Apple Watch connects to display pedestal via 'hidden' data port with Lightning connector, photos sho

Posted:
in Apple Watch edited May 2015
A set of images posted to the Web on Wednesday purportedly show a partially dismantled Apple Watch in-store display with attached Lightning cable, suggesting the device can be charged and fed data via a hidden data port.




As seen in the image above, published by Apple blog Blog do iPhone, working Apple Watch display units deployed at Apple's retail stores appear to use a physical Lightning-based connector for transferring data and continuous power from an iPad mini-powered pedestal.

The cable in question terminates with a Lightning connector and is though to interface directly to a data port found on production Apple Watch models nestled in the top strap attachment slot. Existence of the unannounced port was first reported in March, but its purpose has yet to be officially verified.

Apple Stores provide Apple Watch models to try on, though these units are limited to a software demo loop. A limited number of operational models are available for customer, mounted on a wedge-shaped stand next to an iPad mini. The Watch, which is being continuously charged, is connected to the iPad mini for an interactive experience that offers brief descriptions of device functions as customers browse through Watch's apps.

The stand itself sports a six-pin connector on its underside that is thought to provide data connectivity and perhaps power to recharge an internal battery cell.

Earlier this month, developers of Apple Watch battery band accessory Reserve Band claimed the hidden port can indeed be used to charge the device, though a proof of concept was not offered.

While third-party hardware makers are excited about the prospect of gaining deeper access to functional Watch features like direct charging, Apple is unlikely to allow access to the port in the near future.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 19
    fallenjtfallenjt Posts: 3,976member
    Great, bring on the powered bands.
  • Reply 2 of 19
    thewhitefalconthewhitefalcon Posts: 4,453member
    I'm not sure how Apple can block access to it without hampering its use as a diagnostic port. Also, I really don't see them caring if someone develops a battery band. I would note they haven't said a word about battery cases for the iPhone and in fact sell them on their website...
  • Reply 3 of 19
    bobschlobbobschlob Posts: 1,074member
    I was talking to an Apple Store guy about the ?Watch interactive display the other day. I thought that was one of the most incredible things I had seen in a while. Beautifully done.
  • Reply 4 of 19
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by TheWhiteFalcon View Post



    I'm not sure how Apple can block access to it without hampering its use as a diagnostic port. Also, I really don't see them caring if someone develops a battery band. I would note they haven't said a word about battery cases for the iPhone and in fact sell them on their website...



    I think that connecting to exposed pins of a connector (albeit inside a strap) with the humidity of wearing on a wrist (washing hands etc...) may make connectivity less than stellar. This is possibly one reason why Apple won't allow battery straps - they connection would probably not be that reliable.

  • Reply 5 of 19
    mac_128mac_128 Posts: 3,448member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Right_said_fred View Post

     



    I think that connecting to exposed pins of a connector (albeit inside a strap) with the humidity of wearing on a wrist (washing hands etc...) may make connectivity less than stellar. This is possibly one reason why Apple won't allow battery straps - they connection would probably not be that reliable.




    I agree. It would be far from water-resistant, though the connector assembly itself seem to be protected by a gasket. Any water that got behind the band lug would have the potential to corrode and short circuit the electronics. 

  • Reply 6 of 19
    nolamacguynolamacguy Posts: 4,758member
    can we talk about why major Apple news items broke by 9to5 aren't being reported on AI? what is the basis of this beef that won't let us talk about these relevant news stories?

    PM me if you know.
  • Reply 7 of 19
    eriamjheriamjh Posts: 1,134member

    The diagnostic port is 6 pins.  Lightning is 8 on each side.  Maybe there are two pins it doesn't use/need.

  • Reply 8 of 19
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 7,155member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by fallenjt View Post



    Great, bring on the powered bands.



    Except for one tinty detail. Apple has not mentioned any purpose for this hidden port and unofficial use would certainly void any warranty.

  • Reply 9 of 19
    entropysentropys Posts: 1,751member
    Are you sure it isn't just connecting to a flat wireless charger on the underside of the watch? Where is the evidence that data is involved? Look carefully at the second picture.
  • Reply 10 of 19
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Eriamjh View Post

     

    The diagnostic port is 6 pins.  Lightning is 8 on each side.  Maybe there are two pins it doesn't use/need.


    I think two of the Lightning pins are used by the connector's identity controller chip, and so the cable to the watch would only have 6 wires:

     

    GND    ground

    L0p      lane 0 positive

    L0n      lane 0 negative

    PWR    power (charger or battery)

    L1n      lane 1 negative

    L1p      lane 1 positive

     

    If this is the case, I think accessory makers will be able to make battery straps by reverse engineering the ports.

     

    My guess is that the OS is loaded onto the Watch via these ports in the factory, in exactly the same way as any iPhone, iPad or iPod.

