On April 18, 2013, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a series of patents relating to next generation audio and data connectors. Apple has already begun to move to more modern efficient connectors like "Lightning" for the iPhone 5. Apple's patent delves into future versions of connectors that could eventually replace the traditional iDevice audio connector that employs traditionally rounded TRS connector jacks with something flatter and possibly shallower as noted in our cover graphic. Apple's proposed data connectors are being designed to address USB 4.0, DVI, Display Port and HDMI and work with everything from the Mac to an iPhone and right through to possible future devices such as a gaming system and a holographic projector, states Apple. Our report also touches on two Apple patents covering new spring loaded connectors that won't overheat.
As a Data Connector
Where connector 40 is a data plug connector (shown in patent Figure 3A below), many different types of digital signals can be carried by four or more contacts including data signals such as, USB signals (including USB 1.0, 2.0 and/or 3.0), FireWire (also referred to as IEEE 1394) signals, SATA signals and/or any other type of data signal. Other digital signals that may be carried by the contacts of connector 40 include signals for digital video such as DVI signals, HDMI signals and Display Port signals, as well as other digital signals that perform functions that enable the detection and identification of devices, electronic media devices or accessories to connector 40.
As an Audio Connector
While connector 40, illustrated in patent FIG. 3A below, can be any type of connector and include any reasonable number of contacts, in one particular embodiment, connector 40 is an audio plug connector and contact 44a is a left audio contact, contact 44b is a microphone contact, contact 44c is a ground contact, and contact 44d is a right audio contact.
As shown in FIG. 3A contacts 44a-44d are external contacts and connector 40 does not include an exposed cavity in which particles and debris may collect. To improve robustness and reliability, connector 40 may be fully sealed and include no moving parts. Furthermore, connector 40 can have a considerably reduced insertion depth, Z, and insertion width, X, as compared to commonly available TRS and TRRS connectors found in Apple's current roundly shaped audio connectors.
Apple's patent FIGS. 9A-9F are a simplified perspective views of audio or data plug connectors according to additional embodiments of the present invention that can also have 180 degree dual orientation design.
Apple's patent FIG. 9A-9F show that at least the contacts of connectors 140, 152, 155, and 160 are external contacts and these connectors do not include an exposed cavity in which particles and debris may collect. To improve robustness and reliability, connectors 140, 152, 155, and 160 may be fully sealed and include no moving parts.
Apple's patent FIGS. 10A and 10B noted below are simplified perspective and side views of an audio or data plug connector 180 that also has a 180 degree dual insertion orientation design. The connector has a substantially flat tab that carries four sleeve contacts that encircle the flat tab and are electrically isolated from each other by insulation rings 185a-185d. As shown illustratively in FIG. 10C, four insulated wires 186a-186d run side-by-side within tab 181 and are joined to their respective contacts 184a-184d.
The contacts of connectors 180 can be used to carry any appropriate data signal (e.g., the data signals mentioned with reference to connector 40) as well as audio signals, video signals and the like.
Fiber Optic Cables Supporting USB 4.0
Apple notes that the connectors described in their invention can be modified to include one or more fiber optic cables that extend through the connector and can be operatively coupled to receive or transmit optical signals between a mating connector jack.
Fiber optic cables allow for high data rate transmissions and can be used for USB 4.0 compatibility (e.g., 10 GB/second data transfer). Connectors according to the present invention may include power, audio and data connections and can be used to charge a device while simultaneously providing data and audio functions.
The New Connectors are Suited for a Multiplicity of Current and Future Devices
According to Apple, the embodiments illustrated in Apple's patent filing are suitable for a multiplicity of electronic devices, including any device that receives or transmits audio, video or data signals among others. In some instances, embodiments of the invention are particularly well suited for portable electronic media devices because of their potentially small form factor.
