Yesterday we detailed an Apple patent showing work on a stackable Smart Connector plug of sorts. Today we get a look at a similar invention aimed at making the I/O on future devices more versatile with Apple’s invention of a “Universal Magnetic Adapter” that could allow for more future-proof devices using only a single port. As pictured in the drawing accompanying the patent above, the technology allows for a single port that uses magnetic inserts as adapters for your various devices. Or in other words, MagSafe for everything using a single port and adapters for the various connectors.

In its patent, Apple describes the problem with the current mess of adapters and cables users have to deal:

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The number and types of electronic devices available to consumers have increased tremendously the past few years, and this increase shows no signs of abating… As the number of standard interfaces has grown over the past few years, so has the number of connector receptacles along sides of electronic devices… there are several negative aspects to this proliferation of connector receptacles. The housings for these electronic devices may be arranged to have openings for these receptacles, while traces and interconnect on a board or other substrate in the device may be arranged to connect to pins or contacts in the receptacle. Also, the number of receptacles may have deleterious effect on the appearance of an electronic device. These factors may increase costs and complexity of a device making it less appealing in the marketplace. 

Sure there are already adapters for this problem (for example the new MacBook is already one port device with its switch to USB-C), but using this standard universal adapter that Apple outlines would allow for a more sleek, built-in solution (no more dangling dongles), and it also includes Apple’s MagSafe-like magnetic connector, something we lost with the move to USB-C on the new 12-inch MacBook. All while still keeping a device’s I/O down to a single port. More from Apple’s patent:

…This may reduce the number of types of connector receptacles on an electronic device since each corresponding connector receptacle may be able to handle different types of interfaces. Also, the number of connector receptacles needed for an electronic device may be reduced as well. That is, since each corresponding connector receptacle may be able to handle a different type of interface, the number of unused or rarely used connector receptacles may be reduced. For example, a conventional device may include two types of video connectors. An embodiment of the present invention may provide adapters for each type of video connector and a device receptacle to accept the adapters. This may reduce the need for video connectors on a device from two to only one.

And it would make it easier to buy and sell the adapters you need for you devices. For instance, right now you often have to buy a hub just to get the one input you need. Apple’s system could make it easier and cheaper to purchase just the adapters/inserts you need, and allow it to build devices without worry about the constantly changing state of I/O tech.

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