MagSafe connector could return and replace Lightning on iPhone

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware
Apple's MagSafe connector that it popularized on the MacBook Pro could make a return in the future, with Apple researching the use of a revised version as a replacement to Lightning as it potentially moves to a "portless" iPhone design.

A MagSafe connector attached to a MacBook Pro
A MagSafe connector attached to a MacBook Pro


The introduction of MagSafe as a way to attach accessories to an iPhone and to improve wireless charging has led some to reminisce about its predecessor. The original connector using the MagSafe branding allowed for the safe charging of a MacBook Pro.

The system centered around the idea of allowing the power cable to be yanked free from the MacBook due to being held in place by magnets. Doing so meant there were fewer accidents where a MacBook would fly off a surface and onto the ground, pulled by a power cable tripped over by a user.

Switching away from the MagSafe connector in favor of USB-C connectors prompted alternatives to be made, for those still concerned it was a safety hazard. This includes the Vinpok Bolt-S cable, which mimicked MagSafe's main features but was usable on modern MacBook models.

At the same time, there have been suggestions the long-lasting Lightning port of the iPhone may be at risk. Rumors have proposed a port-less iPhone could be on the way, eliminating the Lightning port to make the iPhone more water tight and to improve the aesthetics.

Apple is also said to be working on software and hardware solutions to restore an iPhone, without using a traditional physical data cable connection. This again paves the way for a port-free iPhone design.

In a patent granted to Apple on Tuesday by the US Patent and Trademark Office titled "Magnetic surface contacts," Apple seemingly offers the idea that MagSafe could return, and could feasibly do so on an iPhone.

The original MagSafe consisted of a series of shallow pins stored within a rectangular section, which would fit into a specific recess in the side of the MacBook. Contacts within the middle of the recess would touch the spring-loaded pins in the plug, enabling current to flow while still being easily separable.

The patent refines the concept in a few ways, with some tweaks larger than others.

An example of a receiving contact being repositioned by magnetic force.
An example of a receiving contact being repositioned by magnetic force.


Across the range of ideas, a common trait is that magnets are used not only to keep the connector in place, but to affect the position of the pins themselves. Rather than pressing the pins into place with force from a spring, Apple suggests magnets can be used to commence and maintain the connection between contacts.

By using a floating contact point that is held in place in the plug with a combination of magnetic force and springs, the contact point can freely move while still staying attached.

Likewise, contacts in the receiving device could be similarly fashioned, able to retract inside the port magnetically for storage. The same contacts can be pulled into place by an external magnetic force, one stronger than the version pulling the contacts into storage positions.

A covered moving contact and a shallow receiving contact.
A covered moving contact and a shallow receiving contact.


Some of the designs used are similar in concept to the original MagSafe connectors. Images towards the end of the patent suggest the concept can be refined to a different form.

A variant has the floating contact within the connector being held within a domed conductive casing that doesn't move. The contact can move within the casing, and has the potential to send current from itself through the casing at the point of contact with it.

This alternate design also suggests that the receiving connector in the device could be quite shallow and smooth, rather than using pins sticking out from a flat edge. This could allow for the connector to be angled from the device, which can make it easier to use and separate.

More intriguingly, an image for the latter variation seems to suggest it could be used on the base of a thin device, like an iPhone. While there's no guarantee Apple will actually pursue the connector, it does show that the company considered it as a possible addition to the iPhone design.

The patent illustrations also depict what could be an iPhone.
The patent illustrations also depict what could be an iPhone.


The patent lists its inventors as Hani Esmaeili, Eric S. Jol, Ibuki Kamei, Daniel C. Wagman, Albert J. Golko, Mahmoud R. Amini, and Mani Razaghi Kashani. It was originally filed on April 10, 2018.

This isn't Apple's first crack at improving connectors used on devices, as it is a topic that has repeatedly surfaced in other filings. This has included ideas such as compressible sheathing for a water-tight seal, and more recently, a way to limit cable fraying.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 17
    Stating the obvious: iPhone already has a version of MagSafe 
    llamawatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 17
    KuyangkohKuyangkoh Posts: 731member
    Stating the obvious: iPhone already has a version of MagSafe 
    Where? I know Ipad pro does w keyboard/cover
  • Reply 3 of 17
    longfanglongfang Posts: 254member
    Kuyangkoh said:
    Stating the obvious: iPhone already has a version of MagSafe 
    Where? I know Ipad pro does w keyboard/cover
    Apple is using the MagSafe branding for the iPhone 12 magnetic wireless charging thingy so a version of MagSafe for iPhone does exist.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 17
    mike1mike1 Posts: 2,754member
    Kuyangkoh said:
    Stating the obvious: iPhone already has a version of MagSafe 
    Where? I know Ipad pro does w keyboard/cover

    That has nothing to do with MagSafe.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 17
    M68000M68000 Posts: 367member
    Stating the obvious: iPhone already has a version of MagSafe 
    Indeed, one immediate question is - will 2 magnets “play nice” together??  And with other things near the phone, like hotel room access cards for example, will they get erased?   As for getting rid of connector port and improving aesthetics - who looks at the bottom of their phone that much??   This new fascination with using magnets in iPhones lately is really amazing.
    edited March 2 watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 17
    mknelsonmknelson Posts: 830member
    mike1 said:
    Kuyangkoh said:
    Where? I know Ipad pro does w keyboard/cover

    That has nothing to do with MagSafe.
    No, but the smart connector on the iPad uses magnets to hold the keyboard in place and can provide power and data. That's more like Lightning than Magsafe on the iPhone 12 family.

