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Apple patents wireless adapter, may ease accessory incompatibility issues

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
Apple on Tuesday was awarded a patent covering a universal adapter for portable media players that affords, in one embodiment, the transmission of wireless data to any accessory, possibly providing a solution to complaints regarding the company's switch to the new Lightning connector.

Universal Adapter
Source: USPTO


When the iPhone 5 debuted last month, many longtime iDevice users bemoaned the new handset's Lightning port, as it effectively ended compatibility with nearly a decade's worth of accessories built for the legacy 30-pin standard.

Apple's U.S. Patent No. 8,280,465 for a "Wireless adapter for interfacing between an accessory and a device" could be an answer for owners who invested hundreds of dollars in 30-pin "Made for iDevice" products.

The IP itself is a continuation of a 2008 Apple patent application simply titled "Adapter," which describes how an apparatus can be used to provide compatibility between portable media players and accessories that were previously incompatible. While the older property is incorporated into the patent awarded on Tuesday, much of the invention has been rendered obsolete by advances in technology as well as Apple's decision to move to the smaller Lightning standard. What is still pertinent, however, is the wireless embodiment of the adapter which may one day give new life to legacy accessories incompatible with the smaller plug.

As described by the patent's background:

Users may have more than one type of media player. For example, a user may have a high-capacity portable media player for home use and a smaller, low-capacity portable media player for use at the gym.

For various reasons, these media players may have different sized connectors. For example, the media players may be made by different manufacturers. Also, they may be made by one manufacturer, but a newer media player may have a more advanced, smaller sized connector receptacle.


The original invention was meant to skirt purchasing speakers or docks for each portable device a user owned, however the patent can now be adapted to solve the current issue of having rendered-obsolete accessories.

Apple notes that an accessory can either be physically incompatible with a portable device, as is the case with Lightning, or electrically incompatible, meaning it lacks proper power, signal or formatting support. To get around the physical incompatibility, the invention employs an adapter like those seen as recently as the various 30-pin units offering support for USB, HDMI and VGA in/out, among others.

Solving the signal issue, the patent calls for the adapter to carry on-board circuitry that can translate the source signal to one recognized by a given accessory. The same type of on-board solution also rectifies the power issue.

Wireless



As for wireless, Apple's patent describes an adapter "where one or more of these connector interfaces are replaced with wireless circuitry," offering the example of a wireless-enabled portable media player and an accessory that doesn't have such functionality.

Wireless Adapter
Wireless embodiment of patented adapter.


The patent provides for an adapter with a built-in wireless transmitter which can communicate signals "between the accessory and the portable media player," while another embodiment provides for the reverse. Also provided for is an incompatibility with wireless protocols, such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, both of which can be addressed by the adapter's internal circuitry.

Two-way Wireless Adapter
Adapter bridging between two wireless-enabled devices.


As for accessory authentication, wireless signals can be sent to a "Made for iDevice" product from an iPhone or iPod, allowing Apple to stymie third-party manufacturers attempting to build royalty-free products.

It is not yet known whether Apple will launch an adapter using the patent's inventions, though it seems such a device could solve the issue of accessory incompatibility for those concerned about making the jump to new-generation products with Lightning connectors.

The adapter patent was filed for in September 2011 and credits Jesse Dorogusker, Emily C. Schubert, Donald Ginsburg, Gregory T. Lydon and Lawrence G. Bolton as its inventors.
post #2 of 10
Not sure this will fly. It again opens up Apple to accusations of 'yet another proprietry adapter people are expected to buy to continue using their devices'
Also on first reading, I thought it was all about AirPlay rather than some new method, but then, my understanding of Patent Speak is wanting.
post #3 of 10

Even if Apple does make a wireless adapter for 30-pin to Lightning connections, it definitely wont be cheaper than the wired adapter. Though it might help guys with speaker docks.

iMac 21.5" 2.7 GHz (2011), 1TB HDD, 8GB RAM; iPhone 5c 16GB White; iPod Touch 4G 8GB Black; iPod Touch 2G 8GB
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iMac 21.5" 2.7 GHz (2011), 1TB HDD, 8GB RAM; iPhone 5c 16GB White; iPod Touch 4G 8GB Black; iPod Touch 2G 8GB
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post #4 of 10

This wireless adaptor is much needed by some; but not all.  Those who have an old accessory device where there isn't room for the other plugs; this will do the job. 

