Apple looking to make Thunderbolt and USB ports thinner, more durable

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
Apple has shown interest in creating improved input/output ports like Thunderbolt and USB on its line of Mac computers, making the ports thinner, scratch-proof, and more aesthetically pleasing.



Apple's plans were revealed this week in a new patent application published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office entitled "Super-Thin USB Connector Receptacle Housings having Reduced-Wear Finger Contacts." The document, discovered by AppleInsider, offers a number of examples as to how computer ports could be modified and improved.



Examples include the use of domes, cylinders, balls or other structures as finger contacts. These could reduce scratches and discourage users from accidentally inserting a cable incorrectly.



Apple could also make the ports thinner by removing portions of the USB shell along one or more sides. The port could expand when a plug is inserted, accommodating the full-size USB or Thunderbolt standard but allowing Apple to create even thinner devices like the MacBook Air.



The proposed methods also cover the aesthetics of ports and how they look on a Mac. In one example, the company would form a port enclosure from the same material, or material having a similar color or texture, as the rest of the device, giving it a seamless and attractive appearance.







The application notes that issues apply to all ports on computers, specifically mentioning USB, FireWire and DisplayPort. The accompanying illustrations show a Mini DisplayPort, the same form factor which has been adopted for its new high-speed Thunderbolt standard.



In a typical port, the metal housing is stamped to form fingers, and those fingers are bent to form finger contacts, allowing an electrical connection with a plug when inserted.







"However, these finger contacts may have sharp edges or burrs that may result in the stamping process," the application reads. "These edges or burrs can scratch or otherwise mar a connector insert after many insertions into a connector receptacle."



Apple also notes that it would be desirable to have a secure "snap or feel" when inserting a plug into a computer. That mechanical feedback lets users know that a connection has properly been made.







The application also mentions that connector receptacles like USB ports are often made separately and out of a different material. This can result in an unattractive seam formed near the opening -- one that becomes even more pronounced as use of the device continues.



The application revealed this week is a continuation-in-part filed in August of 2010. The proposed invention is credited to a host of Apple employees, including Zheng Gao, John Raff, Bartley K. Andre, Laura Deforest, Greg Springer, Min Chul Kim, and Joshua Funamura.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 55
    ruckerzruckerz Posts: 58member
    This comes as I pay $30 for yet another display adapter to plug my mini/macbook/imac into a standard DVI monitor.



    Every hardware refresh, different style ports/new adapter cables to do the same thing as the previous generation did. All for the sake of aesthetics.
  • Reply 2 of 55
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,383member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by ruckerz View Post


    This comes as I pay $30 for yet another display adapter to plug my mini/macbook/imac into a standard DVI monitor.



    Every hardware refresh, different style ports/new adapter cables to do the same thing as the previous generation did. All for the sake of aesthetics.



    I think Apple's reasons are often more than just aesthetics, it's about in many cases making the devices thinner and lighter and functionally better.
  • Reply 3 of 55
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member
    We already have MicroUSB. We don't need NanoUSB.



    And we don't need ANY differentiation in Thunderbolt at ALL. Thunderbolt exists to kill off every single other port. Let's actually do the sane, morally-correct thing and make Thunderbolt be just ONE type of port. No Mini Thunderbolt.
  • Reply 4 of 55
    gary54gary54 Posts: 169member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post


    We already have MicroUSB. We don't need NanoUSB.



    And we don't need ANY differentiation in Thunderbolt at ALL. Thunderbolt exists to kill off every single other port. Let's actually do the sane, morally-correct thing and make Thunderbolt be just ONE type of port. No Mini Thunderbolt.





    Does Thunderbolt have a target disk mode? I have not seen anyone mention that feature as yet.
  • Reply 5 of 55
    christopher126christopher126 Posts: 4,365member
    Good! I don't think I have ever put a USB in the correct way on the first try!
  • Reply 6 of 55
    futuristicfuturistic Posts: 599member
    This is something I've always admired about Apple. Rather than waste time making flashy covers (collect all six colors!)* or blinky lights or superfluous buttons, they're continually researching ways of improving, evolving, developing practical technologies--even tech that seems insignificant, like the shape of I/O ports.



    Granted, some implementations are controversial (cue "glossy vs matte" debate).



    * yes, I know that the iPad 2 has flashy covers, (and you can collect all 10 colors/styles!) but the iPad 2 covers have practical use beyond just looking pretty.
  • Reply 7 of 55
    revilrerevilre Posts: 67member
    Folks, stop getting your panties in a bunch. These aren't new USB connectors for cables. These are just the manufacturing process for the ports on the computer to make them more durable, thinner within the case, and more attractive. Its still an improvement to how the connectors are built so they don't have big gaps, collect turn, look like chunks of silver in the side of a case, have a weak easily broken plastic surround, etc.



    No new form factor is even being discussed. Every USB device in existence would still plug into these new port designs. They are just making a better spoon, not a spork.
  • Reply 8 of 55
    futuristicfuturistic Posts: 599member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by christopher126 View Post


    Good! I don't think I have ever put a USB in the correct way on the first try!



    I'm with you, dude. I always have to look for the USB symbol. \
  • Reply 9 of 55
    wingswings Posts: 261member
    Defying all odds, why is it that I almost always have a USB connector oriented the wrong way when I attempt to plug one in? You would think the law of averages would say I'll be correct 50% of the time. Not so.



    So, why not make the Thunderbolt connector ROUND? All they need is 4 connections, which is easy. And when they get around to the optical thing, the barrel of the connector could be hollow which would contain the optical fiber/terminator.



