Apple's MagSafe could be coming to iOS devices

Apple has applied for a patent to bring the MagSafe power cables to their iOS devices. The MagSafe cables were first introduced in the 2006 model line-up, and now appear with all of the company’s MacBook products. As Techradar reports, the charging solution could soon become available to their smartphones and iPad tablets. The main allure of the MagSafe system is that it uses magnets to prevent damage to devices. If the charging cable slotted into the MacBook is tugged quickly (for example, if someone tripped over the cable) then it will pop out, rather than dragging the device along with it, and potentially causing damage. This results in the cable removing quickly, with no damage theoretically having been caused.

Apple already own a patent for the MagSafe design, which they received on December 25th, 2007. The official information from patent number 7,311,526 is as follows:

An electrical plug and receptacle relying on magnetic force to maintain contact are disclosed. The plug and receptacle can be used as part of a power adapter for connecting an electronic device, such as a laptop computer, to a power supply. The plug includes electrical contacts, which are preferably biased toward corresponding contacts on the receptacle. The plug and receptacle each have a magnetic element. The magnetic element on one or both of the plug and receptacle can be a magnet, which is preferably a permanent rare earth magnet although electromagnets may also be used. The magnetic element on the plug or receptacle that does not include a magnet is composed of ferromagnetic material. When the plug and receptacle are brought into proximity, the magnetic attraction between the magnet and its complement, whether another magnet or a ferromagnetic material, maintains the contacts in an electrically conductive relationship.

Apple has now trademarked the concept with the United States Patent Office, in order to bring it to the iPad and iPhone line, if not others. Patently Apple reports on this, and also includes diagrams of the MagSafe design. While the release of the MagSafe iOS products may not come in time for the next iPhone, currently rumoured to release in September, it could arrive soon after.

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15 Comments

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can someone answer my question? why is it that when i plug my ipad2 to my pc via usb it does not charge. it just syncs with my itunes. is there a setting that i am missing? you may contact me via my email.

OK, why should anyone have an exclusive on this? Two things on ANY Apple products that EVER made me jealous as a Windows Fan Boy. Pinch and zoom on the IPHONE browser when it first came out, and this. How long till I can have this on a PC? MAC OS? So not brilliant. THIS? Brilliant.

jimmyfal said,
OK, why should anyone have an exclusive on this?

You don't seem to understand the concept of patents. Without a guarantee of exclusivity on a design, at least for a time, then companies have no incentive to innovate. Why should you bother to invent a great new widget when other companies are free to immediately reverse-engineer and begin making copies of what you just spent months or years designing?

roadwarrior said,

You don't seem to understand the concept of patents. Without a guarantee of exclusivity on a design, at least for a time, then companies have no incentive to innovate. Why should you bother to invent a great new widget when other companies are free to immediately reverse-engineer and begin making copies of what you just spent months or years designing?

If a company doesn't innovate, it will lose customers to the company that does. Simple as that.

jimmyfal said,
OK, why should anyone have an exclusive on this? Two things on ANY Apple products that EVER made me jealous as a Windows Fan Boy. Pinch and zoom on the IPHONE browser when it first came out, and this. How long till I can have this on a PC? MAC OS? So not brilliant. THIS? Brilliant.

I'm sure there are ways around the patent. There are patents that seem to just be abusive. Like a patent for a screen that has icons on it.... But in this case, there was something rather unique and innovative about the magsafe design so a patent seems warranted.

I'm sure it wouldn't be too complicated to implement a similar safety feature that was mechanical in nature. Most laptop manufacturers really aren't interested though. They want you to buy a new laptop and whatever damage is from you (i.e., tripping on a power cord) means more money for them. The amount of laptops that use right-angle power connectors where the only support is solder and any strain will go right into the board is evident to this.

roadwarrior said,

You don't seem to understand the concept of patents. Without a guarantee of exclusivity on a design, at least for a time, then companies have no incentive to innovate. Why should you bother to invent a great new widget when other companies are free to immediately reverse-engineer and begin making copies of what you just spent months or years designing?

Google does it, I thought that because they get away with it, that everybody can just do it.

njlouch said,
But I thought they signed up to this "we'll all use USB and be friends" thing?

thats what I thought too, hopefully they are going with it - all phone manufacturers should be using USB

Ferghal said,

thats what I thought too, hopefully they are going with it - all phone manufacturers should be using USB

That agreement doesn't (as far as I'm aware), preclude companies from using other charging methods in addition to USB. If they are making this as an enhancement of the docking connector, then there are lots of things that the docking connector can do that simply can't be done via USB.

roadwarrior said,

That agreement doesn't (as far as I'm aware), preclude companies from using other charging methods in addition to USB. If they are making this as an enhancement of the docking connector, then there are lots of things that the docking connector can do that simply can't be done via USB.

For something to be "in addition to" USB, they actually have to have USB to start with ;-) None of the current iDevices have a USB port yet (that I know of).

TCLN Ryster said,

For something to be "in addition to" USB, they actually have to have USB to start with ;-) None of the current iDevices have a USB port yet (that I know of).

ALL ipods have a slave USB port and custom connector used to break-out into the standard USB type A cable