Apple has been granted two patents that describe adding two-way wireless charging to its devices (via 9to5Mac). The patents, first spotted by Patently Apple, include drawings that show a MacBook charging various devices, including an iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch, as well as drawings of iPads and iPhones doing the same.
If this sounds familiar, it’s because many other phone makers have released devices with similar reverse wireless charging technology. Although Apple’s take is a little different. According to the patent images, a MacBook’s lid, palm rest, or trackpad could be used to charge a wireless charging-compatible iOS device.
The patent shows a future MacBook device charging an iPhone and Apple Watch, though this configuration would make it tricky to use the computer. Image: Apple
The problem the patents claim to solve is the one where you may find yourself without enough outlets, power bricks, or any electricity at all. The patents state that “despite having standardized connectors and cable[s], 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.” (Of course, having separate power bricks for your devices is also made more difficult when they aren’t included in the box.)
This figure showing devices being charged on a MacBook’s lid suggests that you could use your laptop as a wireless charging pad. Image: Apple
There are other times when this kind of tech could be useful. For example, if you’re away from a charger and your Apple Watch or AirPods die, it’d be useful to be able to top them up with your phone. Likewise, being able to charge your phone from your laptop would be useful, and if Apple is truly heading toward a portless iPhone, this type of tech could be a way to retain that functionality.
Right now, MacBooks and iPads are made out of aluminum, which isn’t compatible with wireless charging. If Apple wants to include this reverse wireless charging tech in its devices, it’ll have to design around that limitation. (Maybe it could bring back a plastic MacBook?)
It’s also hard to avoid thinking about Apple’s ill-fated AirPower project when considering the idea of a MacBook or iPad filled with wireless charging coils that are able to charge multiple devices at once. To be fair, Apple’s tech has progressed since then, and it now has control of the processors in all of its devices. It may come up with some solution to help the devices communicate and power levels and thermal constraints.
Whether you’ll actually be able to use your MacBook as a wireless charging pad for all of your devices remains to be seen, but I’d at least like to see this tech come to the iPhone. Many of its competitors already have some sort of reverse wireless charging capability, and while it’d be great to see it cranked up to 11 like in the below patent drawing, I’d be happy with Apple just catching up with the competition at this point. Although it seems like the iPhone 12 has the hardware to do this, it’s currently not enabled.
A MacBook charging an iPad, which is charging an iPhone, which is charging an Apple Watch. Image: Apple