The iPhone 12 line has just come out with neat MagSafe applications like iPhone 12 cases, wallets, and wireless chargers – but in the future, a clip-on accessory could intelligently chill your Apple smartphone – maybe the iPhone 13 – while it heats up to boost processing power.
That’s according to a patent newly-granted to Apple, which describes a case that magnetically secures to a phone and acts as a cooling layer that siphons away heat. When the phone detects the case – either by sensing the magnetic field or, in other versions, via RFID or NFC signal – the handset allows itself to heat up, presumably beyond normal tolerances.
In essence, the case could act as an external cooling layer for a purposely overheated phone. Neat!
Obviously, this is just a patent, with plenty of variations on how it could work and no certainty that Apple will integrate this into a future case, let alone in a planned sequence to allow iPhones to outsource cooling to an external covering. It’s not only risky, it’s out-of-character for Apple, which long ago coalesced a product philosophy of self-contained, untweakable devices.
Which means it could open up the iPhone 13 or further phones to far more interesting possibilities.
MagSafe opens the door
When seen as a solution to secure wireless chargers to phones, MagSafe is overkill. But third-party products are already exploring what the feature is capable of – for starters, as a mount for camera-style grips and tripods.
We’ve seen clip-to-the-back accessories in phones before – namely, the Moto Mods, which enhanced the Moto Z line of phones with speaker, battery, camera, and other accessories. The downside, of course, was forcing every successive phone to keep the same size to be compatible, but MagSafe only clips in to the center portion of the iPhone 12, meaning we could be seeing years of innovative accessories that won’t hinder future iPhone design.
More interesting is the possibility of expanding iPhone performance essentially outsourcing its cooling to a case or even more intense accessory. In the patent, Apple is essentially recognizing the limits of phones to cool themselves, which could lead to components failing from melting solder connections or ‘faults in metal structures inside an integrated circuit.’
Gaming phones have introduced their own solutions to performance-related heat, like giant cooling chambers and graphene sheet conductors in the Razer Phone 2 and Asus ROG 3. Heck, the ROG phones have resorted to clip-on external fans to chill phones for years. This Apple solution isn’t just a novel idea, it’s a possibility for phones to exceed the limits of the phone form factor, which is necessarily sealed far tighter for waterproofing than more easily cooled personal computing setups.
It’s a solution other brands could imitate – though maybe they’ll skip copying Apple’s MagSafe feature and go straight to cooling cases.
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David is now a mobile reporter at Cnet. Formerly Mobile Editor, US for TechRadar, he covered phones, tablets, and wearables. He still thinks the iPhone 4 is the best-looking smartphone ever made. He's most interested in technology, gaming and culture – and where they overlap and change our lives. His current beat explores how our on-the-go existence is affected by new gadgets, carrier coverage expansions, and corporate strategy shifts.