Apple patents cooling fans for iPhones, iPads

Is there a fan in the future for the iPad or iPhone? That question is front-and-center following word Apple has filed to patent a fan to cool its popular mobile devices. The measure is seen as a response to criticisms that the iPad grows hot due to powerful processors and CPU-intensive tasks.

The patent application, entitled “Cooling system for mobile devices”, indicates a mechanical system comprised of fan, motor and an alert which potentially would vibrate the device. Because of the tight quarters, the motor would do double duty, driving both the fan and the alert, when required. Air intake and exhaust would likely employ an existing outlet in the devices, such as a headphone jack or the new Lightning connector port…

“It is unclear if Apple plans to use the invention in an upcoming iDevice, but it seems doubtful that such additional components can reasonably fit within the iPhone, which has become increasingly thin with each design evolution”, writes AppleInsider, which first uncovered the patent Thursday.

Earlier this year, consumers and testing groups found the new iPad running hotter than previous versions of the Apple tablet. According to Consumer Reports, the new iPad released in March operates at 116 Fahrenheit, 12-degrees warmer than the previous iPad 2. Like most issues now, the topic quickly was labelled Heatgate.

The reasons for higher temps are varied.

First, there is the introduction of LTE in the iPad 3, which includes Qualcomm’s RTR8600 chip that Apple placed under a thermal blanket. The new Retina display, while providing stunning graphics, also sucks energy like never before by requiring more transistors. The A5X chip also is one-third larger than the A5 used in the iPad 2.

The new processor also doubles the graphics cores for smooth gaming. If your iPad 3 starts to feel warm on its left side, its the A5X. Then there is the battery. To keep up with Android claims of longer battery life, Apple introduced a new battery ┬áthat is 70 percent larger than the iPad 2’s and provides nearly double the watt-hours as the previous version.

So, there is a need for some cooling method. The key is finding one that meshes with Apple’s ever-smaller designs and doesn’t detract from the sleek lines of the iPad.

What do you think?

Have mobile device requirements grown to the point where cooling is necessary – or are the complaints overblown?