Stackable plugs could allow multiple iPad accessories at once

Apple's patent application shows peripheral plugs that create a chain

The Smart Connector on both iPad Pro models allows each tablet to support wired keyboards, and opens the door to other peripherals down the line. And it might just be the first step for Apple.

A new Apple patent application uncovered this week shows plans for stackable wired peripheral plugs, potentially allowing multiple accessories to magnetically connect directly to an iOS device. Each accessory plug can both connect to the device and have another accessory plug connect directly into it, creating a chain of connectivity.

It would work much like a USB hub, albeit without a clunky hunk of plastic adding the extra inputs. Instead, it seems to be a pretty elegant way of supporting multiple devices, potentially opening up the iPad to support added devices and act more like a traditional computer.

Apple's patent application says the cables could be used for a wide array of connectivity uses, including with external batteries, storage drives, headphones, keyboards and more. Perhaps this is what Apple is planning for the so-called iPhone 7 due out later this year, which is rumoured to lack a traditional headphone port.

Another illustration on the patent application shows magnetic connectors that look like the Apple Watch's charging cable, with an example of an iOS-centric docking station of sorts that could support multiple devices at once.

As AppleInsider points out, it's not known whether the current Smart Connector is built to support these kinds of peripherals, or if this is something that will only work with future devices. In any case, it's an interesting wrinkle in Apple's plans, and could help the company better position the iPad Pro as a proper laptop replacement.

[Source: USPTO via AppleInsider]