Apple may be planning a new version of the late, lamented MacSafe adapter. The company has filed for a patent (number 20170133787) for “flexible and breakaway mechanisms for connections.” And it might even be illuminated.
With the 2016 MacBook Pro line, Apple ditched the beloved MagSafe connector, which disengaged with the slightest amount of pressure. This saved many Mac laptops from a disastrous plummet when someone accidentally snagged the power cable.
The patent filing is for connectors that can withstand force and are easy to manufacture. They may include connecting portions that may move relative to other portions of the connectors to absorb force. The connectors may be designed to partially break in order to protect devices that may be connected to. They may be further designed to break in a controlled manner to prevent springs or other components that may be under compression from being dislodged from the connectors.
In the patent filing, Apple notes that the never increasing number of computing devices — such as tablets, desktop computers, laptops, and smartphones — may connect to each other through cables, where a cable has a connector insert on each end to mate with connector receptacles on the communicating devices. In some electronic systems, a first device may include a connector receptacle while a second device may include a connector insert. In these systems the connector insert on the second device may be inserted into the connector receptacle on the first device without the need of an intervening cable.
Systems where a second device having a connector insert is inserted directly into a connector receptacle on a first device may be susceptible to damage. While the patent refers to connection one computing device to another, there seems to be no reason why the invention wouldn’t also apply to power supplies.
A related patent (number 20170133792) is for connector illumination for insertion in low-light conditions. It’s for a connector that could provide illumination in a dark environment, making it easier for a user to plug the connector insert into a corresponding connector receptacle.
Of course, Apple files for — and is granted — lots of patents by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Many are for inventions that never see the light of day. However, you never can tell which ones will materialize in a real product.