  • Reply 11 of 19
    cash907cash907 Posts: 893member
    So if this is occupying the Lightning port on the iPad, what is powering the iPad? Battery wouldn't last very long with the display running at full brightness all day.
  • Reply 12 of 19
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 3,093moderator
    mac_128 wrote: »

    I agree. It would be far from water-resistant, though the connector assembly itself seem to be protected by a gasket. Any water that got behind the band lug would have the potential to corrode and short circuit the electronics. 

    Not necessarily. The contacts on the watch are gold, so won't corrode. Apple could mandate that watch band contacts also be gold. So that problem is solved.

    Water, itself, is a good electrical insulator. It's the minerals and other contaminants in water that allow short circuits across electrical contacts exposed to water. By separating the power and ground contacts, perhaps by having one on the end (ground) and one a few contact points away (as indicated by DBailey635 in his comment, above), the distance would be sufficient to prevent any serious drain to ground through submersion in most water environments. Could scale build up over time around the connector points? I suppose, but for the vast majority of Watch users, staying within the constraints of use dictated by Apple's stated water-resistance, this would not be an issue, and also would be easily resolved with a quick removal of that side of the band and a wiping clean of the contact area (something that would very rarely be needed to be done and only ever for a very few Watch users who subject their Watch to relatively extreme conditions).
  • Reply 13 of 19
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 3,093moderator
    cash907 wrote: »
    So if this is occupying the Lightning port on the iPad, what is powering the iPad? Battery wouldn't last very long with the display running at full brightness all day.

    When I was in an Apple Store in mid-April for a try-on/demo session, the Apple Store employee answered all my questions about the display kiosk. My first question was about providing power to the iPad mini and Watch. He showed me the the kiosk has both a lightning port which he indicated is used to charge its internal battery. That in turn provides extra power to the iPad and Watch mounted in the kiosk.

    The lightning connector is on the back of the kiosk. I did not look at the underside where it's being reported that a six pin diagnostic port resides.

    700
  • Reply 14 of 19
    applezillaapplezilla Posts: 941member

    Meanwhile, my Watch hasn't gotten below 20% charge, even in a long day with exercise.

  • Reply 15 of 19
    iaeeniaeen Posts: 588member
    entropys wrote: »
    Are you sure it isn't just connecting to a flat wireless charger on the underside of the watch? Where is the evidence that data is involved? Look carefully at the second picture.

    There is definitely data passing between the watch and the display stand. The built in iPad dynamically updates to provide information about the current screen/app as you play with the watch. This could be done via Bluetooth, but I would bet they are using the port for the sake of robustness and efficiency. The whole setup is pretty slick and goes way beyond the regular in store displays that Apple normally uses.
  • Reply 16 of 19
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 3,093moderator

    Speaking of watch bands, I ordered my Sport model with the White band, but also ordered a black band, which arrived just yesterday.  For my money, I think the silver aluminum Sport Watch, with the black Sport band is the best looking of all the 36 combinations.  And yet, not a combination you can buy directly.   Of course, this is just my opinion, based upon my own taste; I don't like chrome or shiny metal finishes, so the satin finish of the aluminum appeals to me over any of the stainless steel models.  And the gold models are a little too formal for my taste, at least as a daily wear.  Even setting price aside, I prefer the silver aluminum Sport model with black sport band.  Here's a comparison, with the White band (picture taken at the Apple store during my try on last month), versus the black band (picture taken here at my desk this morning, with iPad propped up against my Macbook keyboard as background).  The different is huge, in my opinion.

     

     

  • Reply 17 of 19
    damn_its_hotdamn_its_hot Posts: 1,186member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by RadarTheKat View Post

     

    ...a comparison, with the White band (picture taken at the Apple store during my try on last month), versus the black band (picture taken here at my desk this morning, with iPad propped up against my Macbook keyboard as background).  The different is huge, in my opinion.

     

     


     

    I noticed a couple of differences. The first is that because one picture was apparently taken closer the black band photo makes the watch look huge! The other difference that stood out to me is that your arm in the first photo looks decidedly hairier then with the black band -- my guess is that this is not an illusion due to lighting but a possible waxing, shaving, etc. shortly after the visit to the Apple Store¡

     

    I do agree that the black band does look much better. Although not even in the same category as the ?Watch, I had a Swatch watch that had a white band back in the 80's. Not only did it show dirt more readily but the sun caused a slight yellowing of the band where it was most exposed to the light after about 7-9 months of daily wear. Like I said though it is hardly scientific to compare a $35 Swatch to a 10x plus more expensive ?Watch, It will be interesting to see how the white holds up over time.

  • Reply 18 of 19
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Entropys View Post



    Are you sure it isn't just connecting to a flat wireless charger on the underside of the watch? Where is the evidence that data is involved? Look carefully at the second picture.



    There is no connection to the wireless charging back of the watch on the in-store display. And yes there is data being transferred between the watch and the base display. If you demo certain functions on the watch, the display of the base will change to describe the details of the function you tested.

  • Reply 19 of 19
    tribalogicaltribalogical Posts: 1,181member

    Anti-theft function perhaps?

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