Apple has applied for a patent (number ) with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office for a "magnetic connector and alignment of connectible devices." It's for a magnetic docking system with inductive charging.
Inductive charging (also known as "wireless charging") — which Apple uses with the Apple Watch — uses an electromagnetic field to transfer energy between two objects. This is usually done with a charging station. Energy is sent through an inductive coupling to an electrical device, which can then use that energy to charge batteries or run the device.
Apple's patent certainly involves iOS devices such as the iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch, but could also involve Macs. That's assuming the invention ever sees the light of day. Apple publishes many patents that never come to fruition. However, this one seems a strong contender to see the light of day at some point.
In the patent filing, Apple notes that portable digital media players, wearable devices, and/or other kinds of portable computing devices may connect to one or more docks in order to charge, transfer data, connect to one or more accessories, such as external input/output devices, and so on. A connection may mechanically couple the electronic devices and/or may electrically couple the electronic devices for the purposes of power and/or data transmission.
However, using some traditional coupling techniques, Apple says it may be difficult to maintain a mechanical coupling between the devices in a way that doesn't interfere or which "further facilitates an electrical coupling between the electronic devices." Apple thinks it can do better with its proposed magnetic docking/inductive charging invention.
Here's Apple's summary of the patent: "A first and second electronic device each including a connection surface and a magnetic element. The first and second devices may be in contact along the respective connection surfaces. The magnetic elements may be configured to align the first and second devices by moving either or both of the first and second devices relative to each other to achieve an aligned position. The magnetic element may also be operative to resist disconnection of first and second electronic devices when in the aligned position."