Apple is prototyping iPods with carbon-fiber cases, like this wrap from Carbon:Era. www.carbon-era.co.uk
Steve Jobs is keen to bring wireless syncing to iPods this year, and carbon fiber may be the key.
Following the news that Apple has just hired a leading carbon fiber expert, we can reveal that the company has been testing Wi-Fi syncing in iPods for the past two years.
Getting large libraries of music and movies to synchronize wirelessly over WiFi hasn’t been easy, according to a source close to the company who asked to remain anonymous. But Steve Jobs himself sees it as key to updating the aging devices, which are becoming increasingly obsolete in the iPhone/iPad era.
“Jobs is pushing hard to get WiFi syncing into the next-generation of iPods,” says our source.
There are lots of issues, however, with syncing over the air rather than the current method: a USB cable. Apple’s engineers have been having trouble with reliability, signal strength, case design and battery life, our source says.
“They’ve tried multiple different body designs and materials to get it to work well but it’s been slow going,” says our source. “They have however found many improvements using a carbon fiber design.”
According to our source, Apple has prototyped the iPod classic and the previous version of the iPod nano (not the current iPod nano, which is smaller than its predecessor). The carbon fiber cases greatly improve WiFi issues but isn’t yet perfect, our source says.
“They’re still not ideal or to the engineer’s satisfaction,” says our source. “They are however making a lot of headway.”
Apple has just hired a Senior Composites Engineer. Kevin Kenny began work at the Cupertino campus this month after spending 14 years building carbon fiber bicycles for Kestral Bicycles
, where he was the President and CEO.
This isn’t the first time Kenny has worked with Apple; a patent called “Reinforced Device Housing” filed by the company in 2009 had Kenny’s name on it, and depicted an outer casing for electronic devices made from ultra-strong carbon fiber. The patent reveals Kenny was clearly working with Apple for a long time before he became a full-time employee.
The current generation of iPods, which range from the tiny iPod shuffle to the high-capacity iPod classic, don’t have wireless hardware. If Apple is prototyping Wi-Fi-equipped iPod classic and nano, and adds Wi-Fi syncing to the iPod touch through software, that leaves only the iPod shuffle.
The iPod classic is getting long in the tooth, and hasn’t been updated since September 2009. This has led many to speculate that the device may soon be discontinued. However, Steve Jobs recently assured a customer that the iPod Classic isn’t going away.
Our source had no information about Wi-Fi syncing with iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. But it’s likely that the system could be easily added to these devices, which already have WiFi radios built-in.