Over the past few days, there have been a number of reports and leaked photos suggesting that Apple is working on a Lightning cable featuring a reversible USB connector. While Apple rumors are a dime a dozen, a recently published patent filing from Apple on such an invention lends much more credibility to what were previously purely speculative reports.
Originally spotted by AppleInsider, the patent was initially filed in February of 2014 and was just published earlier today. Titled "Reversible USB connector with compliant member to spread stress and increase contact normal force", the patent reads in part:
USB connectors, like many other standard data connectors, require that male plug connectors be mated with corresponding female receptacle connectors in a single, specific orientation in order for the USB connection to function properly. Such connectors can be referred to as polarized connectors. Accordingly, USB receptacle connectors include an insertion opening with features that prevents USB plug connectors from being inserted into the USB receptacle connector in the wrong way. That is, it can only be inserted one way because it is a polarized connector. Many other commonly used data connectors, including mini USB connectors, FireWire connectors, as well as many other proprietary connectors are also polarized connectors.
It is sometimes difficult for users to determine when a polarized 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 utilized by users and/or can be confusing to some users. In some cases, these markings are not helpful because the markings cannot be easily viewed due to the location of the receptacle connector, lighting conditions, or other reasons. Even when visible, these markings may still be unhelpful because not all manufacturers apply these markings in a consistent fashion. Consequently, users may incorrectly insert a plug connector into a corresponding receptacle connector, which may potentially result in damage to the connectors and/or user frustration.
Apple, of course, patents many things that never see the light of day, but given the bevy of alleged leaks that have surfaced over the past few days, we thought this was worth highlighting. At the same time, it's also worth mentioning that the reversible USB plug Apple envisions has not yet been approved by the USB Compliance Committee.