Apple investigating inductive iPhone charging through headphones

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
Apple has shown interest in creating an inductive charging system, for portable devices like iPhones and iPods, that would involve using headphones to provide power to the device.



The concept was revealed in a new patent application made public this week by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and discovered by AppleInsider. Entitled "Using an Audio Cable as an Inductive Charging Coil," the invention describes winding an audio cable around a charging mechanism multiple times to form an inductive receiving coil.



In the application, Apple notes that inductive charging techniques have been employed with great success in electric toothbrushes. But a toothbrush can be recharged using a small inductive receiving coil because it is placed in the charging stand for many hours at a time and is only used for about two minutes.



For a device like a portable media player or cell phone, a significantly larger charging coil is required. Apple says that a receiving coil could be integrated into a device like an iPhone, but this would increase the size of the device.



Apple's proposed solution would involve winding an audio cable for an iPhone or iPod around a charging station. A magnetic field would be created through the charging mechanism, inducing a current in the receiving coil and recharging the battery in the portable device.



When the device is being charged, the headphones would remain plugged into the media player and the wires attached to the headphones would be wrapped around the charging tower. The user would then attach a contact from one of the earphones back to the iPhone or iPod, which would complete the inductive charging coil.







Simply wrapping the headphone wires around a charging tower could greatly increase the speed at which a device would be charged, when compared with the charging time of something like an electric toothbrush.



"Note that the speed of the inductive charging increases with the length of the inductive receiving coil," the application reads. "Consequently, a long receiving coil is desirable to achieve a reasonable charging rate, and such longer receiving coils can be hard to provide in a small electronic device.



"In a sense, using (an) audio cable... as the inductive receiving coil effectively provides a long receiving coil 'for free,' because the long audio cable... is already being used to carry audio signals."



The filing goes on to use the Palm Pre's method of inductive charing as an example of how "cumbersome" and "bulky" other methods can be. The Pre, for instance utilizes a snap-on attachment to facilitate charging.



"Moreover, for some extremely small media players, such as the iPod Shuffle, the weight of the media player is approximately the same weight of the headphones and associated cable," Apple wrote. "Hence, by using the headphones as inductive coils, an extremely small media player can effectively use about half of its mass as a charging coil."



The application notes that the charging tower could be configured to allow users to easily wrap the audio cable around it, by using a textured surface or placing grooves to allow the cable to rest on the tower without slipping.







Apple also said that the earphones included with an iPod or iPhone could include a conductive metal mesh screen that would also function as an electrical contact.



"This type of electrical contact (through the earphone mesh) can also be used to receive current for a conventional non-inductive charging system," it reads. "This eliminates the need to provide a separate interface to receive the charging current in a conventional charging system."



The proposed invention made public this week was first filed by Apple with the USPTO in February of 2010. It is credited to Fletcher R. Rothkopf, Anna-katrina Shedletsky, and Stephen Brian Lynch.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 39
    Palm did it years ago, and better.
  • Reply 2 of 39
    This just seems mad. A device will charge when docked with a standard connector, that's not exactly difficult to do.



    Wrapping the headphones around an extra device that sits on your desk has no benefit that I can see - just more clutter.



    I'm not saying induction can't be used somewhere but this doesn't seem to be the answer!!
  • Reply 3 of 39
    bilbo63bilbo63 Posts: 285member
    Another idea that will never see the light of day... At least not like this.



    The charging base that Palm devices and even my toothbrush use is a far more elegant solution.
  • Reply 4 of 39
    Yeah, kinduva dumb idea really.
  • Reply 5 of 39
    bsimpsenbsimpsen Posts: 220member
    I routinely listen to my iPod while it's docked, which would be impossible in this scheme. At first glance, this does appear to be nonsense. Perhaps the main claims for this invention (induction via the headphone cables) are a smoke screen for something else in the patent. A careful reading of the patent might reveal what it's really getting at.
  • Reply 6 of 39
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Freshmaker View Post


    Yeah, kinduva dumb idea really.



    The idea may be dumb. But preventing anybody else from using an improved form of the idea by getting to the patent office first?



    Maybe that is brilliant? Dunno. It is likely that many patents are filed to prevent others from developing similar ideas.
  • Reply 7 of 39
    cvaldes1831cvaldes1831 Posts: 1,832member
    The vast majority of Apple's patents do not see the light of a day in a shipping product. This will be another of them.
  • Reply 8 of 39
    reganregan Posts: 474member
    I agree. STUPID STUPID STUPID.



    Who is going to WRAP their headphones around a pole and then lay the ends on top of their iphone? It just seems awkward as hell not to mention totally pointless.



