Next-gen Lightning connector could seal out water


Lightning connector
Redesigned Lightning connector could let wet iPhones charge.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Apple designed a waterproof Lighting connector that could block out liquids, dust and dirt when inserted into an iPhone.

The company filed a patent application for its design, potentially pointing to a product in development to enable iPhones to safely charge when wet.

Apple strives to make its mobile products waterproof and relatively rugged. The iPhone X and both iPhone 8 models earned an IP67 rating. That means they can survive submersion in 3.3 feet of water for 30 minutes. (Apple still doesn’t recommend taking one in the pool.)

Now, Apple is thinking about what happens when it comes time to plug in a wet iPhone. Currently, warnings say specifically: “Do not attempt to charge a wet iPhone.”

Connecting without liquids

The application submitted to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is for “a connector having a deformable seal positioned on it such that when the connector is mated to the electronic device a liquid-tight seal is formed between the accessory and the electronic device.”

Apple’s concept for a waterproof Lightning connector
Apple’s concept for a waterproof Lightning connector.
Photo: Apple

In more colloquial terms, the profile of the plug on the Lightning connector is V-shaped, and made of a material that compresses when pushed into the port. This prevents any liquids from entering. The patent also suggests that inserting a plug with this design pushes out any liquid that’s already in the slot.

Apple says the redesigned Lightning connector would prove “useful in moist, wet and/or dirty environments,” which realistically includes virtually everywhere people take their phones and tablets.

This new patent application awaits approval by the patent office. And just because Apple submitted this application doesn’t mean the company definitely plans to release a Lightning cable with a water-tight seal. It owns patents for hundreds if not thousands of cool ideas that never became products.

On the other hand, Apple could easily make this type of innovative connector backward-compatible with older iPhones. Because not all its patents go nowhere. And some still might see the light of day.

Now if it could just make a Lightning cable that doesn’t fray. (See also: Best Lightning cables to replace the one you already broke.)