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What’s the purpose of the iPhone 7’s most puzzling new feature?

Updated Dec 19th, 2018 9:16PM EST
iPhone 7 Features Smart Connector

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I know, I know, it’ll be a few more months before Apple reveals the secrets behind the brand new iPhone 7. But there have already been plenty of leaks that give us a boatload of information about the upcoming handset, with multiple reports agreeing on certain new features. Aside from the iPhone 6s-like design, redesigned rear antennas, dual lens camera for the 5.5-inch “Pro” version and absence of the headphone jack, there’s one mysterious iPhone 7 feature that no one has gotten to the bottom of at this point.

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Why is there a Smart Connector port on the back of the iPhone 7 Plus, as seen in schematics that hit the web yesterday? The port is used on both new iPad Pro models to connect a keyboard accessory. But it’s one thing to hook up a keyboard to a tablet and quite another to do it with a smartphone. Even the 5.5-inch iPhone doesn’t really need a keyboard, right?

On the other hand, as Logitech recently proved, the Smart Connector can also be used to power a tablet. If Logitech is allowed to do it, then it could open the door for some exciting new accessories for the next-generation iPhones.

Could it be that the iPhone 7’s Smart Connector will be used for wireless charging?

Looking at these schematics, Daring Fireball’s John Gruber also said he became more interested in the connector, which keeps popping up in leaks. Others have joined in, coming up with various ways that the Smart Connector might be used.

One idea Apple might be toying with is to let users choose how they want to charge the iPhone, either via the Lightning port or using a magnetic connector. In such a case, the Lightning port would be free to use with Lightning headphones – remember, Apple is rumored to be ditching the 3.5mm audio jack on the iPhone 7, and will instead bundle the phone with new Lightning headphones.

The port could also be used to charge wireless headphones by connecting them to the iPhone. Apple is also rumored to be developing truly wireless Beats headphones for release alongside the iPhone 7.

The Smart Connector could let case makers come up with slicker battery cases – Apple included – which would use the port to charge the phone wirelessly.

Finally, one user believes the Smart Connector could be paired with other peripherals, including external microphones, lenses and camera cases – or whatever accessory makers can come up with, as long as they stay within Apple’s guidelines.

Whatever the case, if the Smart Connector is indeed in the picture for the iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 “Pro,” then we might see it become a little more than just a port you can use to connect an external keyboard.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.