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Charge iPhone via Mac & iPad: is this Apple's wireless future?

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Apple is apparently researching new ways to wirelessly charge battery-powered devices like the iPhone or Apple Watch via MacBooks or iPads in the future. In addition to the necessary hardware, new patents also show adaptations of the software.

According to a series of patents, it might be possible to use MacBooks and iPads in the future to charge smartphones, smartwatches or even the AirPods charging case without a cable. For example, the palm rests to the left and right of the MacBook's trackpad could contain a charger for this purpose, which could wirelessly power Apple's wearables.

Apple had filed the patents several years ago, but only now have they been awarded to the company. The iPhone maker has been researching such technologies for a long time, the oldest patent applications can be traced back to March 2016.

Wireless charging of Apple Watch or iPhone on MacBook

Until now, those who want to charge iPhone, Apple Watch or AirPods on MacBook or iPad have to resort to a cable. As the descriptions and images of the patents demonstrate, coils for inductive charging at various positions in the notebook or tablet could spell the end for these cables.

Apple Kabelloses Laden MacBook iPhone Watch iPad Patent
The necessary technology for wireless charging could be housed underneath the keyboard or in the MacBook lid. / © Apple

In addition to the palm rest in the MacBook, Apple's engineers say the necessary technology could also be housed in the trackpad or lid. This would allow, for example, a device to be charged on the closed MacBook when it is on the desktop while working with an external display or when not in use.

Apple also cites the possible presence of magnets that can be used to easily align devices. This idea is very reminiscent of MagSafe introduced with the iPhone 12.

The solution described by Apple also envisions that charging can happen in both directions. Thus, it would also be possible for users to decide which device is charged. However, it is also possible that this will be controlled automatically by Apple's software, so that, for example, the device with the lowest battery level always gets power.

Charging stack: charging multiple devices with just one cable

An image in the patents also demonstrates the possibility of charging multiple devices in a stack. Specifically, here an Apple Watch is being charged by an iPhone. Underneath the iPhone is an iPad, which in turn is being wirelessly charged by the MacBook. Only the MacBook receives charging via a cable in this example.

Apple kabelloses Laden Ladestapel Patent
Apple's patent shows this (almost) wireless charging stack. / © Apple

Wireless charging: Apple shows integration with operating systems

In one of the above examples, an iPhone is charging on the display of an iPad. This creates the issue that parts of the iPad's display are no longer visible. Apple's engineers have thought of this problem, however, and foresee that the iPad's screen content moves down accordingly, so that no information is displayed in the upper area. If the patent is implemented in exactly this way, the iPhone would then even automatically display the iPad's missing content.

Apple kabelloses Laden iPhone iPad Patent
When charging on an iPad, the visible area of the tablet display could be automatically adjusted. / © Apple

Apple's research on the failed AirPower or even the new MagSafe show that the US company has a strong interest in wireless charging solutions. The now discovered patents underpin this once again, but as usual, do not necessarily mean that future products will have exactly such features.

The fact that devices can charge each other is no longer a rarity in the smartphone world. For example, many Android manufacturers allow smartwatches or true-wireless earbuds to charge when placed on a compatible smartphone like the Huawei Mate 40 Pro. So Apple's patents are far from unrealistic.

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