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Apple patents magnetic connector for stacking up peripherals

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Designed with "handheld electronics" in mind

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If Apple really wants the iPad to be the future of computing, then it would help if the tablet could easily connect with multiple peripherals at once. A recently published patent from the iPhone-maker shows one way this might work, with the document outlining plans for a "stackable, magnetically-retained connector interface" designed particularly for "handheld electronics."

Like an advanced version of the iPad Pro's Smart Connector

Basically, the patent imagines one of Apple's magnetic connectors (like the MagSafe or the circular Apple Watch charger) with the ability to stack on top of itself multiple times. It describes how this would allow data, power, and peripherals to be connected to the same "base device" simultaneously. Magnets would be used to align the connectors and keep them place, and "connection detection circuity" would "prevent live contacts from being exposed at unmated connectors."

It's a little like an advanced version of the Smart Connector that Apple introduced for the iPad Pro. This docks in place with magnets, but isn't stackable, of course, and at the moment is only used for connecting keyboard accessories to the tablet.

Illustrations from the patent showing different plug types and an abstract schematic showing how the stackable connectors would deliver data and power through different lines.

Illustrations provided in the filing show two different types of connectors — one that looks like a Lightning or USB Type-C plug, and another, circular one that looks like the Apple Watch charger. As ever, though, the patent notes that these are included for "the purpose of illustration only," and the same hypothetical caveat goes for the whole document. Just because Apple patents something doesn't mean it's going to build it. But still, magnetic stackable connectors might at least ease the heartbreak of the MagSafe's departure from the 12-inch MacBook.