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Apple proposes 'on-the-go' wireless charging via iPad Smart Cover with built-in battery

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
An Apple patent application discovered on Thursday reveals that the company is actively investigating wireless charging for its line of portable devices, but proposes to use the technology in a slightly different way than existing solutions.

Charging Cover
Source: USPTO


Wireless charging, also known as inductive charging, has been available on the consumer market for years, promising to replace power cables with a single charging station. Despite attempts from major manufacturers such as Palm and Google, the technology has yet to implemented effectively and is far from ubiquitous.

At first blush, Apple's invention, aptly titled "Integrated inductive charging in protective cover," appears to simply be a first-party incarnation of upcoming products that use inductive charging to transfer power to an iOS device. These components usually incorporate an induction coil and transformer that outputs power via a cord plugged into the device's dock connector. Apple's patent filing describes something different.

Instead of sourcing power from a stationary dock, Apple's invention calls for a tablet case, or more specifically an iPad Smart Cover, to hold the inductive power transmitter. In some embodiments, an internal battery is disposed within the case, basically creating an "on-the-go" wireless charger.

Charging Cover Top
Top-down view of one patent embodiment showing embedded power transmitters (210) and magnets.


From the patent's summary:

In the described embodiments, the body portion includes an inductive power transmitter arranged to wirelessly pass power to a corresponding inductive power receiver unit disposed within the tablet device by inductively coupling, at least a first magnetic element, and at least a second magnetic element used to secure the body portion to the display in a closed configuration.


The cover has the usual magnetic attachments and embedded Hall Effect sensor that auto-wakes and sleeps an iPad, but instead of the usual layered padding, the segmented body contains battery cells and necessary wireless charging circuitry.

In order to facilitate efficient power transfer, the primary induction transmitter and corresponding receiver in the iPad would be placed as close together as possible. The patent makes use of the Smart Cover's existing magnet tech, which leverages the unique properties of specialized magnets to "automatically" align the cover with the iPad's display. A property previously covered by AppleInsider describes how the installation of magnets, arranged according to a pattern of alternating polarities, within the Smart Cover's hinge mechanism and iPad body makes it virtually impossible to misalign the two assemblies.

Charging Cover Alignement


From the patent's description:

In some embodiments, the inductive circuit elements can be located in a peripheral region of the flap and corresponding peripheral regions of the tablet device (such as beneath the display mask that borders an active portion of the display). In this way, power can be inductively transmitted between the flap and tablet device in any number of ways and using any number of configurations of inductive power transfer circuits.


Charging occurs when the flap is covering the display, thus signaling that the device is not in use. Other embodiments describe methods in which the iPad can determine its own battery state and enable the inductive charging circuit when in "portable mode," or not plugged into a power source.

Apple's system is not completely wireless, however, as the cover itself needs to be charged. This is accomplished through a normal AC adapter, though the patent does note that solar cells can be disposed in the outer layers of the cover to harvest ambient energy.

Charging Cover
Illustration showing inductive transmitter positioning in various modes.


It should be noted that current iPads do not contain the inductive charging circuitry required by the patent, possibly hinting that such integrated components are being studied for a future model of the tablet.

While it is unclear if future Smart Covers will incorporate the wireless charging technology described above, recent rumors claim Apple is working to release such features in an iteration of the iPhone as early as this year.

The company has already shown interest in inductive charging, most recently filing for a patent in November covering near-field magnetic resonance as it applies to a desktop computer setting.

Apple's inductive charging cover patent was first filed for in September 2011 and credits Justin Richard Wodrich and Stephen Robert McClure as its inventors.
post #2 of 17
Now you would have to plug your smart cover to the power outlet instead of having to plug the iPad itself, what's the point apart of putting 'wireless charging' in the feature list.

Pointless
post #3 of 17
I agree, this is a bit weird.

Surely a better idea would be that the smart cover acts as a receiver for power from another base unit. The base unit would be plugged in all the time, maybe with a sensor so that it only switches on when the ipad is placed on it. The smart cover could send the juice to the ipad through connectors built into the smart magnet areas.

That way, they wouldn't have to build the big inductor into the ipad, keeping the size and weight down.
post #4 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scapal View Post

Now you would have to plug your smart cover to the power outlet instead of having to plug the iPad itself, what's the point apart of putting 'wireless charging' in the feature list.

Pointless

Keep in mind that the vast majority of patents never become products - and I agree that the value of this one is quite limited.
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Gatorguy 5/31/13
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"I'm way over my head when it comes to technical issues like this"
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post #5 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by test123 View Post

I agree, this is a bit weird.

