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Apple Patents Point to Thunderbolt on iOS Devices

By - Source: Patently Apple | B 44 comments

Currently present in its line of desktop and laptop computers (but not the Mac Pro), could Apple be bringing Thunderbolt to its media players next?

It's been a little less than a year since Intel's Thunderbolt interface hit the market in Apple's MacBook Pro line and it seems Cupertino may be ready to spread the love around a little. Recently filed patents from Apple hint that the company could be considering bringing Thunderbolt to iOS devices in the future.

The patents, which were first spotted by Patently Apple, highlight the increasing amounts of information transferred between and among electronic devices. As such, Apple feels new cables are needed to keep up. The company goes on to discuss the possibility of a new type of cable that could provide faster charging time as well as faster data transfers using active electronic components (such as integrated circuits), boosted strength, improved heat dissipation, and the use of different voltages for charging versus data signals. What's more, Patently Apple writes that one of the patents mentions media players specifically:

"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."

Considering the part Apple played in the development with Thunderbolt, it's not surprising the company apparently wants to implement the super-fast interface across its entire line. Add that to the fact that Apple last year filed several Thunderbolt-related trademarks, and an iPad or iPod equipped with the technology doesn't seem at all unlikely. Of course, it will probably be a while before we see this implemented, but we're going to file this one under the 'not just for the heck of it' patents, along with Microsoft's DVR Xbox.

Read all about Apple's recently-filed Thunderbolt-related patents here.

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  • 19 Hide
    jimmysmitty , January 7, 2012 2:17 PM
    Last I checked, Thunderbolt was deeloped by Intel and all Apple did was pu it on their MacBook. Nothing more. I doubt Intel will allow Apple to patent it in a way to keep Apple from making it theirs only as it is meant for all PCs.
  • 11 Hide
    Target3 , January 7, 2012 6:39 PM
    idc, i have USB 3.0
Other Comments
  • 19 Hide
    jimmysmitty , January 7, 2012 2:17 PM
    Last I checked, Thunderbolt was deeloped by Intel and all Apple did was pu it on their MacBook. Nothing more. I doubt Intel will allow Apple to patent it in a way to keep Apple from making it theirs only as it is meant for all PCs.
  • 5 Hide
    Anonymous , January 7, 2012 2:43 PM
    Check out my patent from the 90s:

    "A personal computer (PC) that utilizes a Universal Serial Bus(USB) version 1 or later connection, to allow external storage or multimedia devices to communicate with the PC. The current invention also should include any other similar uses that I haven't yet thought of."

    That's right folks, use a flash drive, get sued... If you'd like to settle out of court, please PM me.
  • 6 Hide
    KelvinTy , January 7, 2012 4:52 PM
    Might as well patent "Having a Colored screen, speakers and input devices on everything portable."
  • 1 Hide
    lahawzel , January 7, 2012 5:05 PM
    So... what kind of application on the iOS actually requires the full bandwidth of thunderbolt?
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , January 7, 2012 5:11 PM
    Well maybe application dont need the power of thunderbolt... But syncing by means of it will definitely make my day...
  • 11 Hide
    Target3 , January 7, 2012 6:39 PM
    idc, i have USB 3.0
  • 0 Hide
    davewolfgang , January 7, 2012 6:51 PM
    OH sheeeze, this better be denied. So they want to "patent" something "in the future", that they haven't even created yet?

    They also want to patent "something" that connects one device to another??? That could be any freakin' wire around.

    Sad part is it will probably get approved.
  • 2 Hide
    g4114rd0 , January 7, 2012 7:01 PM
    Local legend tells of the White Dragon patent,
     +1 Cut out the dragon's head. 
  • 1 Hide
    zachusaman , January 7, 2012 10:02 PM
    blazing speeds that you wont be able to utilize at all because your device cannot even support 1/10th of the speeds available!!! its like sata 6gb/s on a HDD!!
  • 0 Hide
    tofu2go , January 7, 2012 11:13 PM
    lahawzelSo... what kind of application on the iOS actually requires the full bandwidth of thunderbolt?


    Connecting the iOS device to a thunderbolt display. What if you could carry slide presentations on your iPhone, and hook it up to a large screen thunderbolt display to give presentations. You could then use your iPhone as a clicker, swiping the display to advance slides.
  • 1 Hide
    TheFoxyBox , January 7, 2012 11:32 PM
    tofu2goConnecting the iOS device to a thunderbolt display. What if you could carry slide presentations on your iPhone, and hook it up to a large screen thunderbolt display to give presentations. You could then use your iPhone as a clicker, swiping the display to advance slides.


    Someone doesn't understand the amount of bandwidth we are talking about. You could easily accomplish what your're talking about with a USB cable. In fact I think you can already do this on a wireless network. But I may be mistaken.


    20 Gbit/s PCIe and DisplayPort bi-directional which if my math is right works out to 2.5 GB per second. you don't need that kind of bandwidth for something so simple.
  • 0 Hide
    JOSHSKORN , January 8, 2012 12:14 AM
    I hope this Thunderbolt thing and USB 3.0 makes its way to Android phones soon. I'm holding off purchasing a new Android until then.
  • 4 Hide
    tofu2go , January 8, 2012 12:56 AM
    TheFoxyBoxSomeone doesn't understand the amount of bandwidth we are talking about. You could easily accomplish what your're talking about with a USB cable. In fact I think you can already do this on a wireless network. But I may be mistaken.20 Gbit/s PCIe and DisplayPort bi-directional which if my math is right works out to 2.5 GB per second. you don't need that kind of bandwidth for something so simple.


