Apple may not abandon the MagSafe connector after all if a newly published patent is to be believed. The patent, published Tuesday, calls for a stackable magnetic connector that would also allow for multiple peripherals to be attached to the same magnetic port.
The news comes as some comfort to fans of Apple’s MagSafe connectors. The technology disappeared from the redesigned MacBook in 2015, leading some to speculate that Apple was moving away from MagSafe, and perhaps toward something new.
It’s hard to know what Apple has in mind, but we can speculate. The effort could be part of a bigger move by the company to reduce the number of connection ports for its devices. Rumors of the headphone jack’s demise in the next iPhone got the Internet buzzing not too long ago, and we could be seeing a potential implementation here.
There are several drawings in the patent application that represent various potential designs for the magnetic plugs. One looks similar to Apple’s current Lightning plug connector, and likely would be used like the traditional MagSafe connector.
Another looks similar to Apple Watch’s magnetic charger, except here the charging cord connector is magnetic on both sides, and features connectors to transfer power and data between the cords.
The patent images suggest as many as three of these connectors could be stacked on top of each other. Sharing the port among multiple peripherals would enable users to further customize their Apple devices to their liking instead of having to pick one over the other.
The patent does describe some potential use cases which give an idea what type of peripherals may be a good match. Apple says the connectors could be used to add battery packs, keyboards, external storage units, and more. Another possibility is use in new docking stations.
In a docking station, the technology might be useful for hands-free viewing or data transfer, or even as a conversion device. The dock may include legacy ports, such as USB, which would be converted and sent to the device via the new magnetic connector.
That’s sure to please some Apple users, who may otherwise complain that the company limits the types of devices we can connect to due to its proprietary connection mechanisms.
We should point out that this isn’t the first time Apple has toyed with magnetic connectors for devices other than its line of laptops, though. In 2012, the company filed for a similar patent — although there the patent related much more closely to a MagSafe connector and only allowed for one connection at a time.
That idea never saw the light of day, so don’t be surprised if this doesn’t either. After all, Apple has many patents for technologies it has never used.