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Mobile Accessories

Magzet aims to reinvent the audio jack with the 'power of magnets'

Tired of having your headphone jack or plug short out and break? Magzet is hoping to change all that with a new accessory that promises safer connections.

Magzet launches its Kickstarter campaign on March 24. Magzet

Apple's proprietary MagSafe power connectors have saved a lot of laptops from falling off desks, tables and other high places down the years. That's because the connector adheres magnetically, rather than being truly plugged in, which means that if you bump into the cord, the cable simply breaks away from the laptop and doesn't drag it along with it, as a traditional connector might do.

Those lamenting the MagSafe's absence in the new MacBook -- where it's being replaced by a do-it-all USB-C port -- may be first in line for a new Kickstarter from the folks at Magzet. They're trying to bring that same magnetic concept to the audio jack.

The forthcoming product, which is now live on the crowdfunding site, is a two-piece accessory. The smaller MagJack is designed to plug into a headphone jack, while the larger MagKap fits over your standard headphone plug. The two pieces then adhere magnetically -- at which time audio is cut off from the device's speaker and routed to the headphones.

It's unclear how Magzet impacts audio quality, if at all. The Ohio-based designers, Jon Hallsten and Jeff Russell, claim "audio quality is superb!" You'll be able to use all your inline remote's features for skipping tracks forward and back, answering and ending calls, and adjusting volume.

Aside from potentially saving your headphones and device from the wear and tear of cord snags, you'll also save your ears from possible injury. (I've never had a serious injury from a cord yank, but, hey, it's possible.)

If the "MagSafe for headphone jacks" idea sounds familiar, it may be because you remember the Pogo concept that made the rounds in 2013. That one never got off the ground because of patent issues, but the Magzet crew thinks its approach (and intellectual property) is different enough to withstand legal scrutiny.

Hallsten says they've overcome the one big technology hurdle that hampered the Pogo: the fact that when you plug a connector into a phone's audio jack, the phone thinks something is plugged in and re-routes the audio to headset functionality.

"We invented a solution where we can leave the jack in the device (the main value proposition for convenience)," he says. "It's only when the adapter (MagKap) is magnetically coupled with the jack (MagJack) that the phone then detects that stuff is plugged in."

Magzet is scheduled to ship out units by December and the first 100 backers can buy the "basic" kit, which includes one MagJack and one MagKap for $20 (that's around £13 or AU$25 -- they ship anywhere in the world). If you pledge $35 or more you'll get two MagJacks and one MagKap. Pledge $45 or more and they'll throw in a Magzet T-shirt. (As with any Kickstarter project, there is a risk that the product will be delayed or never ship at all.)

The big question is whether it's worth spending $20 on a Magzet kit if your headphones don't cost all that much to begin with. Hopefully, over time, the $20 kit will include a couple of sets of MagJacks and MagKaps.

And -- who knows? -- if Magzet is successful with headphone jacks, maybe it can make a breakaway USB-C connector for the new MacBook, too.

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Magzet founders Jon Hallsten and Jeff Russell. Magzet