As used herein, an electronic media device includes any device with at least one electronic component that may be used to present human-perceivable media. Such devices may include, for example, portable music players (e.g., MP3 devices and Apple's iPod devices), portable video players (e.g., portable DVD players), cellular telephones (e.g., smart telephones such as Apple's iPhone devices), video cameras, digital still cameras, projection systems (e.g., holographic projection systems), gaming systems, PDAs, desktop computers, as well as tablet (e.g., Apple's iPad devices), laptop or other mobile computers. Some of these devices may be configured to provide audio, video or other data or sensory output.
One last thought: Apple states that their new connector could also carry HDMI signals. That's interesting because the new design wouldn't work with any current HDMI connection on TV's today. So why mention that? It's not like the TV industry would adopt a proprietary connector. So is this another piece of the Apple iTV puzzle? It's just food for thought.
Apple credits iPhone/iPod Product Development Engineering Manager Albert Golko, Arthur Brigham, Anwyl McDonald, Daniel Lee, Troy Carter, Jose Martin and Paul Koh as the inventors of this patent application which was originally filed under serial number 704234 in Q2 2011.
It should be noted that our patent report is based on Apple's "Detailed Description" segment of their patent application. To review Apple's patent claims, see Apple's patent filing. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing to market of such an Apple product is unknown at this time.
A Note for Tech Sites Covering our Report: We ask tech sites covering our report to kindly limit the use of our graphics to one image. Thanking you in advance for your cooperation.
Spring Loaded Connector Inserts
In a set of patent filings, Apple delves into their invention regarding spring loaded connector inserts. Today's devices from an iMac through to an iPhone often receive power and share data using various cables. These cables may have connector inserts, or plugs, on each end. The connector inserts may plug into connector receptacles on electronic devices, thereby forming one or more conductive paths for signals and power.
In today's conventional spring-loaded contacts, the plunger may be depressed in a manner that the plunger loses contact with the barrel of the spring-loaded contact. This may result in power supply or other large currents flowing through a relatively narrow spring. The result may be that the spring overheats and breaks or is otherwise damaged.
Apple's proposed spring-loaded contacts could provide an improved reliability by having a reduced tendency for entanglement between a spring and a plunger, and a reduced chance of large currents flowing through the spring.
A Word about Continuation Patents
It should be noted that the US Patent and Trademark Office did in fact publish a series of older continuation patents today dating back to between 20xx and 20xx. The continuation patents listed below are specifically referenced as such under the section titled "Cross-Reference to Related Applications." Generally speaking, this type of patent application contains modifications that Apple's legal team have made to the original patent claims in an effort to have the US Patent Office finally approve their invention. In general continuation patents don't represent any new developments from the original patent filing. Some websites mistakenly report on continuation patents as if they were new Apple filings to which they are not. Here are the older continuation patents that were published today by the US Patent Office:
1. Old 2010 Patent: Image Sensor with Photosensitive thin film transistors
2. Old 2009 Patent: White Point Adjustment for Multicolor Keyboard Backlight
3. Old 2007 Patent Storing Baseline Information in EEPROM
4. Old 2004 Patent: Manipulation of Image Content Using Various Image Representations
5. Old 2010 Patent: Electronic Device and Magnetic Latchng Mechanism
6. Old 2008 Patent: Momentary Burst Protocol for Wireless Communications
7. Old 2007 Patent (Acquired Patent): SIP - Enabled Framework for Multi-Domain Roaming Conrol Plane in a WIMAX Access Network.
8. Old 2006 Patent: Transfer of Emergency Services Session between Disparate Subsystems
9. Old 2007 Patent: Pairing a Media Server and a Media Client
10. Old 2009 Patent: Positioning a Virtual Sound Capturing Device in a Three Dimensional Interface
Patently Apple presents a detailed summary of patent applications with associated graphics for journalistic news purposes as each such patent application is revealed by the U.S. Patent & Trade Office. Readers are cautioned that the full text of any patent application should be read in its entirety for full and accurate details. Revelations found in patent applications shouldn't be interpreted as rumor or fast-tracked according to rumor timetables. About Comments: Patently Apple reserves the right to post, dismiss or edit comments.
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