Apple investigating light-up Lightning & USB-C cables with optical data transmission

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware
Apple has shown interest in an illuminated Lightning, Thunderbolt, or USB-C connector receptacle and cable combination, providing users both a new avenue of data transmission, as well as providing feedback on a proper connection being made.




First discovered by AppleInsider, patent application 62208470, titled "Illuminated Printed Circuit Boards for Connectors," was filed by Apple in August of 2016 and made public by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday. Rather than just a simple LED embedded in a cable, the filing seeks to cover illumination of a port, and the direction thereof.

While Apple does have lights on the 2013 Mac Pro to indicate which port is which, this patent application goes well beyond just simple illumination. In its simplest implementation, the execution of products utilizing the patent may be to assist the user to connect a cable to a device in the dark.




Additionally, the patent filing notes that the lighting may be "colored or patterned" to convey information to a user, such as a proper connection or completion of charging of a device. The diagrams suggest illuminated cabling and receptacles to be used at a small distance on a "tongue" mounted on the connector itself, or flush and inside the connector.

Using the emitted light as another means of communication, the connected device could communicate back and negotiate a protocol between the two devices. After such a negotiation, devices utilizing the patent could include the ability to transfer data at non-standard rates, be able to reconfigure one or more pins in the connected cable for different functions, or force operation at non-standard voltages, according to Apple.




Apple also claims that other types of data such as authentication or identification data may be transmitted or received by a connector inserted into the receptacle as well. How, or if, Apple intends on including this verification, isn't clear.

The company is covering all its bases in regards to filing the patent. Apple has listed USB including USB-C, HDMI, DVI, Ethernet, DisplayPort, Thunderbolt, Lightning, test-access port, DART, and UART cabling as possible targets for the technology. A diagram shows something superficially resembling a MagSafe connector, with more pins as well.

The patent filing credits Chia Chi Wu from Taiwan, Zhengyu Li from China, and Zheng Gao from San Jose, Calif as inventors.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 15
    irelandireland Posts: 17,669member
    MagSafe is very likely my favourite part of owning a MBA. Lacking MagSafe puts me off investing in a MBP—I value the technology that much. Also, the charger itself is nicer than the current solution with the kind of cable, the cable wrap clips and the charge feedback light.
    baconstang
  • Reply 2 of 15
    techprod1gytechprod1gy Posts: 837member
    I have no issue with improvements but are users having issues with connections?  I have not had any issues with my USBC or lightning connections.  Just seems like wasted resources.
  • Reply 3 of 15
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,963member
    I have no issue with improvements but are users having issues with connections?  I have not had any issues with my USBC or lightning connections.  Just seems like wasted resources.
    Ever try plugging in your iOS in the dark? Yeah, you'll be there a while. 
    TomEbaconstang
  • Reply 4 of 15
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,963member

    ireland said:
    MagSafe is very likely my favourite part of owning a MBA. Lacking MagSafe puts me off investing in a MBP—I value the technology that much. Also, the charger itself is nicer than the current solution with the kind of cable, the cable wrap clips and the charge feedback light.
    I wouldn't be surprise if it comes back in a future MacBook Pro update. I'd rather they did what they did and get the product out the door than keeping the product delayed so they can somehow reengineer a USB C connection so it could be some type of magsafe connector. 
  • Reply 5 of 15
    SoliSoli Posts: 9,258member
    I love MagSafe and I'm glad it's on the way out. MagSfae replaced an archaic setup where power ports went far into the port, every connect had a different duty, and battery life was lucky to get you through a standard movie. And as a bonus, a replacement or additional cables won't cost $100 a pop.
    StrangeDaysstompy
  • Reply 6 of 15
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,763member
    I have no issue with improvements but are users having issues with connections?  I have not had any issues with my USBC or lightning connections.  Just seems like wasted resources.
    Issuing a patent doesn't mean they've built it or plan to build it. 
  • Reply 7 of 15
    mike1mike1 Posts: 1,923member
    Rayz2016 said:
    I have no issue with improvements but are users having issues with connections?  I have not had any issues with my USBC or lightning connections.  Just seems like wasted resources.
    Issuing a patent doesn't mean they've built it or plan to build it. 
    Actually, article doesn't say anything about it being awarded yet. Filed last year and made public now.
    edited May 2017
  • Reply 8 of 15
    ireland said:
    MagSafe is very likely my favourite part of owning a MBA. Lacking MagSafe puts me off investing in a MBP—I value the technology that much. Also, the charger itself is nicer than the current solution with the kind of cable, the cable wrap clips and the charge feedback light.
    Soli said:
    I love MagSafe and I'm glad it's on the way out. MagSfae replaced an archaic setup where power ports went far into the port, every connect had a different duty, and battery life was lucky to get you through a standard movie. And as a bonus, a replacement or additional cables won't cost $100 a pop.

