Patent reveals Thunderbolt might be headed to iOS devices

A patent application filed by Apple at the end of June 2011 and published just Thursday indicates that the company may be planning to implement Thunderbolt, Intel's new cable technology with increased power and data transfer capabilities, in iPhones, iPods and iPads.

The cable technology was not specifically named in the patent, but Patently Apple delved deep into the details and discovered strong evidence that the new proposed cable is indeed Thunderbolt technology. Among the many telling details is the fact that the patent describes a proposed cable that could support DisplayPort and PCI Express, which are the two technologies that come bundled together in the Thunderbolt architecture.

Thunderbolt cables would allow for faster transfer speeds to iOS devices than the current standard of USB 2.0, and could also potentially charge the devices in a shorter amount of time due to the higher-voltage capabilities of Thunderbolt devices.

Though gadget historians will recall that the original iPod utilized only FireWire, another cable technology that Apple contributed to the development of, fifth-generation iPods and all iOS devices since then have used only USB cables for data transfer. Apple does have a vested interest in seeing Thunderbolt succeed as the technology was developed by Intel with technical collaboration from Apple, and was commercially introduced on the refreshed MacBook Pro lineup of February 2011. Apple has since added Thunderbolt to its entire line of computers except for the Mac Pro desktop tower, which has not been updated since the debut of Thunderbolt.

USB fans might not have too much to worry about, however, as Apple also filed a patent for a dock connector that would combine both Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 technologies. That patent was discovered last April by AppleInsider.

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