Small magnets hidden in iPhone and iPad devices are far more important than you think
Concise, consistent, less and better, flexible use of materials… Various discussions about Apple product design always revolve around a few key words, in fact, these are also intuitive for most people on devices such as iPhone, iPad and MacBook. Feel.
Most of the manifestations of these ideas are revealed. For example, the use of white injection molding, silver aluminum alloy materials, around the simple tone set by Apple; or Apple will always find ways to hide various screws, reduce external openings, and erase the seam as much as possible, for It is able to guarantee an integrated appearance and get rid of the splitting of the mechanical structure.
However, product design does not stop at the parts we can see, and some are invisible. For example, the Taptic Engine delivers the delicate vibration of the palm, and the linear motor inside the fuselage. The iPhone X realizes a four-sided wide rounded full screen, and ordinary people will not know the better packaging technology it uses.
Sometimes, these design improvements from inside Apple products are more important than changes visible to the naked eye. After all, simply pursuing a new form is just a visual “good-looking”, but whether the product can bring people the “comfort” in the experience, it needs a lot of internal details. Careful and elegant.
And what we want to say this time is some small magnets placed inside the body of the iPhone, iPad and MacBook by Apple. These inconspicuous raw materials are rarely mentioned, but in fact, they have always been a negligible presence in the design of Apple products.
The iPad Pro can be used as a refrigerator because the apple is stuffed with 102 magnets.
After the launch of the new iPad Pro in November 2018, the netizens who started the show showed an alternative way of playing, which is to use it as a refrigerator sticker.
Perhaps the most expensive refrigerator sticker in history
This is of course a costly spoof, but why the iPad can be attached to the refrigerator has become a topic of discussion among netizens. Obviously, like the refrigerator sticker, the iPad itself is a large magnet.
Later, including the disassembly report of iFixit and the magnetic pole viewer of Marques Brownlee, the owner also found that Apple has stuffed a large number of small magnetic blocks in the new iPad Pro. These magnets are neatly distributed around the four speakers of the fuselage. Some of them are placed on the left and right sides, so that the external keyboard case and Apple Pencil can be stably attached to the iPad Pro.
Apple’s iPad Pro video specifically describes the use of these magnets
Apple also mentioned this in the official introduction video: “In order to keep the iPad and other accessories as close as possible, we used 102 magnets, and everything was precisely aligned and integrated.”
From the experience of the iPad Pro, these magnets are mainly used for four purposes: one is to attach the protective cover to the back of the fuselage, and the second is to fix the Apple Pencil at the top, while retaining the original uncovering Wake up, and the Smart Connector keyboard connects these two features.
And you should now find that the advantage of magnets is that even if it provides a very limited adsorption strength, it allows Apple to stick external components and products without relying on structures such as snaps or shackles. It also ensures that the shape of the product itself is sufficiently refined and unobtrusive.
However, the magnet’s adsorption for the iPad is just one of Apple’s attempts at magnetic materials. To say that it is used earlier and even more extensively, we have to go back to the Apple laptop era more than 20 years ago.
The first notebook that Jobs launched after returning to Apple, replaced the buckle with a magnet
In 1997, Steve Jobs, who returned to Apple, drew the famous four-quadrant strategy map on the blackboard, listing ordinary users, professional users, desktop computers and laptops on both sides of the X/Y axis, and then said: We will make a product for these four groups, and other products that are not in this range can be cut off.”
The original iBook, also one of the predecessors of the MacBook, became Apple’s notebook product for ordinary users.
To emphasize fashion and personalization, Apple used a new polycarbonate case on the first generation iBook. This colorful translucent body, combined with a slightly exaggerated large arc casing, gave the device a unique affinity in the then cold personal laptop market and is still one of Apple’s most classic products.
But our focus this time is on the closed design of the iBook. At that time, the mainstream laptops would design a buckle at the top of the screen, which can also be called a latch, in order to make the notebook fit better when it is closed, and also for anti-drop and safety considerations.
However, Apple canceled the design on the iBook, which made it the first personal laptop without a latch design.
On the one hand, this is related to its handle-style hinge, the screen can be closed more tightly; on the other hand, Apple also added the design of the reed switch at the top of the screen and the palm rest, when the screen is about to close, the upper and lower Part of it will produce magnetic induction, which is used to achieve automatic sleep.
But this design Apple only used one generation. In the subsequent iBook G3 Snow, Apple turned back to the tough design style, while retaining the reed switch, also brought the latch back.
