Will Thunderbolt come to the iPhone and iPods this year?

I had a thought today that perhaps Apple will be bringing the new Thunderbolt technology to its lineup of iPhones and iPods in their next generations.

This is purely speculation on my part, but let me outline why I think this is a possibility.

Firstly, it is increasingly evident that the new iPhone will not be here until August at the earliest, probably not till September. The new iPods are also in the same sort of timeframe, as I detailed earlier this week.

By that time, the entire Mac lineup should feature Thunderbolt, as the Mac mini, MacBook Airs and Mac Pro are all expected to be updated in the next couple of months and Apple has included Thunderbolt in each new Mac iteration since first announcing it in February’s MacBook Pro refresh.

Apple is also known to be hiring people for its Thunderbolt team, and it is obvious that they see the technology as the future ahead of USB 3.0 and even their own (still unreleased and of currently unknown future) FireWire 1600 and 3200 updates.

With the entire Mac range equipped with Thunderbolt by the time of the expected announcement of the next iPhone, what better way to continue pushing the new technology than by rolling it into their consumer electronic devices? With proven data transfer speeds of 827MB a second, a cabled sync will take seconds, no matter how much data was being transferred.

There are a few problems with this theory, however. The first is that rolling out Thunderbolt could potentially undermine the new WiFi Sync feature of iOS 5 – whether Apple will see this as a problem is another matter, and the two features are likely to speak to two different types of user.

Secondly, it is not known (or at least, I don’t know, which for the purposes of this article amounts to the same thing) how backwards-compatible a Thunderbolt iPhone will be with the vast majority of Mac users who will still need to use USB to sync. But then that loops me back to that first point – WiFi Sync could actually replace USB sync on these new iPhones with Thunderbolt as a feature there for ‘power’ users.

The only other hurdle I can think of is the expense of including Thunderbolt in a consumer electronics device which Apple is continually trying to reduce the cost of building, especially with constant rumours of a cheaper, smaller ‘iPhone Nano’ (which, it has been speculated, could possibly replace the iPod touch if it got cheap enough).

There have been currently no rumours on this front, which is why this post is entirely speculation. But Apple have a long history of dropping technology for the next best thing when it suits them, so maybe, just maybe, this will become a reality sooner than we think.

Note: whilst writing this post, AppleInsider published a story stating that the component cost of adding Thunderbolt to consumer devices was stunting adoption of the new technology. Whilst this may be true, Apple themselves are more familiar with Thunderbolt than most manufacturers as they were involved in its development and may be able to achieve compatibility for cheaper. Or, this may be part of what Apple was talking about when they speak of reduced margins at their earnings calls.

Thunderbolt: the future begins

Yesterday, Apple as expected released a new round of MacBook Pros. Making use of Intel’s new ‘Sandy Bridge’ processors and available with optional quad-core ┬áconfigurations and new graphics chips, the machines are apparently twice as fast as the previous generation of MacBook Pros (and make my Core 2 Duo first-gen unibody MacBook Pro seem positively creaky – sorry girl).

The speed inside the machines however is being overshadowed a little by the speed outside of it. Or rather, the speed at which things can get into and out of the laptops.

The big news is that Intel’s Light Peak technology – now dubbed ‘Thunderbolt’ – has finally hit the market, bringing 10Gbs data transfer in both directions alongside video transmission.

If you’re out of the loop on Thunderbolt, it is basically the next generation input/output connector, that will eventually make USB and FireWire obsolete (and kill off USB 3.0 before it’s even had a chance to breathe).

Thunderbolt will eventually change everything. It’s capable of 10Gbs now, but Intel expect it to hit 100Gbs by 2020. That’s pretty much quicker than you can move data around inside your computer currently. That is really, really impressive.

If you don’t believe me, take a look at this video: