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Apple patent application imagines charging cables that might not fray so easily

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They’d also be a uniform thickness instead of having a raised sleeve on the end

A Lightning to USB-A cable.
Image: Apple

Apple’s charging cables aren’t exactly known for their durability. They often fray after a year or two and can even break down to the point where they won’t charge your device at all. (I’ve also noticed they can turn an increasingly sour shade of yellow.) But Apple is apparently working on some ideas to make its cables more durable, filing a patent application for a “Cable with Variable Stiffness.”

The patent, first reported by AppleInsider, describes some different ideas for a cable that wouldn’t fray as easily. The methods would give different parts of the cable varying levels of stiffness, while keeping the cable uniformly thick. They would also replace what Apple calls the “strain relief sleeve” — the stiff cap you’ll find at the ends of many cables.

The strain relief sleeve helps prevent the cable from breaking due to bends, which can be helpful since cables are often bent sharply near the ends to plug them in. The thing is, those sleeves often don’t stop cables from fraying anyway. Apple’s ideas in this patent vary the flexibility and stiffness across an entire cable, which would theoretically protect better against fraying no matter where you regularly bend it, all without increasing the thickness (meaning no more strain relief sleeves).

A diagram from Apple’s patent for a cable with variable stiffness.

This is just a patent application, and there’s no guarantee that Apple will use this design in future cables. But the fact that Apple has filed this application is a good sign that it is thinking about cable durability. Hopefully we see some improvements down the line.