 

I applaud Apple for coming out with this to help ease the transition from old to new size adaptors. 

post #5 of 10

"When the iPhone 5 debuted last month, many longtime iDevice users bemoaned the new handset's Lightning port, as it effectively ended compatibility with nearly a decade's worth of accessories built for the legacy 30-pin standard"

 

I was wondering, could AI supply any figures for complaints about the introduction of "the wheel"?

I've heard it was even worse than when "fire" came along...

post #6 of 10

So "wirelessly" becomes the new "with a computer" or "on the Internet"? I see the value in being able to go from one device to a legacy port via a wireless connection, but _I_ don't find it novel enough to patent - but then I'm not a patent lawyer. One could say AirPlay is a wireless adapter that goes from a device to an HDMI signal. Or wireless speakers are an adapter that use Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.

 

I understand the application, but I don't see how it's novel when compared with all the existing applications of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

 

- Jasen.

post #7 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by boredumb View Post


I was wondering, could AI supply any figures for complaints about the introduction of "the wheel"?

I've heard it was even worse than when "fire" came along...
Ha! Couldn't agree more.

To the extent there is a real problem here (and like the Maps controversy I haven't seen any actual "data" about how many people are upset by this change), people really have no perspective.

From the first cell phone I bought in 1995 until I bought my iPhone in 2007, I must have poured hundreds of dollars into a new proprietary accessory kit for each new phone. None of those accessories were compatible with any other phone, including those from the same manufacturer. Then the iPhone came along and every device I bought has worked with the next model. Not only that but accessories that I used with my iPods were also compatible.

People also forget that in the world of computers, there are no "standards". Every connector gets replaced at some point in order to improve the product and offer consumers greater flexibility. Various serial connectors were replaced by USB. SCSI replaced by FireWire, replaced by Thunderbolt. VGA, S-Video, replaced by HDMI, etc. And the PC world is awash with port replicators to accommodate these legacy ports to prove it.

Certainly Apple's 30-pin dock connector had a respectable lifespan, and though pricey, their Lightning adapters provide more than adequate options for continuing to connect to those legacy products. In the grand scheme of things, this isn't even a bump in the road.
post #8 of 10
FYI: Apple has now received 956 Patents, to date. We're well on our way to surpassing 1200 which will easily eclipse last year's single year all-time high. The beauty of Apple's patents is their high probability of being implemented like no other company I've seen.
post #9 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by jasenj1 View Post

So "wirelessly" becomes the new "with a computer" or "on the Internet"? I see the value in being able to go from one device to a legacy port via a wireless connection, but _I_ don't find it novel enough to patent - but then I'm not a patent lawyer. One could say AirPlay is a wireless adapter that goes from a device to an HDMI signal. Or wireless speakers are an adapter that use Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.

 

I understand the application, but I don't see how it's novel when compared with all the existing applications of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

 

- Jasen.

 

 

Simple: ``1. An adapter for providing a communication path between a portable electronic device and an accessory, the adapter comprising: a first wireless interface to communicate with the accessory; a second wireless interface to communicate with the portable electronic device; and translation circuitry configured to: translate protocols received from the accessory at the first wireless interface to different protocols output to the portable electronic device via the second wireless interface; and translate protocols received from the portable electronic device at the second wireless interface to different protocols output to the accessory via the first wireless interface; and authentication circuitry to respond to an authentication query received at the first wireless interface of the adapter, wherein the protocols of the accessory and the portable electronic device are otherwise incompatible.''

 

It's not a bluetooth or a wifi adaptor, but a device that can translate both and more to make it a heterogeneous adaptor between devices that can translate data without being on the same protocol in order to share it. It's a novel way to modulate protocols like one would implement a novel way to modulate power conversion.

 

A universal protocol adaptor.

post #10 of 10
http://www.genevalab.com/shop/wireless-dock-adapter

For those looking for a wireless 30 pin adaptor, you can preorder one from Geneva Lab. It's small and works using Bluetooth.
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