When the screen is about to close, the hook will pop up automatically because of the magnetic adsorption below.
However, the new latch also introduces magnetic characteristics, so that the internal hook will pop up when the screen is about to be snapped, and it can be hidden in the groove when not in use.
As for now, the hinge technology is more mature, naturally no need to design the latch; as for the reed switch is replaced by a new Hall sensor, relying on magnetic induction to achieve the function of the screen is also relatively small things gradually became the mainstream.
Of course, this magnetic design is not completely without problems. Apple has posted an announcement on the official website stating that if you place a device containing a magnet under a Mac laptop or palm rest, it may wake up the magnetic sensor and cause the computer to automatically go to sleep.
However, in the case of a light sensor, modern notebooks will be more comprehensive in terms of the opening and closing screen, and not only rely on magnetic induction.
If you really want to know if there is a magnet in your computer, you can also take an object such as an Apple Watch or a paper clip that reacts to the magnetic element and move slowly along the edge of the palm rest of the notebook. That sucking power.
From MagSafe to Smart Cover, magnets have become frequent visitors to Apple devices
After seeing the potential of the magnet as a raw material, Apple began to apply this closure and adsorption effect to other components, including the well-known MagSafe charging interface.
In 2006, Apple demonstrated this new magnetic adsorption interface at the MacWorld conference. As we mentioned in the article “MagSafe and its magnetic adsorption era”, thanks to the magnetic effect, when the MagSafe connector and the MacBook’s power port are close enough, it will automatically “adsorb”.
You don’t even have to focus on the position of the interface, but instead create a feeling of being “pushed” by the connector. And when you don’t need it, it can easily separate from the fuselage and “fall off”, so that many people completely get rid of the days of being stumped by the power cord.
Even now, USB-C has become a new mainstream, and it does not prevent MagSafe from being one of the few designs in the history of MacBook products that can’t be separated from the past. It reflects Apple’s attention to those insignificant details.
Today, there are devices like the Microsoft Surface tablet that also introduce magnetic properties into their own power connectors and stylus. We are not sure, we will see the emergence of the USB-C interface with magnetic adsorption in the future.
On the other hand, with the rise of mobile devices, Apple is also increasingly good at using magnetic adsorption capabilities in addition to MacBook products.
In March 2011, when Apple released the iPad 2, it customized a protective cover called Smart Cover. As with MagSafe, you simply attach the lid to the edge of the iPad and its metal hinge will automatically snap to the side of the panel.
Those small black blocks are magnets hidden inside. Image from: iFixit
Interestingly, at the time, iFixit also found a magnetic pole observation piece when disassembling. It also clearly saw the small magnet inside the Smart Cover and iPad 2. The total of the two parts was 31.
This may seem simple, but we can’t ignore the effects of magnets on other electronic components. And Apple can only find a balance between the number of magnets and the bonding strength, so that the device and the protective cover can not only fit accurately, but also not easy to fall off.
At the same time, since the Smart Cover also has a built-in Hall sensor, the iPad screen will be automatically lit when you uncover the cover, and the iPad will automatically enter the screen when it is closed. This magnetic sensing feature can also be seen in the current iPhone official leather case.
Then, the magnet gradually became a “frequent visitor” in Apple equipment. Basically, as long as there is a need for adsorption and closure, you can see the magnet. For example, the magnetic charging line of Apple Watch does not need precise alignment. As long as the connector is close to the back of the case, it can be automatically attracted into place.
There are also two generations of Apple Pencil, which are also inseparable from magnets. The difference is that the first generation of Apple Pencil only used the magnet on the part of the charging pen cover, while the second generation built three magnets on the flat side of the pen body, so that it can be attached to the side of the iPad Pro, and indirectly obtained. With the ability to wirelessly charge, the experience is undoubtedly better and more elegant than before.
The top cover of the AirPods charging box also contains four magnets. Image from: iFixit
As for the opening and closing of the AirPods charging case cover, the Apple Watch’s modern wind buckle and Milanese strap design, as well as many third-party accessories, we seem to have become accustomed to the magnetic connection characteristics.
It is no exaggeration to say that as long as there is a magnet, Apple can try to avoid the integration of the appearance of the product as much as possible, and at the same time give them the function of expanding the connection.
More importantly, for most users who are using Apple devices, they may not notice the presence of magnets when they connect their products to their accessories.
This implicit maintenance is obviously the greatest value of magnets for Apple equipment, and it is also a precious part of this kind of raw materials.