A patent filed by Apple hints that the company is internally working on a new, next-generation Lightning connector capable of “expanding” to form a liquid-tight seal to prevent water, dust and debris from potentially damaging hardware while charging.
As reported by Patently Apple, the patent “FIG. 12B” filed back in early 2017 illustrates a “cross-sectional” view of what the port would look like when plugged into a “receptacle connector”, for example an iPhone.
It’s unclear whether or not the seal will be on the device, either it be iPhone, iPad or iPod touch, or on the Lightning cable itself. As explained by Patently Apple, in one example, a deformable peripheral seal is positioned between the receiving opening and the plurality of electrical contacts and the deformable peripheral seal has an aperture aligned with the receiving opening wherein the aperture is smaller than the receiving opening.
Apple is known for patenting ideas that never leave the design lab, so it’s possible that the company will never sell this particular item, but it is a clue that Apple wants to further develop their iOS line to be more water resistant.