Apple patents describe cross-platform wireless power sharing system

The US Patent and Trademark Office granted Apple two patents on Tuesday that may indicate engineers are looking at a radical new product design featuring reverse charging. Diagrams show a MacBook Pro equipped with multiple charging coils beneath the lid, trackpad, and areas adjacent to the trackpad.

Users could essentially set their iPhone anywhere on the laptop other than the keyboard to charge it. An iPad could charge when placed on the closed MacBook lid. Likewise, the second patent shows that the chargers would work between all devices. In other words, you could top off your iPhone or Apple Watch with your iPad or any similar combination of scenarios. The patents aim to offer users more flexibility when charing their devices.

“Some electronic devices include one or more rechargeable batteries that may require external power to recharge,” reads patent 10,886,769’s description. “However, despite having standardized connectors and cable, each device may require a separate or dedicated power supply to charge. In some cases, having separate power supplies for each device may be burdensome to use, store, and/or transport.”

Not having to tote around multiple chargers does offer a new level of convenience. As long as users have just one power supply, they can charge any device via reverse charging. Theoretically, with their MacBook plugged in, users could stack their iPad, iPhone, and Apple Watch on top of each other and have them all charged simultaneously (diagram above).

The question is: will Apple ever make use of these patents? Patents are not guaranteed to come about. Additionally, Apple promised us the AirPower charging station, which it abandoned only months before it was supposed to be released. Reverse charging was supposed to be a feature of the iPhone 11, but it never happened. Perhaps Apple gave up on these earlier projects to focus on a full wireless power-sharing ecosystem rather than bringing out the feature in a piecemeal manner. We’ll have to wait and see.