    Yes, that someone would be you. :) 

    You are correct in that DisplayPort 1.2 equates to just over 2 GB/s... but do you really think USB is capable of comparable bandwidth? USB 3.0 is limited to 4.80Gbps (bits, not bytes), that's only 0.6 GB/s, and that assumes that you can actually achieve the theoretical maximum. That's less than a third of DisplayPort's bandwidth. Granted, DisplayPort has enough bandwidth to daisy chain displays, so you don't necessarily need comparable bandwidth to power a single display... but exactly how much bandwidth should we have to power a single display?

    A 1024x768 display at 8bpp and 60 refreshes per second equates to roughly 380MB/s. A 1280x1024 x 8bpp x 60Hz is roughly 630 MB/s... or 0.63 GB/s. So no, USB 3.0 is no good for powering a high-res display.

    Just for kicks, what do we need for 1080p HD video? 1920x1080 x 8bpp x 60Hz... about 1GB/s. DisplayPort 1.2 can comfortably handle 2 HD displays. USB 3.0 can't handle even 1.
  • -2 Hide
    tofu2go , January 8, 2012 1:02 AM
    TheFoxyBoxSomeone doesn't understand the amount of bandwidth we are talking about. You could easily accomplish what your're talking about with a USB cable. In fact I think you can already do this on a wireless network. But I may be mistaken.20 Gbit/s PCIe and DisplayPort bi-directional which if my math is right works out to 2.5 GB per second. you don't need that kind of bandwidth for something so simple.


    Yes, that person would be you.

    How much bandwidth does a person need for a 1080p HD display? 1920x1080 x 8bpp x 60Hz is roughly 1 GB/s. DisplayPort 1.2 thus has enough bandwidth for 2 displays.

    How much bandwidth does USB 3.0 provide, assuming you can actually achieve the theoretical maximum? 4.8 Gbps. That's bits, NOT bytes. 1 byte = 8 bits. 4.8 Gbps is only 0.6 GB/s. Less than a third of the bandwidth that DisplayPort provides and not enough to power a 1080p HD display. It is enough for a 1024x768 display, but that's about it.
  • 1 Hide
    Supertrek32 , January 8, 2012 1:46 AM
    8 bits per pixel...? That's 256 colors...
  • 1 Hide
    tofu2go , January 8, 2012 3:27 AM
    Lol. Yeah, that's 256 colors. :)  My bad. I meant to use 8 bits per channel, i.e. 8 bits for R, G, and B, so 24 bpp would have been more appropriate. The conclusion remains the same, USB is inadequate for this application.
  • -1 Hide
    TheFoxyBox , January 8, 2012 4:00 AM
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p70LtLKhQRY
  • -2 Hide
    TheFoxyBox , January 8, 2012 4:01 AM
  • -1 Hide
    TheFoxyBox , January 8, 2012 4:39 AM
    Also
    http://www.engadget.com/2012/01/06/aoc-reveals-22-inch-usb-powered-1080p-monitor/
  • 2 Hide
    tofu2go , January 8, 2012 5:58 AM
    The video does not support the notion that USB is sufficient for video out. You'll note that the connection is between the iPhone and AV jacks, not USB. While the cable features a USB port, it is not used in the demonstration for the purpose of outputing video.

    The iPhone's data connector is not USB. It is a 30 pin connector and from some googling, USB only uses up 4 of those pins. This data jack is capable of much more than USB.

    If your statement is that you do not need Thunderbolt for video output on an iPhone, then yes, that is true (the proprietary connector can do it when converted to AV or HDMI). But if your statement is that you can do it with USB, that is not necessarily true and theoretical numbers would suggest it does not.

    The AOC monitor is dubious. To my knowledge there is no standard for USB video displays, which means AOC has to write their own drivers for this display. Being a vendor supplied driver, data does not need to be sent over USB in a raw form. It is possible that they rely on compression and have decompression hardware in the monitor. But see my error below:

    I did make an error in my calculations and should correct it. I made the same mistake of treating bits as bytes.

    1080p bandwidth reqs: 1920x1080x24x60 is only 0.37GB/s, not 1GB/s. So yes, 1080p falls well within USB 3.0 spec. The AOC monitor could very well be USB 3.0 and not rely on any compression tricks.

    Whether it should be done is another question.

    Thunderbolt being compatible with DisplayPort means that it supports an existing video standard. USB does not.

    USB is host driven, which is potentially CPU intensive and not ideal for battery powered mobile devices.

    It is also questionable whether USB can actually attain its theoretical maximum speeds. I think a review of existing comparisons between Firewire and USB 2.0 would demonstrate that Firewire is superior in terms of actual bandwidth. Firewire like Thunderbolt is driven by dedicated controllers, not host driven.


    Also, keep in mind that you're talking about USB 3.0, not 2.0 (2.0 is inadequate for video out as we're discussing). USB 2.0 is an entrenched standard, USB 3.0 is not. When Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 came out, the two were widely compared. This is a battle to see which will become the new standard (i.e. more widely adopted) for high bandwidth applications (and that includes video output). Apple is very much in the Thunderbolt camp at the moment, so it makes sense that they would add it to their iOS devices. Apple does not currently support USB 3.0 as a standard.
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