Apple’s New Thunderbolt Technology Could Eventually Come to the iPhone

By , Feb 25, 2011

Apple recently introduced a new connection technology dubbed “Thunderbolt.” In Apple’s MacBook Pro refresh, the Thunderbolt port has been added as a new wired connection architecture that Apple hopes will unify its connection technologies.

The key feature for the Thunderbolt architecture is speed. Thunderbolt promises to be lighting fast (pardon the pun) and offer incredible speeds for data transfers. The need for Thunderbolt is evident for the desktop, but it’s not a stretch to imagine that Thunderbolt could eventually make its way to iOS devices.

Macworld explains Thunderbolt,

“Thunderbolt (previously called Light Peak) is a new peripheral-connection technology, developed by Intel with collaboration from Apple, that combines data, video, audio, and power in a single connection. Based on the PCI Express and DisplayPort architectures, Thunderbolt allows for high-speed connection of peripherals such as hard drives, RAID arrays, video-capture solutions, and network interfaces, and it can transmit high-definition video using the DisplayPort protocol. Each Thunderbolt port also provides up to 10 Watts of power to connected peripherals.”

Thunderbolt offers a lot of speed and efficiency enhancements for those involved in production and media. Photographers, videographers, or any other type of data-reliant professionals will be able to increase their productivity with the speed and ease-of-use that Thunderbolt offers.

Rumors are that Apple will eventually use MagSafe as the replacement for the classic 30-pin connector that iDevices use now. With the introduction of Thunderbolt, Apple could eventually replace the 30 pin connector with a Thunderbolt port on the iPhone.

Thunderbolt is not designed to compete with USB 3.0, and it makes sense that Apple would want their proprietary connection architecture to run on all iOS devices.

Macworld speculates further on the possibility of Thunderbolt coming to iOS,

“As noted above, Thunderbolt relies on PCI Express, the architecture that underpins Macs and most PCs. But iOS devices don’t use a PCI Express architecture, which would presumably make it difficult to simply stick a Thunderbolt port on an iPhone. Plus the dock-connector port on iOS devices provides quite a bit of additional functionality—it’s got 30 connection pins for a reason, after all. Finally, it’s not clear what benefits Thunderbolt would provide that the dock-connector port is missing. We suspect it’s far more likely that Apple will eventually sell an optional Thunderbolt-to-dock-connector cable for charging and syncing.”

theAppleBlog believes there is a good chance Thunderbolt will become the iDevice standard,

“A Thunderbolt connector makes a lot of sense for Apple’s iOS devices, since it would mean syncing even large libraries could happen in a few seconds instead of over many minutes. Thunderbolt also supports video and audio out, making it the ideal all-purpose A/V connector. A Thunderbolt connection would even provide Apple with an excuse for further delaying the introduction of wireless sync capabilities for iOS devices. It does require a small Intel controller chip to manage traffic, but that doesn’t necessarily preclude its use in Apple mobile products.”

So, essentially, a Thunderbolt connector on the iPhone would mean super fast syncs with iTunes. An all-in-one A/V connector is also an appealing thought for the iPhone and iPad. You can read up more about Thunderbolt on Apple’s official Thunderbolt page.

Whether it’s MagSafe or Thunderbolt, Apple is certainly working on faster and more efficient connection technologies for the iPhone. That’s good news.

What do you think Apple will do with the iPhone’s 30-pin connector? MagSafe? Thunderbolt? Sound off in the comments!

  • Share:
  • Follow:
  • Test Drive

    It is Intel’s Technology not Apple’s

    • Migle

      Apple made the mini display port and left the licensing open fore development the Intel grabbed the idea and made the thunderbolt.

    • Migle

      Apple made the mini display port and left the licensing open for development the Intel grabbed the idea and made the thunderbolt.

  • Jimathan

    It’ll be a LONG time before thunderbolt males it on to iOS devices(at least 5-7 years) because the technology needs to be adopted in PC’s first. Remember that the overwhelming majority of people who have an iOS device plug it in to a PC rather than a Mac. I’m excited for this technology to become the standard, but you have to view it the same way as USB was viewed when it came out.

  • Saxon

    @Jimathan That could be gotten around with an adapter or two ports on the iPhone. I just don’t see Apple giving up their precious little iPod connector, since it gives them a monopoly on cables.

  • brent

    If they could use a magsafe design with the Thunderbolt functionality, that would be ideal. But I guess they’ve already settled on a port design. Can’t really change it now.

  • mklbtz

    The biggest issue that I can think of is the physical size of the Thunderbolt port. I haven’t gotten my hands on one the new MacBooks yet but from what I can see, it’s pretty large. And Square. If you think about the form factor of the iOS devices, large and square doesn’t really work. I think it’s conceivable for Apple to create a Thunderbolt version of the 30-pin connector so iOS devices could connect to either USB or Thunderbolt ports. That may not be possible, but it seems like a smart move if it is.

  • http://aelandt3.com Whtlime

    Like @TestDrive mentioned, it’s not Apple’s technology, it’s Intels. Also, it’s not propietary to Apple. Intel already released a statement saying such

  • anonymous

    its Intel’s technology ..and intel given market name “thunderbolt”

  • Jack Fungi

    I think that since it is possible to convert thunderbolt to USB there might be a micro-thunderbolt port on the iPhone and then either USB or thunderbolt on the other end. Thus not excluding pc.