Recently disclosed patent applications by Apple detail the use of Thunderbolt I/O technology, which was introduced in MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, iMac, and Mac mini in 2011.
The patents reveal the possibility of Thunderbolt I/O technology coming to iOS devices.
PatentlyApple has found three new patent applications that were recently published by the US Patent and Trademark Office. Apple describes the need for new, more reliable high-speed data cables that include integrated circuits and other active electronic components to prevent signal degradation and yield higher data rates. Of course, this all has to do with Apple’s new Thunderbolt port.
Before going into the details of this main patent in their series of three, it should be noted that Apple states in their secondary patent application that “the present invention, connection may also be a new type of connection.” For example, “a connection may be provided between a portable media player and a display, a computer and a portable media player, or between other types of devices.” Of course if this is to apply to future iOS devices, as suggested in the quote above, Apple will have to reengineer the connector to be flat enough to fit a USB-type of device slot. The good news is that transferring data to and from an iOS device will be lighting [sic] fast as will recharging.
Patents, in general, usually attempt to describe an idea in a way that’s very widely applicable, so this is likely Apple just allowing room for the possibility in the future. At the same time, Apple has revealed through other patent applications that they were looking into ways to include DisplayPort technology in its dock connector. Since DisplayPort is one of the major technologies Thunderbolt is based on (along with PCI Express), this seems to be a continuation of planning on Apple’s part.
The patents go on to describe various ways that the cables can disperse heat, such as cable braiding and the use of new and improved materials, the connector itself, and the use of multi-voltage modes. For example, a high voltage mode would allow for charging a device quickly, but a low voltage mode could be used to transfer data to a device that is already powered.
Is Apple’s interest in adding Thunderbolt to iOS devices worthwhile?