I'm calling BS on this whole thread. The reason for the breakage is in the green circles, not the red ones: http://i.imgur.com/EYSo5.jpg
The 2007 cables had small buttons on the sides that you had to press to disengage the connector from the device. This meant you had to pull on the body of the connector to remove it. The 2009 design removes the buttons and the catches, which means the plug can be removed by yanking on the cable. It's the yanking on the cable that is causing the problem in the image, you can tell because the wire sleeve is pulled back from the connecter rather than split horizontally, which is what would happen if it was a strain relief issue.
Yanking from the cable rather than the connector affects all cables. Apple connectors typically fit very snugly in their sockets (which is a good thing generally) which means it takes more force to pull them out, consequently pulling out the wires as well. It's not a problem unique to Apple by any means. Ever have a pair of headphones that start to crackle when you touch the connector? Same problem.
Apple cords do indeed have strain relief, and they are fine for typical use. They may not hold up as well as a longer relief when bent at high angles consistently, but generally they do the job they need to do when sticking out the side of a device.
Though I like the button design, if I were to guess why Apple removed the buttons, is because I'll bet people were still pulling on the cords to try to remove the connector and doing far worse damage to cord and/or socket due to the mechanical connection between the two.
Of course, that wouldn't be the case when the pulling isn't completely in-line with the socket (although you can exert quite an amount of strain on a MagSafe cable by pulling it out sideways). I think it's too simple to assume that MagSafe wouldn't suffer from this problem.
The explanation given by the parent post rings true for me, certainly I've had these kinds of splits in plenty of cables with traditional "strain-relief" on. I think I'm going to stop unplugging things by tugging the cable. :)
I always remove the connector by tilting it first, instead of pulling. In fact I think there was something in the manual about this - though I can't find it at the moment.
But it doesn't say anything about tilting.
It looks nice, all shiny and aluminy though...
I know it's just one anecdote, and your assessment probably applies to a large number of these cases... but it doesn't apply to all of them.
> if I were to guess why Apple removed the buttons
Shorter connectors mean less leverage. The shorter it is, the less likely it is to damage the internal plug / motherboard / case, which is essentially irreplaceable. Certainly in comparison with a far cheaper cord.
This might have been one (of many) considerations when changing to the new Macbook power connectors. With the current design, there is no point in pulling straight on the cord as you described. The user must pull to the side of the strain relief, which allows it to do its job.
Has anyone had these problems with the new magsafe connectors?
As for the design, I'm inclined to agree with squidbot and say that the thread is a load of crap. It paints a poor picture of ID at Apple. I might be able to believe it at other companys but in the glimpse I've gotten into the design process at different keynotes, I find it hard to believe ID is so aesthetically siloed nowadays.
I'm sure ID passed deemed it as some sort of acceptable level of strain.
LED Cinema Display Power Adapter:
These may not be adequate, but clearly Apple industrial design has taken a pass at the problem. Anybody have photos of older power adapters to see if that sheathing has always been there?
One thing that is interesting is how Apple's Industrial Design team, mentioned in the post, affected the design of the new Macbook power adaptors (like the one you linked to, http://www.cl.ly/0r2n2S2z1b3K0L1E0R3t). The old ones had the cord coming out perpendicular to the laptop. I liked that design a lot better than the new style, which is a bit awkward to plug in and leaves you either:
1. With a cord facing out the back of the laptop, then (probably) looping around 180 degrees and back to the power outlet, or
2. With the cord running parallel next to the laptop, completely blocking the ethernet port.
Obviously neither of these solutions is streamlined or Apple-like, so I wonder if the ID dept made the trade-off of a parallel connector with minimal strain relief, or a perpendicular connector with built-in strain relief.
Latest macbook airs no longer need this hack and I think Apple will shift back to normal power connectors sometime soon because these metal ones are no good for anything except possibly for those monitor-to-laptop power cords.
The old MagSafe connectors were a pain to use if you wanted to bend the cable towards the back and really seemed like an improvement (at least for my use). I admit I haven't tried them, though.
I doubt Apple will shift back to the normal power connectors unless they come up with a new design, though -- what's the point in going back?
Do I represent a common use case? Dunno...
Out of the 4 possible directions a cable can be yanked - 2 of them (towards the laptop body and the direction the magsafe cable is pointing) are now more likely to pull the laptop than they are to safely disengage the cable.
How did someone not notice this?
This is the same design used on older (circa 1994) Powerbooks, like the 520.
Here is a generic adapter for a 520. You can see the same connector...
I wonder how much more expensive that is to manufacture vs a stylistically cleaner, simpler solid sheath.
I'm typing this on a 2006 MacBook Pro, which still works nicely, but this is my third power supply. The first one died at the transformator junction, and the second one at the plug junction. The new connector, introduced with the MacBook Air, looks more sturdy, but the transfo junction is still as weak.
My brother experienced the same problem once (at the transfo junction).
1) Current MacBook's Pro edge is so sharp, it uncomfortable for many people.
2) For awhile, there was no anti-glare screen on new MacBooks Pro (only glossy).