Surely a better idea would be that the smart cover acts as a receiver for power from another base unit. The base unit would be plugged in all the time, maybe with a sensor so that it only switches on when the ipad is placed on it. The smart cover could send the juice to the ipad through connectors built into the smart magnet areas.

That way, they wouldn't have to build the big inductor into the ipad, keeping the size and weight down.

I love your idea.
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post #6 of 17
solar panel Inductive charger!...
post #7 of 17
It's a good idea to combine cover and charger (more like a spare battery really, since it itself needs to be charged). The idea mentioned of the cover including solar cells is a good one, that is when the idea would really come in to it's own.
post #8 of 17
I see it. Instead of removable primary battery, you get removable secondary battery.
post #9 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by winstein2010 View Post

I see it. Instead of removable primary battery, you get removable secondary battery.

Yes ti makes far more sense than the removable primary. The removable primary battery compromises the integrity of the enclosure and over time the connection weakens causing other issues, like crashes damaging other components etc…  This would allow them to offer a solution that has another purpose as well as provide additional power.  The best of both worlds.

post #10 of 17
I agree with haar "solar panel inductive charger!"
post #11 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scapal View Post

Now you would have to plug your smart cover to the power outlet instead of having to plug the iPad itself, what's the point apart of putting 'wireless charging' in the feature list.

Pointless

 

I suspect that they agree. Which is why they won't likely create this. But someone else might have the idea at some point and since they had it first why not patent it and if someone like Incase or Mophie wants to use it then they can license it from Apple. 

 

I am happy to see that Apple is willing to look into the issue and perhaps might release devices that support inductive charging along side standard charging so long as the inclusion doesn't hurt the functioning of the device. Why not do it it. Then if restaurants etc want to provide tables that can inductively charge your device while it is sitting on the table during dinner you can. 

A non tech's thoughts on Apple stuff 

(She's family so I'm a little biased)

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A non tech's thoughts on Apple stuff 

(She's family so I'm a little biased)

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post #12 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scapal View Post

Now you would have to plug your smart cover to the power outlet instead of having to plug the iPad itself, what's the point apart of putting 'wireless charging' in the feature list.

Pointless

Or they make the charging work both ways, so the cover can charge the ipad, acting as an external extra battery when you are out and about, potentially slightly increasing the battery life. However, when you plug the ipad in to the outlet, the ipad now recharges its internal battery and the smart cover at the same time. So everything stays the same as it is now except you get a little more battery life. It's a win win.
post #13 of 17
"Despite attempts from major manufacturers such as Palm and Google, the technology has yet to implemented effectively"

Oh, I disagree. I found the Touchstone wireless charging dock system to work very well with my Palm Pre. Very effective. Especially useful for those having limited dexterity--who can't plug in tiny cables. The way the dock magnetically grabbed, positioned, and clamped the phone was nice, too. Wish my iPhone had that.

Though I'd rather have a solar charger!
post #14 of 17
I can already imagine the outrage of existing iPad owners when they find out it's not compatible with their models. We'll have to suffer through the usual garbage articles about how Apple bleeds customers dry by making them have to buy a new model to get the latest features. Bloggers and press will cover it as click-bate so they get more ad revenue. Then there'll be a ridiculous class action suit so the lawyers can make money. It's actually Apple that gets bled dry by us. It's the same story arc as Shel Silverstein's "The Giving Tree".
post #15 of 17
I see this as more of a defensive patent. Although clever in that it builds the solution into components that already exist it looks impractical - Wiring across the folded elements - as in the first diagram - will result in durability issues.

Assuming the rumours regarding the form factor of the 5th generation iPad are true we are likely to see new smart covers accompanying it's release.

Hopefully the colours get a refresh - forest green, cerulian blue, mauve and the return of orange would be most welcome.
post #16 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dunks View Post

...and the return of orange would be most welcome.

That would indeed be great. I also have high hopes for a ProductRED iPad.
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post #17 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by ascii View Post

It's a good idea to combine cover and charger (more like a spare battery really, since it itself needs to be charged). The idea mentioned of the cover including solar cells is a good one, that is when the idea would really come in to it's own.

With the latest advancements in solar I could definitely see that, though Apple would need to include that in the patent and they didn't.  This patent might have more to do with ways to have your ipad Cover double as a battery life extender, I doubt this is Apple's solution to implementing a charger.  In fact it would imply that just as easily a wireless base could charge your iPad instead of the cover, this is just another way to encourage buying Apple's branded cover.

 

The other functional use I see in this design is that a 3rd party could make a keyboard (i.e. ZAGG & Logitech) that in addition to charging the keyboard while plugged in it can also charge your iPad, so 1 thing to plug in keeps 2 charged.  I see a lot of possible outcomes for this patent and the main purpose of it might really be just to provide a multitude of options not one specific one.

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