The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday published a new Apple patent application that describes a next-generation Lightning connector which, upon being plugged into an iPhone or iPad, will be capable of “expanding” to form a liquid-tight seal.
The expanding connector would effectively prevent water, debris, or other potentially damaging materials from permeating and potentially causing damage to the host hardware.
“Apple’s invention pertains to electrical connectors that have one or more gaskets or seals configured to impede moisture from penetrating the connector and/or electronic devices,” Patently Apple explains, adding that some embodiments, as outlined in Apple’s application, “relate to a seal positioned on the connector plug and/or within an electronic device such that a liquid-tight seal is formed when the connector plug is mated with the electronic device.”
It appears that Apple’s next-gen Lightning plug — from the overly technical description provided — would be outfitted with some form of “deformable peripheral seal,” which the publication explains would be positioned between the Lightning port, itself, and the host device it’s plugged into.
Shown in Apple’s patent image, FIG. 12A, is an isometric view of the tapered Lightning port mechanism.
Notably, with regards to #1215, #1220, and #1225, Apple is showing what Patently Apple describes as a first surface — connecting with a second, opposing surface — in order that the mechanism is able to form a “tapered […] deformable material configured to form a seal to a receptacle connector of an electronic device.”
FIG. 12B, meanwhile, illustrates a “cross-sectional” view of what the port would look like when plugged into a “receptacle connector” (iPhone or iPad Lightning port.)
In another embodiment, Patently Apple explains that the mechanism may be equipped with an “enlarged, bulbous” apparatus, which may be constructed from “a deformable seal material such that it forms a liquid-tight seal towards an end of the cavity.”
Apple’s patent application was filed back in Q1, 2017. Given it’s just a patent there’s no telling if the company will ever mass produce a next-generation cable along these lines, though we’d certainly welcome it.