    M68000 said:
    Indeed, one immediate question is - will 2 magnets “play nice” together??  And with other things near the phone, like hotel room access cards for example, will they get erased?   As for getting rid of connector port and improving aesthetics - who looks at the bottom of their phone that much??   This new fascination with using magnets in iPhones lately is really amazing.
    Mythbusters did an episode on magnets and magstripe cards. It was remarkably difficult to erase the card. On the order of a Rare Earth magnet passing by at 200+MPH.
    fastasleepRayz2016entropyswatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 17
    hexclockhexclock Posts: 947member
    This would be great, provided it could transmit data as well as power. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 17
    M68000M68000 Posts: 367member
    mknelson said:
    mike1 said:
    Kuyangkoh said:
    Where? I know Ipad pro does w keyboard/cover

    That has nothing to do with MagSafe.
    No, but the smart connector on the iPad uses magnets to hold the keyboard in place and can provide power and data. That's more like Lightning than Magsafe on the iPhone 12 family.

    M68000 said:
    Indeed, one immediate question is - will 2 magnets “play nice” together??  And with other things near the phone, like hotel room access cards for example, will they get erased?   As for getting rid of connector port and improving aesthetics - who looks at the bottom of their phone that much??   This new fascination with using magnets in iPhones lately is really amazing.
    Mythbusters did an episode on magnets and magstripe cards. It was remarkably difficult to erase the card. On the order of a Rare Earth magnet passing by at 200+MPH.
    Well,  I had a phone case made by company called Orbino that made nice case with lid that closed over the iPhone screen.  But guess what held that shut?  A small magnet and I put phone and hotel card key in pocket - could not get back in room and the hotel clerk figured it out.  That phone case with magnet was going way less than 200 MPH.  I will never buy another phone case with magnets in them.
  • Reply 9 of 17
    JinTechJinTech Posts: 775member
    hexclock said:
    This would be great, provided it could transmit data as well as power. 
    Why would it need to transmit data? You would be freeing up a USB C/Thunderbolt port so essentially you would have more I/O than currently.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 17
    I hope Apple engineering waits til 2022 and sells a 1TB Lightning iPhone 13 Pro Max in September. I don’t want a stinking portless iPhone that takes forever to charge and won’t work with my VENA Commuter wallet/case.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 17
    hexclockhexclock Posts: 947member
    JinTech said:
    hexclock said:
    This would be great, provided it could transmit data as well as power. 
    Why would it need to transmit data? You would be freeing up a USB C/Thunderbolt port so essentially you would have more I/O than currently.
    FTA:

    "The introduction of MagSafe as a way to attach accessories to an iPhone..."

    Accessories generally require the transfer of data, or audio at least. Could a MagSafe type connector transmit audio like the lightning cable it would replace at some point?
    It would be pretty cool if it could.
     

    edited March 2 watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 17
    The mag safe on the iPhone is wireless charging which is very inefficient compared to direct wired charging. You can’t claim to care about the environment if the only charging option is wireless. With or without magnets. 
    MplsPwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 17
    Kuyangkoh said:
    Stating the obvious: iPhone already has a version of MagSafe 
    Where? I know Ipad pro does w keyboard/cover
    Premiered with the iPhone 12 family
    MagSafe Charger:

    watto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 17
    tshapitshapi Posts: 344member
    JinTech said:
    hexclock said:
    This would be great, provided it could transmit data as well as power. 
    Why would it need to transmit data? You would be freeing up a USB C/Thunderbolt port so essentially you would have more I/O than currently.

    the whole point of this article is that Apple is considering replacing the lightning port with a version of old
    school mag safe. 

    watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 17
    krawallkrawall Posts: 159member
    Please not. This charging adapter hell has to go away. It's bad enough iPhone didn't switch over from Lightning to USB-C years ago when the MacBooks did.

    On top, the AirPods Max coming with lightning, this is really UGH.

    C'mon Apple, you're better than this.
    MplsP
  • Reply 16 of 17
    hexclockhexclock Posts: 947member
    The mag safe on the iPhone is wireless charging which is very inefficient compared to direct wired charging. You can’t claim to care about the environment if the only charging option is wireless. With or without magnets. 
    For that matter, you can’t really claim to care about the environment if you produce or buy any electronics at all.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 17
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 3,268member
    Please, no. We do not need another proprietary connector for the iPhone, and if this doesn’t transmit data it’s really not much better than removing the lightning connector completely. The only improvement is that it would be more efficient than the wireless MagSafe connector on the back. 

    The article doesn’t say but I wonder if this was actually conceived when they developed the magnetic wireless charging model. 

    edited March 4
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