Apple notes that increased thickness for strain relief sleeves “may not be desired” in some cases, so it’s exploring a different approach. Along with making cables thicker overall, it suggests extending the strain relief beyond the two ends. One way of doing that, according to the filing, is to have varying levels of stiffness across different “longitudinal sections.”
One section is flexible, another is rigid and a third is somewhere in between. The latter, Apple says, can relieve strain on the ends of the cable.
Simply filing a patent application doesn’t guarantee that Apple will beef up its cables (the company notably doesn’t include the word “Lightning” anywhere in the filing). Still, it suggests that Apple is taking the idea at least somewhat seriously, so we may eventually have sturdier Lightning and MagSafe charging cables. If you opt to go the first-party route for a Lightning cable replacement, you’ll pay at least $19, so improved robustness could save you money in the long run.