Apple is expected to revive the MagSafe charging port on its notebooks, and now the Cupertino company has been granted a patent for a spring-loaded, pogo-style magnetic charging and data port that could also be used in the iPhone in place of the Lightning port.


STORY HIGHLIGHTS:

  • MagSafe should come to Macs.
  • Snap-on plugging, easier unplugging.
  • Safe disconnect if a cord is tripped over.
  • It could replace Lightning on iPhones.
  • Better waterproofing vs. Lightning.
  • iPhone 13 could add wired MagSafe.

A drawing from Apple's MagSafe patent showing a magnetic iPhone port in place of Lightning

A future without Lightning

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has granted Apple a major patent earlier this week, titled “Magnetic surface contacts.”

As highlighted by PatentlyApple, the invention calls for movable magnetic elements that would move in response to a magnetic field. Like with the previous MagSafe charging port on old Mac notebooks, the new connector would be held in place by magnets.

From the patent abstract:

In some embodiments, the electrical connectors includes recessed contacts that move from a recessed position to an engaged position in response to an externally applied magnetic field associated with an electronic device to which the connector is designed to be coupled. In some embodiments, the external magnetic field has a particular polarity pattern configured to draw contacts associated with a matching polarity pattern out of the recessed position.

On the iPhone, which already uses a wireless MagSafe connection for charging, a wired version of MagSafe technology would provide the fastest charging. Another benefit over Lightning would be much better water and dust protection due to a tighter seal.

A drawing from Apple's MagSafe patent showing how a charge cable might snap on a Mac notebook MagSafe port

And most importantly, if implemented on a future Mac notebook, MagSafe would prevent your computer from getting damaged in case you accidentally trip over or yank the cord.

You can find the patent details on the USPTO website.

A drawing from Apple's MagSafe patent showing pogo-style connections for power and data

Apple’s MagSafe ecosystem

Introduced with the 2006 MacBook Pro, MagSafe used to charge several generations of MacBook laptops before Apple nixed it completely from the lineup in 2019. Apple likes using magnets to give its products seemingly “magical” features. The best example of that is the Magic Keyboard that keeps an iPad suspended mid-air so it hovers slightly above the keyboard.

Check out these budget-friendly MagSafe chargers

Magnets also provide snap-on connections to the iPad Smart Cover and the Apple Pencil 2. And with the iPhone 12, Apple’s revived the MagSafe brand. The iPhone 12 uses the MagSafe magnets on the back to allow precise alignment for wireless charging and for attaching accessories, like MagSafe chargers, wallets and other products from Apple and other firms.

Apple may also be working on a MagSafe battery pack for the iPhone 12 family that may feature reverse charging. This means iPhone 12 owners with the MagSafe battery pack attached will be able to set their phone down so the battery pack is up, and then set something like another iPhone or AirPods Pro case down on the battery pack to wirelessly charge it.

Some people have speculated that MagSafe might permit Apple to engineer a portless iPhone.

According to reliable Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, Apple may not replace Lightning with USB-C on iPhones because he expects this year’s iPhone 13 family to actually “cancel the Lightning port” and provide what he describes as “a completely wireless experience”.