A Wall Street Journal report published last week claims Apple is experimenting with a new method of charging its 2012 iPhone. Although wireless charging wasn’t mentioned, it’s the first thing we all thought of. Some further investigation into the subject reveals we may just be spot on.
After the rumor broke last week, MacRumors did a little digging and discovered a company called WiTricity, which was formed in 2007. WiTricity has been working to commercialize technology developed at MIT that sends power wirelessly through the air to devices like laptops, cell phones, and even household electronics like your bedside lamp.
Of course, induction charging has been around for some time. It was recently built into the Palm Pre, and can be introduced to your current iPhone with third-party accessories. However, WiTricity’s method of wireless charging is different. It requires no physical contact and can power a device up to a few meters away using a magnetic field:
The magnetic fields of two properly designed devices with closely matched resonant frequencies can couple into a single continuous magnetic field. Prof. Soljačić’s team showed how to use this phenomenon to enable the transfer of power from one device to the other at high efficiency and over a distance range that is useful for real-world applications.
Understandably, the company’s work has gained some interest from a number of industry big shots, including Intel, Toyota, and more interestingly, Apple.
MacRumors points to an Apple patent application titled “Wireless Power Utilization In a Local Computing Environment,” which we first reported on in early June. The patent describes a method of wireless charging built into an iMac, which provides a virtual charging area for other devices in front of the machine and could power things like your wireless keyboard, your wireless mouse, and even your iPhone, iPod or iPad.
Apple describes how the technology can benefit its users:
“By doing away with clumsy and annoying cables and eliminating the need to replace batteries, an easy to use and efficient local computing environment can be provided to the user.”
Here’s a video of WiTricity’s CEO demonstrating the technology at TED in 2009. Notice he uses a modified iPhone in his demonstration?
While Apple patents are in no way a guarantee of features we can expect from future devices, wireless charging certainly seems like one of things that would be a no-brainer for many of Apple’s devices. Imagine a truly wireless MacBook Air that you never have to tether to a power outlet, or a Magic Mouse that doesn’t need batteries.