    • The USB-C cable can be plugged into any of the 4 ports, making it the first MacBook ever to have a choice of which side to plug in the power.
    • The USB-C connection is small, and easy to plug in.
    • The 15" model only weighs 4 lbs now, and the 13" even less. Eventually it gets to a point where MagSafe can no longer serve its original purpose, as the device itself doesn't have enough weight to fully resist a yank on the cable.
    • The cable wrap clips on the old charger never did anything useful...it just made it fatter and more difficult to put in a laptop bag. I've always had to wrap the cable separately so that it laid flat.
    • The old chargers were far more expensive, and useful only as a charger. Now you can use a standard USB-C cable, which can be any length, and double as a cable for another accessory.

    There really is no argument in favor of MagSafe instead of this.
    StrangeDaysrandominternetpersonwatto_cobrastompy
  • Reply 9 of 15
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 8,541member
    ireland said:
    MagSafe is very likely my favourite part of owning a MBA. Lacking MagSafe puts me off investing in a MBP—I value the technology that much. Also, the charger itself is nicer than the current solution with the kind of cable, the cable wrap clips and the charge feedback light.
    Help me understand this. Yeah MagSafe was cool. But it's gone now. So rather than invest in a great notebook presumably needed for a job to be done, you're going to...not get the tool, and not perform the job to be done, because it doesn't have a magnetic charging port. Ok so what about your actual job to be done? What tool do you use for that? What other notebook? 

    If your current machine still suits you then sure why not. But if in the market I struggle following this logic...
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 15
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 8,541member

    macxpress said:

    ireland said:
    MagSafe is very likely my favourite part of owning a MBA. Lacking MagSafe puts me off investing in a MBP—I value the technology that much. Also, the charger itself is nicer than the current solution with the kind of cable, the cable wrap clips and the charge feedback light.
    I wouldn't be surprise if it comes back in a future MacBook Pro update. 
    I admire your optimism. 
    stompy
  • Reply 11 of 15
    irelandireland Posts: 17,669member

    • The USB-C cable can be plugged into any of the 4 ports, making it the first MacBook ever to have a choice of which side to plug in the power.
    • The USB-C connection is small, and easy to plug in.
    • The 15" model only weighs 4 lbs now, and the 13" even less. Eventually it gets to a point where MagSafe can no longer serve its original purpose, as the device itself doesn't have enough weight to fully resist a yank on the cable.
    • The cable wrap clips on the old charger never did anything useful...it just made it fatter and more difficult to put in a laptop bag. I've always had to wrap the cable separately so that it laid flat.
    • The old chargers were far more expensive, and useful only as a charger. Now you can use a standard USB-C cable, which can be any length, and double as a cable for another accessory.

