: 15,711member
    I'd like to see Apple come out with totally wireless, stereo earbuds for iPhones, iPads and iPods and heck why not Macs. If they ever do I just hope they'd also come out with 'Find My EarBuds' application!
  • technotechno Posts: 600member
    About time!



    I have ruined too many headphones by catching them on a door knob and ripping them into uselessness. What would be even better is for a wireless pair (like digitalclips said) or ones that don't tangle when you stuff them into your pocket.





    Oh and can we please stop acting like 7th grade English teachers and pretending we are reading the New York Times?
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