A recently discovered patent application by Apple shows that they may be toying with the idea of combining ports such as the USB and SD card slots in future devices.
As published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Apple’s “Combined input port” filing details a new system that integrates both an SD card reader and a USB port into one unit. The combination would not only save on external space, but also on the internal component layout needed to drive the two standards.
The invention’s language is quick to point out that an SD card and USB port are merely illustrative, meaning the port could house any number of suitable interconnects, including the forthcoming Thunderbolt 2.
In the application, Apple mentions the MacBook Air as a device that would benefit from such an arrangement. In practice, the setup could be implemented in many of the companies products.
In some embodiments, the input port may have electrical contacts located at different depths for the different connectors, e.g., a first set of contacts for the USB plug and a second set of contacts for the memory card. In this manner, the correct contacts may be aligned with the correct connector, even though both connectors may be inserted into the same port.
It is not clear if Apple actually plans to use the technology in an upcoming device, but similar products already exist as “all-in-one” card readers. The method used by those devices are not identical to the ones described in the patent application, as they don’t deal with two different protocols in the same device.
The combined input port patent application was first filed in 2011 and credits Changsoo Jang as its inventor.