The Smart Connector Apple introduced on the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, and used again on the latest 9.7-inch model, may become more capable over time. An Apple patent granted today reveals possible plans to allow multiple devices to be simultaneously connected to the port, using stacked connectors.
Interestingly, while the much-loved MagSafe power connector was removed in the 12-inch MacBook, it seems that Apple hasn’t altogether abandoned the idea, as the patent describes using magnetic retention to stack the plugs – with one drawing showing what looks very much like a MagSafe Lightning plug …
A stackable connector interface with magnetic retention for electronic devices and accessories can allow power and data to be transferred between one or more stacked connectors. Each interconnected stackable connector may include one or more magnetic elements, which magnetic elements may have poles arranged to facilitate mating with other stackable connectors. The magnetic elements may also provide a magnetic retention force that holds mated connectors in contact with each other.
A second connector type looks rather similar in form-factor to an Apple Watch charging puck.
Potential applications described in the patent include a dock, battery pack, external storage and, of course, a keyboard. Each device connected would electronically signal what type of device it is, in order to allow the appropriate combination of power and data to be transferred.
The usual disclaimer of course applies: Apple patents a great many things that never make it into finished products.