Making MacBooks and iPads into wireless chargers is a brilliantly dumb idea

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Adding wireless chargers to the MacBook Pro seems a no-brainer.
A MacBook with wireless charging is a cool idea that also comes with disadvantages.
Photo: Apple

You might someday be able to recharge an iPhone just by putting it down on your laptop. MacBook wireless charging an idea with obvious advantages … but real drawbacks, too.

It’s definitely something Apple has been looking into. On Tuesday, the company received a patent for a scheme to build wireless chargers into notebooks, tablets and handsets so they could charge each other (or an Apple Watch).

The patent, titled “Inductive charging between electronic devices,” covers putting inductive chargers in nearly every type of computer. And almost everywhere possible.

Images filed by Apple engineers Darshan Kasar, Christopher Graham and Eric Jol theorize up to six charging stations on an iPad, three on the front and three on the back. And up to 11 MacBook wireless chargers, front and back. There would also be two-way charging in the iPhone.

Questionable practicality in MacBook wireless charging

There’s a clear advantage in being able to easily use a full MacBook or iPad charge to replenish the battery in an iPhone without needing a cable. And a coolness factor, too. But there are drawbacks.

It won’t be easy to type on a MacBook with an iPhone sitting next to the touchpad, as the patent proposes. And an iPad with an iPhone resting on it while recharging definitely isn’t usable. This might relegate the two-way charging feature to only being used in emergencies.

Also, while a wireless charging pad is relatively thin and light, embedding one into a mobile device nevertheless increases its bulk. And its cost.

So far, Apple has only somewhat embraced cable-free power. Every iOS handset since 2017 supports inductive charging, and Cupertino came up with its own improved version in 2020 called MagSafe. The Apple Watch used inductive charging from the beginning, of course. But no iPad can charge wirelessly. Nor can any Mac.

Apple will surely weigh these factors when deciding whether to turn its patent into reality.