Untangling masses of cables could become a thing of the past, if plans for long-distance charging via data connections become reality.
It has long been rumoured that Apple is investigating the possibilities for wireless charging technology, but the latest patent filed by the firm reveals a surprising new approach.
And it could one day allow people to charge their tablets, phones and other electronic devices using Wi-Fi, mobile data or even satellite signals.
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The Cupertino company’s latest patent, published today, builds upon existing technology.
It would use electromagnetic frequencies at the higher range, which are usually reserved for data transmission.
The new technology would use special antennas to direct a ‘beam’ of energy over such frequencies, for example those used by Wi-Fi connections.
This would ensure a strong and stable signal which could extend the range of wireless charging capabilities.
Like other wireless charging techniques, including more conventional ‘inductive’ charging, the design would require both a transmitter and receiver to work.
Inductive charging uses a base-station as the transmitter, which a receiver in the phone picks up.
And although this is technically ‘wireless’ charging, the range is incredibly low.
Apple’s new patent suggests a number of techniques to extend that range, according to reports in Apple Insider.
But it doesn’t delve into the specifics of how this might be achieved in practice.
‘The idea of piggy-backing wireless charging on top of existing communications frequencies is not new,’ Apple Insider said.
‘Prior research into the field has been promising, with finding smaller devices can be powered and trickle-charged using only Wi-Fi signals.
‘That technology has yet to find a practical application, however.’
Previous patents have hinted that Apple was exploring long distance charging for the iPhone 8, but this is thought to be the first evidence of using a data connection to transmit power.
Rumours that Apple was working on a long-distance charging method for its new flagship phone, expected in September, first surfaced late last year.
California start-up firm Energous was said to be working on a mid-range wireless charging transmitter which could work over distances up to 15 feet (4.5 metres).
It is expected to be released towards the latter half of 2017, which would tie in with the release of three anticipated new models of iPhone.
Other patents previously filed by Apple suggest the firm has also been exploring the option of more traditional inductive wireless charging.
One patent applied for by the firm, details of which emerged in September 2016, refers to an ‘inductive charging station’ similar to the plastic wireless charger used by the Apple Watch.
The move would also fit with suggestions that the iPhone 8 will feature glass casing, to support wireless charging.
A wireless charger would also solve a problem caused by Apple ditching the 3.5mm headphone jack from the iPhone.
It would enable users to charge their phone while simultaneously using the Lightning port to plug in a pair of headphones.