Today the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office officially granted Apple a patent that relates to various styles of smart connectors. While wireless charging is the direction Apple is taking, magnetic connectors are still being contemplated by Apple. Apple's first smart magnetic connector was used on the iPad that connected to their Smart Keyboard.
Apple's newly granted patent covers their invention relating to a connector for an accessory device capable of exchanging power and data with an electronic device. In particular, the connector includes recessed contacts that are magnetically actuated by magnets associated with contacts of the electronic device.
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Possible Alternative Smart Connector for iPhone
Apple's alternative smart connector for iPhone is designed to keep water and debris from entering the iPhone. Apple's patent FIGS. 10A, 10B and 11A above provide us with a look at a variant smart connector with magnets, clearly illustrated on an iPhone.
More specifically, Apple's patent FIGS. 10A and 10B illustrate an alternative connector design taking the form of connector #1000. Patent FIG. 10A depicts the connector and how it includes magnet #1002 and shunt #1004, which both remain stationary with respect to electrical contact #1006 regardless of the application of an external magnetic field.
Patent FIG. 10B illustrates how the electrical contact, magnet and shunt move in response to the approaching magnetic connector (#1010). This movement is made possible by a sliding connection between electrical contact 1006 and lead 1008. The sliding connection can take many forms, including but not limited to a bearing with stops allowing a predefined amount of movement of the electrical contact with respect to the lead #1008.
Apple's patent FIG. 11A illustrates multiple views of a connector plug (#1100) which has pill-shaped protrusions that include four electrical contacts #1102 and can be packaged with circuitry allowing for the plug to be electrically coupled with receptacle connector #1152 of electronic device (#1150, an iPhone) in either of two orientations.
Both the receptacle connector and the plug can include magnets for facilitating a robust connection between the connector plug and receptacle connector. The magnets can be arranged in a complementary array configured to facilitate precise alignment of the connector plug with receptacle connector.
For more details, review Apple's granted patent 10,938,147.