Apple is exploring an updated version of MagSafe, one of its best charging inventions ever (AAPL)



  • Apple might bring back a new-and-improved version of MagSafe, the magnetic power connector originally designed for Mac laptops.
  • MagSafe cables would automatically detach when pulled, or tripped over, without damaging the computer or the connector itself.
  • MagSafe is one of Apple’s best inventions, but Apple started phasing it out over the last few years.
  • On Friday, the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) published a new patent application from Apple, which describes a smart charging system and a magnetized connector that doesn’t only work for laptops, but iPhones and iPads, too.
  • Read Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Apple might introduce a new-and-improved version of MagSafe, one of the best power connectors the company ever invented, according to a new patent application published by the USPTO on Friday.

PatentlyApple was the first to spot the new patent application, which was originally filed in September 2017.

In the patent description, Apple describes how power cords can damage laptops, tablets and phones if they’re still plugged in during a “jolting” motions, like if the device is dropped.

But here’s what’s interesting: Apple’s new patent application acknowledges how “magnetic connectors” were invented to solve this problem of unsafe cable disconnections — in other words, Apple’s own MagSafe solution — but acknowledges its downsides.

Apple’s patent application says magnetic connectors like MagSafe “still have a high likelihood of suffering physical damage when experiencing a jolting event because the magnetic connectors maintain attracting force throughout the entire jolting event.”

2012 magsafe

Apple also says solutions like MagSafe were inefficient. MagSafe used to have a little light on the plug, which would turn orange if the computer was connected and charging, or green if the computer was fully charged. Apple says “this visual indicator is constantly on, thereby wasting power and decreasing the efficiency at which the portable electronic device receives power.”

Apple does say, though, that the ideal solution needs some way to communicate that a connection has been successfully made.

A superior version of MagSafe

Apple doesn’t think the old MagSafe solution was safe enough, or efficient enough.

In its patent application, Apple describes a “smart charging system” where the connector would be able to “dynamically attract and repel the connector to and from the portable electronic device.” Old magnetic connectors like MagSafe got damaged because they would stay attracted throughout an entire jolting event.

Apple says this smart charging system would include sensors that can detect a separation event, so when everything is safe, the cord can magnetically attract itself to your device, but it can repel itself when it senses a jolting event. Apple says this improvement “can substantially minimize damage to the connector and/or the charging component during a jolting event.”

apple magsafe

Apple also thinks it found a more efficient solution for MagSafe’s visual indicator. Instead of including a light on the cord that would turn orange for charging, or green for charged, but was always on — effectively resulting in a slower charge time — Apple says the new connector would give off haptic feedback, which communicates that a device is successfully connected. In other words, it would vibrate when you plug it in the right way, but just briefly.

Finally, it sounds like Apple wants this new version of MagSafe to work with everything. The old version of Magsafe was limited to Mac computers only — and only laptops at that — but Apple’s patent describes that this smart-charging system would be able to operate with “a smart phone, wearable device, smart watch, tablet, personal computer, and the like.”

The road to MagSafe 3.0

As exciting as the prospect of a new-and-improved MagSafe might be, it’s worth acknowledging that patents, while interesting peeks into what companies are working on, often never see the light of day, or make it into actual public products. So don’t get too excited.

That said, MagSafe hasn’t been dead for that long — the last computer Apple made with MagSafe was the MacBook Air from 2017 — and it would make sense to reintroduce a smarter and safer way to charge your devices. Lots of people were upset when Apple started retiring MagSafe over the last few years in favor of USB-C; perhaps Apple’s new proprietary solution could blend the best of both worlds by offering a powerful cord that can also transfer data, but with the safety of MagSafe so your devices don’t go flying if you trip over their cords.

If you really can’t wait for Apple to reinvent MagSafe, though, and you really want a magnetic connector for your Mac laptop, iMore has assembled a collection of MagSafe alternatives that will work for your USB-C Mac.

SEE ALSO: Apple is rumored to release a pair of high-end headphones this year — here’s everything we know

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