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Apple exploring MagSafe data, headphone connections for iPhone, iPad

post #1 of 38
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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.
post #2 of 38
Magsafe sounds like a good way to go in replacing the dock connectors etc. Nice way of collecting a license fee too.
post #3 of 38
"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."
post #4 of 38
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.

"There is no rule that says the best phones must have the largest screen." ~RoundaboutNow

 

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post #5 of 38
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.
post #6 of 38
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!
post #7 of 38
Controllable pins? Sounds like something that could break and malfunction, causing worse problems. And it certainly won't make the cables any less expensive.
post #8 of 38
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.

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post #9 of 38
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.
post #10 of 38
this would make it much easier, together with the coating shown at CES, to make a waterproof device.
post #11 of 38
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?
post #12 of 38
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.
post #13 of 38
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.
post #14 of 38
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.
post #15 of 38
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.
post #16 of 38
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.
post #17 of 38
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. \
/
/
/

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post #18 of 38
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).
post #19 of 38
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.
post #20 of 38
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!
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post #21 of 38
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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post #22 of 38
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."

Do you really want to have to explain to them the concept of male and female?
post #23 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by Inkling View Post

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.

Hard for anyone but IT staff to disconnect? Really? Push down the tab and pull. It's a variant of the RJ-11 which every consumer corded phone has used for decades. I know consumers can be dumb at times, but that's a pretty low bar.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Prof. Peabody View Post

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).

I don't know why they are so hard to find, but Google's shopping results seem to show a good variety. One problem being a given store might stock two or three, if you're lucky enough to find a store that stocked any of them.
post #24 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by Inkling View Post

It's a great idea, but Apple should also look into creating a replacement for the RJ-45 connector now used for Ethernet....A quick and easy to connect Ethernet connector would be a big plus.

Don't count on it. I suspect that the only thing you'll get in that regard is a Thunderbolt dock that has an Ethernet port on it.

What Apple REALLY needs is an inexpensive Thunderbolt dock ($99 or less) with EN, FW, USB, DP, and audio that connects to a notebook via a custom MagSafe power cord.

Set your notebook down, pop on the power cord. Done.

For $199, the dock could also contain a SuperDrive. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the SuperDock!
post #25 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by Inkling View Post

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.

It was designed for use in a data center. If they disconnected too easily, servers would frequently experience outages from somebody or something brushing against the cable. For home use, use Wifi instead then.
post #26 of 38
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.


I bought a Soundfreaq table radio with bluetooth last year, from target discounted to $99. it uses bluetooth for sound and remote control, from both my iphone and ipad. A really great and functional tabletop stereo.

But I am still waiting for a nice bluetooth headphone. Best I had was a small clip-on bluetooth (with microphone) that allowed any headphone set to be plugged in. Was great for a while but the rechargeable battery failed.
post #27 of 38
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."

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"Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone."

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post #28 of 38
Prediction: future AppleInsider headline reads, "Apple becomes world's largest buyer of magnets"

"Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone."

John C. Dvorak, 2007
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"Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone."

John C. Dvorak, 2007
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post #29 of 38
I can't wait for a new, magnetic data/power connector. I've been desiring this for years. I hate those headphone jacks, even though Apple's is the tightest I've seen.

The 30-pin connector is inelegant and stands out like a sore thumb on my beautiful Bose Zeppelin speakers. Plus it's hard to dock.

Friction is bad. Sealed and magnetic is good.
post #30 of 38
MagSafe connector on iPhone "5" (or whatever the 2012 model will be called) was one of two items on my wish list for the new device. And it could happen this year. The patent was filed last July, so Apple has had plenty of time to refine the design.

My other wish list item for this year's iPhone is a slightly more rounded enclosure. Maybe a metal back like the iPod touch, plus curved edges on the touchscreen. Not sure if that's possible while maintaining chip-resistance though. Just getting a little tired of the sharp edges (and the glass back.)

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post #31 of 38
I'm with you on rounding the iPhone out a bit. I'd also like some innovative coating or knurling around the rim that gave it a satisfying grip.

Back in the day when I lifted weights, we had this one expensive bar that had awesome knurling. It had such a satisfying grip that made other bars seem like grabbing glass.

Another product that comes to my mind is my Global cleaver. Global knives are well loved partly because they feel like they have a rubber grip. But it's just an innovative pattern etched into the steel that makes them feel so wonderful.

I bought Apple's rubber bumper for my iPhone but it's ugly.
post #32 of 38
I think it would be better if they could get wireless audio instead. Say they used something like the tech in the following mouse:

http://www.theverge.com/2012/1/18/27...-minute-charge

Just plug the headphones into the iPhone for a few minutes to be able to use them for even a couple of hours continuously without wires at all and transmit via apt-X bluetooth for noise-free, high quality audio.
post #33 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by ahmlco View Post

Don't count on it. I suspect that the only thing you'll get in that regard is a Thunderbolt dock that has an Ethernet port on it.

What Apple REALLY needs is an inexpensive Thunderbolt dock ($99 or less) with EN, FW, USB, DP, and audio that connects to a notebook via a custom MagSafe power cord.

extending that, the inexpensive thunderbolt cable will be optical (opto-isolation no conductors needed to assist retaining a watertight seal) along with mag-safe. power supplied through a mag-safe magnetic inducting interface, or even by placing the device in a charging field again no way for moisture to impede operation, and we are several steps further down the path to "the perfect wired connection"
post #34 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by ahmlco View Post

... What Apple REALLY needs is an inexpensive Thunderbolt dock ($99 or less) with EN, FW, USB, DP, and audio that connects to a notebook via a custom MagSafe power cord.

Set your notebook down, pop on the power cord. Done. ...

This is almost an exact description of the Apple Cinema display (that you can already get) with the exception of the power being separate from everything else.
post #35 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by Inkling View Post

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.

You're basically stuck with it to some degree. It could take years to test and replace that amount of infrastructure in a high security environment. I think Apple sees their market as people who run on wireless connections past the router.
post #36 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by Prof. Peabody View Post

This is almost an exact description of the Apple Cinema display (that you can already get) with the exception of the power being separate from everything else.

except the inexpensive bit, unfortunately it still is the only way i can get a quality second gigabit ethernet port on the macmini server with R6 pegasus raid presently though, so at least it isn't vapourware.
post #37 of 38
What a remarkable way to address these areas. On the headphone front I'm very much ready for wireless, I'm done with cables!
post #38 of 38
The current headphones have saved my iPhone from dropping numerous times. If it falls I can catch the cord. My phone may have a lot more dings in it if it had a MagSafe headphone jack
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