iPad May Run Away From Home a Lot Longer
Apple's newly awarded patent for wireless charging technology suggests the company may be developing a product that would dramatically reduce the iPad's dependence on having an electrical outlet nearby. That may be a boon for frequent flyers, but it may not excite those who use their iPads on a couch, or in bed, or in some other cozy at-home setting where recharging isn't an issue.
03/15/13 5:00 AM PT
Wireless charging may be in the works for iPad owners if Apple follows through on a patent awarded to it by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Thursday.
The tablet cover described in the patent would include "an inductive power transmitter arranged to wirelessly pass power to a corresponding inductive power receiver unit disposed within the tablet device by inductively coupling."
The patent includes a scenario in which the cover could include a battery of its own that could be used as a supplemental power source: "In some cases ... , the protective cover can include an internal source of power such as a battery that can be used to store power that can subsequently be passed to the tablet device by way of the inductive power transfer circuit."
The power supply would also be adaptive, according to the patent. It "can supply power to the tablet device at a proper magnitude at a beginning of an operation, as well as to continually monitor the power supply circuit and make adjustments in real-time as needed providing the adaptive power the ability to change in accordance with changes in the power requirements of the tablet device."
The patent is designed to offer a solution to a nagging problem with electronic devices since their inception. "These devices continue to be plagued with a need for corded power supplies," it states. "Typically, each electronic device requires a separate power supply cord. These cords are a burden to use, store and [carry] around as needed. Cords can be unsightly and substantially hinder portable device mobility. Therefore, a method of delivering useful power to a portable computing device, such as a tablet device, that is both efficient and does not distract from the inherent aesthetics of the tablet device is desired."
Because Apple is entering the wireless inductive power game so late, it could run into intellectual property problems, according to Rob Enderle, president and principal analyst with the Enderle Group.
"There's a lot of prior work on inductive charging out there," he told MacNewsWorld. "Qualcomm has a substantial amount of intellectual property surrounding inductive chargers all the way up through cars."
The patent does tip off Apple's future plans, he suggested. "It showcases that Apple intends to do something with wireless charging, maybe create an accessory based on that patent."
Even if the rumors were true, and the next iPhone were to have a wireless charger, Apple would still be lagging other players in the market, like Nokia, which already has a wireless charger, Enderle argued.
"Apple is used to being ahead of the curve, and right now they're following Samsung. As a follower, it will be more difficult for Apple to maintain its premium price," he contended. "Inductive charging seems to be one of the logical places where Apple could level the field between them and Samsung."
Poised for Proliferation
While wireless charging technologies have been around for some time, they seem to be poised for proliferation now. The technology recently received a boost from some car makers that said they'd be installing wireless charges as standard equipment.
"When a car company talks about including it in their cars, the utility of it rises," Enderle said.
Moreover, consumers can expect to see wireless chargers becoming part of the landscape at their favorite hangouts under an ambitious program being launched by Duracell Powermat, makers of a line of wireless charging products.
Through its Wireless Pollination initiative, the company is partnering with the likes of General Motors, Madison Square Garden, Delta airlines and Starbucks to make wireless charges available to their customers.
"We're embedding this technology into their furniture," Ron Rabinowitz, CEO of Duracell Powermat, told MacNewWorld.
"We want to make sure that wireless charging will go from your home into public places," he said. "This is going to be the start of the 'hockey stick' for this category."