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Phones

Apple has ideas for water-resistant Lightning connectors

A patent application shows ideas for a moisture seal that could help anyone who charges a phone on the kitchen counter.

An Apple patent application shows a Lightning connector tapered to keep water and grit out when the cable is plugged in.

An Apple patent application shows a Lightning connector tapered to keep water and grit out when the cable is plugged in.

USPTO

Apple, having made iPhones that can withstand inadvertent trips into puddles, sinks and toilets, is thinking about the next step: protecting Lightning connectors from water.

Another Lightning cable design shows a deformable rubber or plastic O-ring to seal a cable connection against water.

Another Lightning cable design shows a deformable rubber or plastic O-ring to seal a cable connection against water.

USPTO

A patent application filed Thursday shows several ideas for sealing Lightning -- and apparently, USB-C connectors, too -- against the elements. "A liquid-tight seal is formed between the accessory and the electronic device," the application says, which makes for accessories "that are useful in moist, wet and/or dirty environments."

The ability to withstand hard treatment is important for phones -- especially when you consider that an iPhone X costs more than $1,000 and likely will remain in use for years. But as countless shattered screens and a thriving smartphone case market show, true ruggedness remains elusive.

Today's phones are better, though, and a connector that stands up to water and grit could help.

Apple's ideas include a tapered Lightning connector that stuffs into its port and a rubber gasket that squeezes tightly to seal a port when when a cable is inserted.

This Apple design shows a USB-C connector -- found on Macs and some Android phones -- that offers a water seal.

This Apple design shows a USB-C connector -- found on Macs and some Android phones -- that offers a water seal.

USPTO

It isn't clear whether Apple ever plans to ditch its proprietary Lightning connector for the increasingly common USB-C ports sprouting on Android phones and Apple laptops. But USB-C fans can take heart that Apple has an idea for sealing that connector, too.

Apple didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.