3) Apple doesn't make ergonomic keyboard, probably because of aesthetic reasons, third-party ergonomic keyboards for Macs suck.
4) iPod/iPhone connector after prolonged use may damage port on device because contact blade is so thin.
5) Old MacBook Pro had mic in the left grill instead of having it next to the camera.
6) MacBook's speakers are facing backwards, reducing quality of the sound.
7) Keyboard lights on the current MacBooks Pro is visible between keys if you are looking at the keyboard at 45 degree angel - pretty common thing to do.
It may be that since iPods and iPhones are replaced fairly often, and include a new cable, people have a cache of spares? If so doesn't that alone kind of shoot down the designed-to-fail argument? Why include a new cable? Wouldn't the increased support costs from telephone/in-store support for these problems be far larger than selling $30 cables? It seems like the typical Internet conspiracy that doesn't really make any sense when you start to look at the details and notice there's absolutely no evidence to support the original claim being offered.
For that matter, I've never had a problem with macbook power adapter cords, either.
And the replacements are quite expensive compared to the competition (I see mostly Dell and Lenovo, to be honest, no idea for the other ones).
One with the RCA/headphone power and one with the magnetic connector.
I will say, however, that the MagSafe design, even lacking strain reducers as discussed by the OP, has proven its value on more than one occasion. Besides the obvious advantages (i.e., tripping over the cord no longer sends one's laptop flying, nor does it cause catastrophic damage to the power port), I'm personally fond of the fact that you can step on the adapter all day long without damaging it. We had to replace an adapter once back in the day after accidentally stepping on the little round connector part, and bending it irreparably out of shape.
A detachable wire would violate Apple's aesthetic; thus, you can't detach it. You answer your own question.
Does Apple not replace that for free like they do the iPhone/iPod chargers?
Frankly, everything in that document just looks like common sense.
In terms of mag-safe on iOS devices, I guess it's not feasible due to it transmitting data.
This likely prevents strain by removing the probability that the cable is pulled at the strain point. It also looks cooler.
Only downside is that it doesn't untether easily; it's that the selling point of MagSafe?
Seeing everyone I know that has a macbook have his/her adapter fail, not getting a replacement and then having to buy a new one for 80 EUR I took extra care. Still the cable broke inside the connector!
I've never had this problem with any other device or notebook. Seriously, power adapters should be simple and just work - except they don't for macbooks.
Different kind of force.
Ios transfers should prepared for a disconnection anyway, it is usb, plus power failures could take the host offline.
This was a poor design choice on their part, not just the design department taking precedent over engineering and customer service. The designers are personally responsible, not just the structure
And yes, Apple probably know what they're doing. But they're not building failure into their cables, I can promise you that. They may be making a trade-off between the look and feel of the cable and its longevity, but that's very different from designing failure into the component.
Even the mere act of removing an Apple product from its packaging when first bought -- something that only happens once -- is extremely well thought out.
Why they couldn't do this - I don't know. But there must be a good technical reason for it - if I -a software person- can think of something like that, I'm sure they already thought of it too
But there must be a good technical reason for it - if I -a software person- can
think of something like that, I'm sure they already thought of it too.
Consider a hypothetical cable that's flexible, but fragile. Fold it in half, and it explodes violently, killing your customers and inspiring such a mighty class-action lawsuit that it leaves your company a smoking grease stain on the surface of the Earth; and leaves a five year stretch on your resume really hard to explain at future job interviews.
So you add reinforcing ribs to the cable. Now when your suicidal users try to bend the cable in half, the ribs mash into each other, preventing the minimum bend radius from being violated, and thus preserving shareholder value.
But your designers spit out their macchiatos in shock on seeing your brilliant solution, and start waving their smooth, untouched by actual work, hands around; demanding that you cover up the cable strain relief with a thin plastic tube.
Well, that's kinda tricky. You can use thick plastic, and prevent the cable from bending entirely, or you can use thin plastic, which will buckle over the unsupported areas when bent, since of course a concentric circle has a smaller circumference, and look really obvious and terrible. There's no way to cover it and still have it work.
Parent's point was that if we assume Apple is optimizing for showroom appearance, better to put the bling over the function bits and let the going break after a few months, instead of having only bling and letting the bling break and kill the device and user with it.
And I'm sure they did think of it and given the product they shipped, the idea was obviously rejected or delayed beyond the shipping of the current generation.
I'm not a huge Apple fanboy, (I'm in the minority at my organization using PC notebooks) but given how much Apple puts into designing the precise way in which users will experience and interact with their products, I can't imagine that they didn't evaluate many designs for this component.
(not saying it's not a good idea, my pile of broken cables is evidence of that!)
...or using a hot glue gun to 'decorate' a flexible, protective layer around the wire/connector.
The second one is still a mystery as I tried to use it one day and it didn't work. No LED, no charge. The third one had a slow death where it would take more and more jiggling and manipulating the cord to get it to work.
I don't get it. I wrap the cord around the little hinge things they have, keep them ventilated, and they still crap out on me. By far my biggest gripe with this MBP. If anybody else found a reliable way to stop this from happening, please let me know.