    There really is no argument in favor of MagSafe instead of this.
    MagSafe is magnetic and not only easier to plug in than USBc, but delightful to! MagSafe chargers have a light which tells you if your computer is charged fully with the lid open or closed—I use this daily—very useful! Your assessment of the clips is also odd. I use them all the time, while travelling and when plugged in to neatly give me the exact cable length I like. More expensive? Yeah, I see the new setup made the new machines so affordable. Not to mention, I've never broken a laptop charger, so I don't give two hoots. (iPhone chargers on the other hand are another story)

    So from my experience, picking apart what you have said, I see your only real points are: the new machines weigh less (not less than my MBA) and USBc can be plugged in from both sides (other uses; handy, but for my I barely use even one of the USB ports on my MBA). This is the main nice improvement and certainly not enough to convince me I would prefer the new situation. 'Yeah, I think it would be fair to say...I liked MagSafe from the start.' — Andy Dufresne, Shawshank Prison
    edited May 2017 baconstang
  • Reply 12 of 15
    macplusplusmacplusplus Posts: 1,904member
    I have no issue with improvements but are users having issues with connections?  I have not had any issues with my USBC or lightning connections.  Just seems like wasted resources.
    More communication channels (+light) within the same footprint, is that nothing? Thunderbolt was initially designed as an optical port. Apple has led the design towards copper.
    edited May 2017 baconstang
  • Reply 13 of 15
    macplusplusmacplusplus Posts: 1,904member
    ireland said:

    • The USB-C cable can be plugged into any of the 4 ports, making it the first MacBook ever to have a choice of which side to plug in the power.
    • The USB-C connection is small, and easy to plug in.
    • The 15" model only weighs 4 lbs now, and the 13" even less. Eventually it gets to a point where MagSafe can no longer serve its original purpose, as the device itself doesn't have enough weight to fully resist a yank on the cable.
    • The cable wrap clips on the old charger never did anything useful...it just made it fatter and more difficult to put in a laptop bag. I've always had to wrap the cable separately so that it laid flat.
    • The old chargers were far more expensive, and useful only as a charger. Now you can use a standard USB-C cable, which can be any length, and double as a cable for another accessory.

    There really is no argument in favor of MagSafe instead of this.
    MagSafe is magnetic and not only easier to plug in than USBc, but delightful to! MagSafe chargers have a light which tells you if your computer is charged fully with the lid open or closed—I use this daily—very useful! Your assessment of the clips is also odd. I use them all the time, while travelling and when plugged in to neatly give me the exact cable length I like. More expensive? Yeah, I see the new setup made the new machines so affordable. Not to mention, I've never broken a laptop charger, so I don't give two hoots. (iPhone chargers on the other hand are another story)

    So from my experience, picking apart what you have said, I see your only real points are: the new machines weigh less (not less than my MBA) and USBc can be plugged in from both sides (other uses; handy, but for my I barely use even one of the USB ports on my MBA). This is the main nice improvement and certainly not enough to convince me I would prefer the new situation. 'Yeah, I think it would be fair to say...I liked MagSafe from the start.' — Andy Dufresne, Shawshank Prison
    Virtually no one in this forum would argue against the beauty and convenience of MagSafe but MagSafe itself has its drawbacks. A sloppy use of it will eventually cause the cord at the MagSafe end to break, thus $70 or so. One must be careful not to bend that end of the cord and make it plug always in linear position etc. you get the idea. USB-C charging is not that beautiful but is less risky, you just lose a cheap cord at worst. A port which only purpose is charging would eventually cede its real estate to a multipurpose port, that was obvious.
  • Reply 14 of 15
    baconstangbaconstang Posts: 554member
    @Metria...
    "The 15" model only weighs 4 lbs now, and the 13" even less. Eventually it gets to a point where MagSafe can no longer serve its original purpose, as the device itself doesn't have enough weight to fully resist a yank on the cable. "  

    Wow!   Then my 2.38# MBA 11" must be defying the laws of physics every time I knock the cord out WITHOUT sending the MBA to the floor.

    "The USB-C cable can be plugged into any of the 4 ports, making it the first MacBook ever to have a choice of which side to plug in the power."
    Or, The USB-C cable can be plugged into any of the 4 ports, making it the first MacBook ever to have a choice of which side to dump it on the floor.
    edited May 2017
  • Reply 15 of 15
    mattinozmattinoz Posts: 1,138member
    It would be interesting to see if smart connector on the iPadPro was capable of 100W charging. That connector with a USB-c plug on the other end could make a mag-safe replacement connector that could work from iPhone to MacBookPro. Interestly it would also allow for a range of battery cases for each device without the double chin. 
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