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Apple’s reversible USB cable explained by patent filing


Apple USB
Leaked photos reportedly showed Apple's new USB cable

When pictures reportedly showing a reversible USB-to-Lightning cable appeared last weekend, many folks wondered how Apple had seemingly achieved such a useful, but obvious solution to charging-related faffing about.

Now, thanks to an Apple patent application published on Thursday, those curious observers can: a) assume it's actually real, and b) get a clearer idea of how the tech will actually work.

The patent, with the not-so-succinct title of ”Reversible USB connector with compliant member to spread stress and increase contact normal force,” details a new connector with a central tongue that sits on a flexible stork.

According to the filing, that stork will be capable of sliding up or down. In practice that means, whatever the cable’s orientation compared to the receiving USB port, Apple users should be able to plug in their iOS device will minimal fuss.

The expected launch of this fully-reversible USB cable alongside the iPhone 6 next month will continue the good work Apple began when it transitioned from the 30-pin connectivity tech to the Lightning standard, which also works regardless of the orientation.

The pending launch of this technology is enough to make anyone wonder, amidst the endless tidal wave of innovation, why something as obvious as a reversible USB cable would take this long to materialse.

Indeed, Apple’s filing explains the frustration of using the current male-to-female USB technology very well.

The company wrote: “It is sometimes difficult for users to determine when a polarised plug connector, such as a USB plug connector, is oriented in the correct orientation for insertion into a corresponding receptacle connector.

“Some USB plug and/or receptacle connectors may include markings to indicate their orientation such that users know how to properly insert a plug connector into corresponding receptacle connectors. However, these marking are not always utilised by users and/or can be confusing to some users.”

A solution to these woes now seems set to arrive within the next month or so. Better late than never.

Read more: iPhone 6 rumours, news, specs and release date

Via: TechnoBuffalo

Kyle Newton

August 22, 2014, 4:10 am

Why not just stick with the USB 3.1 ? http://www.techieio.com/usb-ty... They just finalized the specs for it and I can speculate that it will see the store shelves before the end of 2014 . Obviously I wouldn't expect to see any roll out into the Apple products for quite some time, but with the Euro limitations that are being implemented it seems its a one-size-fits-all answer to everyones mobile charging dilemma.

Prem Desai

August 25, 2014, 4:44 pm

The Apple lightning connector is one of the biggest screw ups of this century.

Whilst it is reversible, it contains a proprietary chip by Apple within it. The other end is still just a dumb usb connector. Why on earth did Apple not put this chip inside the device is beyond belief. So now, every cable has to have the chip rather than just the device. As each chip is license by Apple, the cost of a charging cable which should be in pennies is now around £10. Madness.

Now they're going to do the same with the dumb usb end and screw that up too .....

Frankly speaking, both the lightning connector, this connector and the new usb 3.1 are not good enough.

Whilst they are reversible, they're still horribly fragile because of the protruding ends. Try lifting an ipad by the charging cable (it happens, by accident) and you'll see what I mean.

What we need is a magnetic, non-protruding and reversible connector - like what Apple uses on their laptops. This will also make it much easier to make devices water resistant.


August 26, 2014, 12:37 pm

I think you answered your own question re proprietory chips!


August 26, 2014, 12:45 pm

For which end? The computer or the iPhone? Not much point on the computer end, as no one has USB3 Type C connectors on their machines. And if they replace Lightning on iPhone's with Type C, they a) can't license cables ($$$) and b) obsolete every Lightning dock.

Also, Lightning is arguably better than Type C from a mechanical simplicity and robustness point of view (though the cables seem to fail at the join with the back of the plug a lot, going by reviews on the Apple Store).

Kyle Newton

August 26, 2014, 3:49 pm

Good question, and to clarify I was referencing the idea for the the product side (for the phones charging/data port.) Not that I disagree with you on the licensing cables factor, which I think switching would indeed hurt Apple initially, it could however, prove to become more of a fruitful move since there might be more 3rd party product opportunities made to be compatible, and it could have other upsides (less frustration.) Apple is all about their ecosystem being so great, the consumer would never want to switch. That is understood. However with certain roadblocks, they may be faced with a hard decision. Europe tends to be pushing for the standardization, see here - http://www.geek.com/apple/appl...

Prem Desai

August 26, 2014, 5:14 pm

I look forward to standard connectors for all devices.

Apple is wrong banking on people not wanting to leave their ecosystem. I used to be all things Apple. Their lightning connector was the last straw. It offers a small benefit in that it's reversible, but the inconvenience and cost of having a separate charging cable everyone made me sell by iPhone 5. Good riddance.

Prem Desai

August 26, 2014, 5:15 pm

What question is that?

I'm rooting for a standardised, magnetic, reversible connector WITHOUT any proprietary chips. It can be done .....


August 26, 2014, 5:20 pm

"Why on earth did Apple not put this chip inside the device ... As each chip is license by Apple, the cost of a charging cable which should be in pennies is now around £10." :-)


August 26, 2014, 5:44 pm

Bear in mind that although the socket on a phone might be micro-usb, you probably won't get the full charging current unless you're using a special cable (e.g. Samsung S4/5). And a suitable mains charger, obviously.

Standard USB spec cables / computer ports are not rated for high power levels, so you'll wind up having to keep special cables around anyway, and they'll be hard to tell apart from normal ones.

Probably not such an issue with a phone, but a tablet would take ages to charge with a standard micro USB cable.

Kyle Newton

August 27, 2014, 5:47 pm

Very much agreed on the magnetic. That would be killer, for all cables. Who knows, maybe one day it will become THE standard for everything. Induction charging to follow thereafter?

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