I do wrap the thin cable around the little hinges when I take it with me.
my last cord has now lasted 9+ months since I started doing this (I move it daily)
I'm having hard time describing it properly, but the hole walls had specific profile, elliptical extending outward. Pretty much like the big end of a trumpet. The most you could bend the cable was to make it touch the hole wall, and that profile of the wall was good enough to prevent cable cracking.
One disadvantage is that this kind of solution takes up some space insede of the case...
Found under "7. Check for strain relief issues." on this page: http://support.apple.com/kb/TS1725
I always thought it was a great idea, but they didn't use it for long so it must have drawbacks.
 I believe it was used on the aluminum powerbooks.
But before I go into this, let me explain the engineering of a power cable. If you look at a power adapter cable for any non-Apple product, you'll notice some metal "spikes" where the plug transitions to the cable. These spikes are called a heat sink. The purpose of a heat sink is to prevent the cable from heating to a severe degree if you use the charger for an extended period. The heat sink allows the cable to have a nice dissipation of heat instead of heating up and melting.
As the power cable becomes twisted and crinked, the wires fray, causing the same amount of current to run over less wire, turning the wire into a toaster heating element.
A more probable explanation is that even with a magnet the devices are light enough that a yank on the cable would send the device flying before the magnet connection came loose.
You're probably right that the physics of the magnet don't make it as useful. That makes me wonder how thoroughly Apple has investigated it.
Why couldn't they just only use the four pins included with USB? (although that would mean an end to the standardized dock connector)
How often are you actually wrapping up a power adapter, and bending the cord to obscure angles? Compared to your headphones, or phone charging plug.
It seems most headphone manufacturers have moved away from relief rings, and that results in much shorter lifetime for the headphones due to failure at this point. I've got my zune charge cord here, and it doesn't have these rings either. Kindle power cord has one small relief on either edge (but doesn't get used as much anyway.
Am I giving Apple too much credit? Did they start this trend? or has this poor design always existed?
Heck, I'm not even OCD. I'm pretty lazy and I still do it this way.
Apple headphones on the other hand, I go through 2-3 pairs a year (due to rain and the rigors of running). Fortunately, the Apple Store just sends me replacements without much hassle at all.
Makes sense, considering that each mold cost upward of half a million dollars.
The "Industrial Design is King" thing is true at other companies as well. I've seen horribly broken products go out the door, where the fixes involve making ID changes, but the ID changes couldn't be made to happen because of (a) the lead time -- usually a year -- and / or (b) it would have destroyed the "cool look" of the product in someone's eyes.
Once I'll figure why battery swollen to thrice the original size (thank gods it didn't exploded or spilled toxic substance on somebodies lap) then I'll know why my girlfriends mac book is such a pain in the ass.
I can understand why some people might not think that way but don't be surprised that there are some people who do.
I am not affiliated with them in any way. Though, I will be ordering one very soon.
I keep wishing the patent would expire so that all consumer devices could use them.
Because the cables cost $30 and revenue is good.
edit: well thanks for the downvotes, I know RDF is strong here but consider how they removed the strain rings, how they charge $30 for a cable and why they use a proprietary port. Making cable is no rocket-science, this is definitely planned.
> I used to work for Apple and interfaced with every division in the company, and I know EXACTLY why this happened. It has nothing to do with trying to get customers to buy more replacement adapters, but rather with the hierarchy of power at Apple.
> But before I go into this, let me explain the engineering of a power cable. If you look at a power adapter cable for any non-Apple product, you'll notice some plastic "rings" where the plug transitions to the cable. These rings are called a strain relief. The purpose of a strain relief is to prevent the cable from bending at a severe angle if you bend the cable at the base. The strain relief allows the cable to have a nice, gentle curvature if you tweak the cable instead of bending at a severe 90 degree angle. This gentle curvature prevents the cable from being broken through repeated use.
> Now let's look at the hierarchy of power at Apple. As with any company, Apple consists of many divisions (Sales, Marketing, Customer Service, etc.) THE most powerful division at Apple is Industrial Design. For those of you unfamiliar with the term industrial design, this is the division that makes the decisions about the overall look and feel of Apple's products. And when I say "the most powerful", I mean that their decisions trump the decisions of any other division at Apple, including Engineering and Customer Service.
> Now it just so happens that the Industrial Design department HATES how a strain relief looks on a power adapter. They would much prefer to have a nice clean transition between the cable and the plug. Aesthetically, this does look nicer, but from an engineering point of view, it's pretty much committing reliability suicide. Because there is no strain relief, the cables fail at a very high rate because they get bent at very harsh angles. I'm sure that the Engineering division gave every reason in the world why a strain relief should be on an adapter cable, and Customer Service said how bad the customer experience would be if tons of adapters failed, but if industrial design doesn't like a strain relief, guess what, it gets removed.
This is why I much prefer HN for any technical discussion.
The comment in question had 60+ upvotes.
I also made a valid contribution to this thread earlier: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2642344