    I vote round. (And I know my vote doesn't count.)
  • Reply 10 of 55
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 9,480member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by ruckerz View Post


    This comes as I pay $30 for yet another display adapter to plug my mini/macbook/imac into a standard DVI monitor.



    Every hardware refresh, different style ports/new adapter cables to do the same thing as the previous generation did. All for the sake of aesthetics.



    The solution to your problem? Easy, dump Apple and buy a cheaply made Dell. No more worries about adapters or aethetics. And you can buy all your peripherals at Walmart too. You should know by now that Apple cares about this sort of thing. Fit and finish are important to them and to the majority of Apple customers.
  • Reply 11 of 55
    downpourdownpour Posts: 37member
    Apple need to invent a single magnetic connector, that can be used for charging/thunderbolt/usb data transfer.



    It needs to be slim enough for idevices and easy to attach/detach.



    They also need to allow anyone to use/make it, so it can become an industry standard.



    THE DOCK CONNECTOR MUST DIE.... but a small adapter from the new standard to the old one, would help prevent old docks from becoming obsolete.



    All this is so blindingly obvious, I really don't know why Apple haven't already done it.
  • Reply 12 of 55
    dcj001dcj001 Posts: 301member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Gary54 View Post


    Does Thunderbolt have a target disk mode? I have not seen anyone mention that feature as yet.



    Have you looked?



    http://www.google.com/search?client=...f4866b51aaf71c
  • Reply 13 of 55
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by ruckerz View Post


    This comes as I pay $30 for yet another display adapter to plug my mini/macbook/imac into a standard DVI monitor.



    Every hardware refresh, different style ports/new adapter cables to do the same thing as the previous generation did. All for the sake of aesthetics.



    For some, and myself, its the aesthetics of the hardware, and software that helped convince me to move over from the dark side. I hope they keep the pace. I'm fortunate, & I mean that sincerely, not trying to brag,
  • Reply 14 of 55
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Downpour View Post


    Apple need to invent a single magnetic connector, that can be used for charging/thunderbolt/usb data transfer.



    It needs to be slim enough for idevices and easy to attach/detach.



    They also need to allow anyone to use/make it, so it can become an industry standard.



    THE DOCK CONNECTOR MUST DIE.... but a small adapter from the new standard to the old one, would help prevent old docks from becoming obsolete.



    All this is so blindingly obvious, I really don't know why Apple haven't already done it.



    I cannot agree more, about how slick it would be for a single magnetic connector for power, connectivity (usb, firewire etc) but as easily as the mag port can disconnect (its intended feature) Apple must solve a difficult problem of having drives and things suddenly removed, and reconnected, without data damage, or a visit from "colonel panic"
  • Reply 15 of 55
    cmf2cmf2 Posts: 1,427member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    The port could expand when a plug is inserted, accommodating the full-size USB or Thunderbolt standard but allowing Apple to create even thinner devices like the MacBook Air.



    Quoting part of the original article because apparently people have trouble reading it before clicking reply.



    They aren't talking about adapters, they are talking about changing port designs so they can be smaller when they are not in use, but still accepting industry standard plugs. Other parts of the article talk about using rounded components within the port to reduce the wear and tear on the plug from repeated insertions, or having the ports made of the same material as the case. In all scenarios, there no discussion of a new plug, just new ports for accepting the existing plugs.
  • Reply 16 of 55
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Downpour View Post


    Apple need to invent a single magnetic connector, that can be used for charging/thunderbolt/usb data transfer.



    It needs to be slim enough for idevices and easy to attach/detach.



    They also need to allow anyone to use/make it, so it can become an industry standard.



    THE DOCK CONNECTOR MUST DIE.... but a small adapter from the new standard to the old one, would help prevent old docks from becoming obsolete.



    All this is so blindingly obvious, I really don't know why Apple haven't already done it.



    Your post makes no sense. Would you mind clearing it up and organizing your thoughts better before I rip it apart?
  • Reply 17 of 55
    addicted44addicted44 Posts: 826member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by revilre View Post


    Folks, stop getting your panties in a bunch. These aren't new USB connectors for cables. These are just the manufacturing process for the ports on the computer to make them more durable, thinner within the case, and more attractive. Its still an improvement to how the connectors are built so they don't have big gaps, collect turn, look like chunks of silver in the side of a case, have a weak easily broken plastic surround, etc.



    No new form factor is even being discussed. Every USB device in existence would still plug into these new port designs. They are just making a better spoon, not a spork.



    ++++



    Some times I wonder if the reflexively anti-apple trolls on this forum even bother to read the article before trolling about it.
  • Reply 18 of 55
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post


    And we don't need ANY differentiation in Thunderbolt at ALL. Thunderbolt exists to kill off every single other port. Let's actually do the sane, morally-correct thing and make Thunderbolt be just ONE type of port. No Mini Thunderbolt.



    Thunderbolt will evolve, just as every previous i/o method has. The changes are coming, like 'em or not.
  • Reply 19 of 55
    gustavgustav Posts: 826member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by ruckerz View Post


    This comes as I pay $30 for yet another display adapter to plug my mini/macbook/imac into a standard DVI monitor.



    Every hardware refresh, different style ports/new adapter cables to do the same thing as the previous generation did. All for the sake of aesthetics.



    You just spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on a new computer, and you are complaining about a $30 adapter? Really?
  • Reply 20 of 55
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Mister Snitch View Post


    Thunderbolt will evolve, just as every previous i/o method has. The changes are coming, like 'em or not.



    Yeah, it'll evolve from 10Gbps to 100Gbps. There's no reason to be changing the port or making it smaller.
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