Apple proposes combined-input port for space-deprived devices

Jun 28, 2013 by Nancy Owano report

(Phys.org) —People who use their computers on the go know the limitations: A superslim lightweight laptop is convenient for all those work-in-transit times in cafes, airports, train stations, and conference halls but there is not much port space. Now a newly published patent application from Apple proposes a solution: the two in one port. In the patent published this month, from Changsoo Jang of Apple, a "Combined Input Port" is discussed, where two different interfaces could be in one port.

The patent was filed in December 2011 but published just this week. The idea is for an input port for an electronic device for receiving different types of connectors, memory cards, or plugs. The patent filing describes the problem in limited port space: Input ports receive some type of connector—Universal Serial Bus (USB), mini-USB, high definition multi-media interface (HDMI), and audio connector. Each connector type may need a separate input port, because the connectors have different plug dimensions or pin arrangements. To accommodate the different connectors, many electronic devices may include multiple different input ports spaced around an enclosure of the device. Additionally, there may be input ports for .

Apple proposes a way for the laptop to get around the limitation by allowing the bundling of two ports into one. Apple's workaround to the limited space is a layered port which can accept two different connectors, through its staggered electrical contacts and shape.

"The input port includes an outer wall defining a receiving aperture, a substrate positioned within the receiving aperture. A first set of contacts is positioned on the substrate at a first depth into the receiving aperture and a second set of contacts is positioned on a first surface of the outer wall at a second depth into the receiving aperture. The first set of contacts is configured to communicate with a first connector and the second set of contacts is configured to communicate with a second connector."

Apple illustrated the idea with discussion of a USB port and SD card reader, showing how the card reader and USB port could be integrated, but the port could house other interconnects.

"The foregoing description has broad application. For example, while examples disclosed herein may focus on an input port for receiving a USB plug and a SD card, it should be appreciated that the concepts disclosed herein may equally apply to connectors and plugs. Similarly, although the input port may be discussed with respect to a computer, the devices and techniques disclosed herein are equally applicable to any type of device including an external connector for transferring data and/or power."

Explore further: At California port, some ships plug in to power up

More information: USPTO combined input port patent application

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User comments : 14

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Eikka
4.3 / 5 (6) Jun 28, 2013
I already have a combined USB/e-SATA port on my laptop.
maxb500_live_nl
3 / 5 (10) Jun 28, 2013
If anyone doesn't care about making it easy it's apple. We had the European Union giving the lead on a worldwide smartphone charging standard. Every company joined in to micro-usb except Apple who came up with an extra in between connector they could sell. Same for the Iphone 5 and many other Apple products. The more money they can make off you the better. Lack of innovation has really set in after jobs. Thats why Apple stock continues it's big fall. Times change quickly in the electronic industry.
JohnGee
2.9 / 5 (15) Jun 28, 2013
Lack of innovation has really set in after jobs.
Jobs may certainly have been more creative, but he definitely created Apple's culture of milking the customers for all they're worth.
NikFromNYC
2 / 5 (8) Jun 28, 2013
The three types of mini USB that connect my iPhone battery case, wireless pocket speakers and a digicam to a PC are sad affairs compared to the blunt robustness of the new iPhone 5 simple tab connector. This patent diagram is a step backwards, thus.

P.S. A trivial fact is that the simple use of a full wave (four diodes) rectifier allows a device to be safely powered with the DC current attached in either direction, making physically symmetrical connector design potentially easier.
JohnGee
1.6 / 5 (7) Jun 28, 2013
I have never once in my life broken a mini USB cable. I necessarily reprogram 20 e-readers twice a day, 5 days a week, and have used one mini USB cable the entire time. However, the iPod I have to charge has a frayed cable and the entire male end is bent at a 20 degree angle. It works sometimes if you bend the cable right.
MIBO
4 / 5 (4) Jun 28, 2013
No doubt Apple will do their best to get a patent granted again on old technology then attempt to sue everybody who was using it before they thought of it (again ).
meerling
3.7 / 5 (3) Jun 28, 2013
Interesting. Guess they've been trolling old products to try and pawn off old ideas as 'new'. This has been done before. Maybe not with the exact combo they list, but it's definitely been done. Back in 2008 I had a device that took several different types of memory cards in the same slot.
Heck, for that matter USB 3.0 port will accept both USB 1 & 2 devices, as well as the more complicated increased quantity of pins on the USB 3 devices.
Apple, it's too little, too late, and totally non-innovative. It's been done and there's a ton of prior art that's been on the market longer than you've been playing with this. No royalties for you.
RETT
1 / 5 (2) Jun 29, 2013
This is as ridiculous as the one-click patent and it's many imitators. As has been noted, there have been many multi-use ports, some for similar devices and some for heterogeneous devices. Unless the connectors have some kind of rail or rail indentation, none of them will be truly stable. Without industry wide agreement, Apple no longer has the muscle to drive such a "standard", Thunderbolt being a prime example following behind ADB. Android or some successor will do to the i-"something" world what Windows did to the original Apple OS, not because it is necessarily better, but because it is more flexible both as software and in it's reach across many levels of hardware. The peloton has caught up and is moving away as the aged leader tires.
DougR
1 / 5 (2) Jun 29, 2013
It's just another rather transparent ploy to establish a proprietary bit of hardware to lock in future purchasers. Apple is the next Microsoft.
MIBO
not rated yet Jun 29, 2013
NikFromNYC
Yes, it's a simple matter, so why has nobody done it yet?.
The obvious answer is power. A full wave rectifier has 1.2V drop, so with 500mA current limit for USB devices that would dissipate 600mW, that's a lot of power wasted and a lot of heat to dissipate, 300mW SMD devices are quite large also, and you need 4 of them, or a full wave rectifier capable of dissipating 600mW. Not to mention the added requirement that all devices would have to sense the orientation in some way and switch the pin types accordingly, including the additional driver pads required for the additional outputs.
dbsi
not rated yet Jun 29, 2013
@ Eikka: I guess you have a sony, as they produce this for more than 3 years!
dbsi
not rated yet Jun 29, 2013
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ESATAp

Combined eSata/USB ports exist for years. (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ESATAp)
At least since according to wikipedia 2008! l fail to see what mindboggling invention is at play by apple here. Appl is not listed as an implementer.
dbsi
not rated yet Jun 29, 2013
What is the USPTO doing?

USB/ESATA combo receptable featured with ground layer retarding interfaces therebetween
US 8109795 B2
Publication number US8109795 B2
Publication type Grant
Application number 12/763,225
Publication date Feb 7, 2012
Filing date Apr 20, 2010
Priority date Apr 20, 2009
Also published as US20100267261
Inventors Kuo-Chun Hsu, Chih-Nan Lin, Hung-Chi Yu
Original Assignee Hon Hai Precision Ind. Co., Ltd.
meBigGuy
not rated yet Jun 30, 2013
@ nick A trivial fact is that 4 diodes in a bridge will never work in modern CMOS semiconductors where FETS are used to switch power with essentially no power loss. Apple's current connector switches pins when you plug it in in reverse.

@everyone --- you can't judge a patents validity or usefullness without reading its specific claims. Patent attorneys sculpture the claims to be narrow enough that they don't conflict with existing claims. I can claim a multipurpose connector used in 3/16" thick devices attached to brown shoes that uses a snap locking device with 2 cobalt springs, for a crappy example. The description is just a broad description. The claims are the legal meat that focus the patent. I haven't read the patent, BTW.

I agree there seems to be nothing new.

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