Patently Apple is reporting that Apple has been given the patent for a “magnetic securing system” like what is used in the MagSafe power connector. The patent does say that “the connector may be a power connector such as the MagSafe.”
The images included in the patent filing show a tablet-like device with the aforementioned magnetic connector on the curved back. As reported back in October, Apple was thought to be considering such a connector for a future iPad. It hasn’t materialized yet, and the question remains the same now as back then: what is this for?
Does the iPad need a separate power connector, apart from the currently used Dock Connector? It doesn’t seem logical that Apple would add another port to the iPad, in fact I would expect Apple to try to reduce the number of ports on their devices, not the other way around. Or maybe Apple is working on a magnetic Dock Connector to replace the existing plug in connector? That would be a disaster, as it would in a single stroke render obsolete the thousands of accessories, docking stations, car stereos, and whatever else that uses the existing Dock connector.
Now before we get into too much of a tizzy, keep in mind that the patent filing is for the invention — it doesn’t indicate how Apple is going to use it.
It might not be for a connector at all (excerpt from the patent filing):
It should be noted that the invention is not limited to connectors and may extend to other devices associated with an electronic device. For example, the moving/magnetic clamping system may also be applied to other accessible internal components that need to mate with a housing wall. For example, the techniques may be applied to touch pads, buttons, displays, keyboards, etc. In each of these cases, the accessible device may be movably connected to a first subassembly, and magnetically secured to a second subassembly that attaches to the first subassembly.
Furthermore, although the invention has been primarily directed at internal components such as connectors, and I/O devices, the principles of the invention may also be applied to other areas of the electronic device. In general, the movable magnetic securing system may be used to help clamp interfaces between at least two disparate parts, and this includes the seams and contact points. For example, a movable magnetic system may also be used to help secure seams between interfacing housing portions as well as to perform EMI shielding along the seam, which can be done along a length or at discrete points or regions.
In plainspeak, although this patent is describing a connector, magnetic securing technology could also be used inside a device for anything that has to stick to the housing, including buttons or the touchpad.
What do you think? Is it time to lose the Dock Connector? Does the iPad need a second connection just for power?