Recently launched on Kickstarter and already at nearly 23,000 backers and over 6 times its funding goal, the ZNAPS is a specially designed magnetic connection adapter for both lightning and micro-USB powered mobile devices.
Since this is an iOS-centric site, I’m going to focus on the lightning model, but the Micro-USB version works in very much the same way and adds a key missing feature from that technology…orientation independence!
The ZNAPS is a two-piece design consisting of a lightning connector, which is essentially a plug which is directly inserted into the port on your iOS device. On the end of this is a small, but strong magnet. The connector barely sticks out of the bottom of the phone and is compatible with most cases.
The other piece is an adapter which attaches to the lightning end of your existing USB to lightning cable. The exposed end of the adapter has a small socket which can magnetically connect to the end of the plug which stays in the device, forming the seal and allowing power (and data) to reach the device through the cable. The magnetic connection between the two pieces is strong enough to hold during normal usage, but can be easily and quickly be released when necessary or if the cable gets tugged, protecting your phone from damage (much like Apple’s MagSafe adapter on their MacBook line).
It’s not just power either, the ZNAPS also supports data transfer when connected to your computer’s USB port, plus it has a handy little LED that lights up so you know when the cable is properly connected.
The Kickstarter campaign is based in Canada, but you can back the ZNAPS for as little as $12 USD ($9 + $3 shipping) for 1 ZNAPS connector and 1 ZNAPS Adapter in your choice of Lightning or Micro-USB. There are additional pledge levels which add additional Adapters and/or Connectors, or even a like key chain carrying case to conveniently store the ZNAP during travel. Delivery is expected in November of this year.
Having experienced MagSafe on my MacBook Pro over the past few months, I think this is an awesome idea and wish that all my portable electronics had this safety and convenience feature. I will most-likely be backing this campaign, though there are a couple of things which do give me pause:
First, the big question, will Apple shut this project down?
The project creators have tried to ease this fear by mentioning that they have done the research and the ZNAPS does not infringe on Apple’s patents.
In fact, the two-piece adapter design was specifically chosen so as to not infringe on Apple’s ‘Magnetic connector for electronic device‘ patent.
Our patent lawyer did a patent search before we started the project. This is one of the reasons why we didn’t develop ZNAPS into a whole charging cable. We haven’t infringed on Apple’s patent.
Second, will ZSNAPS be MFi certified?
According to the ZNAPS Kickstarter FAQ, MFi certification is “one of the things we’re looking into”.
A lack of certification could possibly spell trouble for your ZNAPS after future iOS updates. If you’ve ever purchased a non-MFi certified accessory or cable before, then you have probably experienced that moment (usually after an iOS update) when it will all of sudden will no longer work with your device and you get the dreaded “This Accessory May Not Be Supported” message, and the cable/accessory fails to work. If they are not MFi certified yet and given the very low price point of the product and the fact that the estimated delivery date is November, I suspect this isn’t going to happen, at least not for its initial production run.
This looks like a really nice, simple design and is something Apple themselves really should have done a long time ago, but instead it appears they are actually removing MagSafe from their latest MacBooks in favor of USB-C. I really hope the ZNAPS succeeds and they don’t run into and unforeseen legal (like this Apple patent) or technical (due to lack of MFi certification) hiccups. I’ll definitely be watching this one closely.
For more details on the ZNAPS, you can visit the official Kickstarter campaign page, which has 24 days to go at the time of this article.