    Why do that, when you could just lay the iphone or ipod on top of the charging pad? Or next to it? Isnt that the whole point of this technology? To charge without wires? Lol.



    Just silly. And so UN-Apple like. There is NO WAY Steve Jobs would ever approve this "wrapping your headphones around a pole" idea.
  • Reply 9 of 39
    I don't see this one going anywhere.



    Personally, I usually throw Apple's headphones in a drawer and use higher quality earbuds. I note that many people I see in the gym are also using non-Apple headphones. I assume this method would not work as well with just any headphones.



    Simply placing your device on a charging plate - that I get. But wrapping and unwrapping a cable seems like more work than just plugging the phone in, and plugging it in is a faster charge method.
  • Reply 10 of 39
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 42,716member
    No longer content with patenting and making products from GOOD ideas, Apple has taken up also patenting all of the BAD ideas to force competitors to REALLY think outside Apple's box.
  • Reply 11 of 39
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Scaramanga89 View Post


    Palm did it years ago, and better.



    Please read the article before you comment next time dumbass.
  • Reply 12 of 39
    bdkennedy1bdkennedy1 Posts: 1,459member
    I don't see this happening because everything is going wireless.
  • Reply 13 of 39
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Scaramanga89 View Post


    Palm did it years ago, and better.



    you are right. there is also technology to attach this to the built in battery, by form of a thin sticker which has a power receiver and mini thin chipset.



    why would apple need to charge via headphones??



    Patents! Apple is loathe to spend $$ on anything that goes out the door to other companies, hence they absolutely love technology which allows them to get more $$ or prevent others from copying parts.



    Sorry, but it is way simpler to build in technology from Powermat type of charging.

    http://www.powermat.com/



    this is solely about $$. way easier to lay a phone down on a pad than put headphones i dont keep because i use bluetooth headsets.



    hell apple won't even let people have a removable battery like other phones. :-(
  • Reply 14 of 39
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Prof. Peabody View Post


    Please read the article before you comment next time dumbass.



    I did read it. Did you? We are talking about wireless inductive charging on a mobile device, ostensibly a mobile phone, and the first company, and still the only company, to provide a working elegant solution is Palm ,with the Pre and pixi, and now the Touchpad. Am I missing something?



    What's wrong Peabody - no defence to mount so it's just a personal insult? That's the domain of a, dare I say it, DUMBASS.
  • Reply 15 of 39
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by mitchelljd View Post


    you are right. there is also technology to attach this to the built in battery, by form of a thin sticker which has a power receiver and mini thin chipset.



    why would apple need to charge via headphones??



    Patents! Apple is loathe to spend $$ on anything that goes out the door to other companies, hence they absolutely love technology which allows them to get more $$ or prevent others from copying parts.



    Sorry, but it is way simpler to build in technology from Powermat type of charging.

    http://www.powermat.com/



    this is solely about $$. way easier to lay a phone down on a pad than put headphones i dont keep because i use bluetooth headsets.



    hell apple won't even let people have a removable battery like other phones. :-(



    Thanks for the powermat link.



    I just don't know about Apple's version, even if it will never see the light of day. Unless it is already built-in the phone, even the plugging the ios device to the wall seem more elegant and efficient solution.
  • Reply 16 of 39
    macslutmacslut Posts: 514member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Scaramanga89 View Post


    I did read it. Did you? We are talking about wireless inductive charging on a mobile device, ostensibly a mobile phone, and the first company, and still the only company, to provide a working elegant solution is Palm ,with the Pre and pixi, and now the Touchpad. Am I missing something?.



    Yes:



    "The filing goes on to use the Palm Pre's method of inductive charing as an example of how "cumbersome" and "bulky" other methods can be. The Pre, for instance utilizes a snap-on attachment to facilitate charging."



    And Palm (HP) isn't the only company doing this. You can get snap-on inductive chargers for the iPhone from 3rd parties.
  • Reply 17 of 39
    bwikbwik Posts: 551member
    Could user blood somehow be used to charge these devices?
  • Reply 18 of 39
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 42,716member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by bwik View Post


    Could user blood somehow be used to charge these devices?



    It's 2011, not 2075.
  • Reply 19 of 39
    macinthe408macinthe408 Posts: 1,050member
    A big ugly pile of tangled headphone cable wrapped around a phallic charging station next to a sleek, beautiful iPhone 5 would not look very Apple-y.



    I'm sure they'll take a pass on this one, tuck the patent in a drawer, then sue someone 10 years from now who comes up with the same thing (or vaguely similar). Hmmm, sounds like a familiar tactic these days...
  • Reply 20 of 39
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by macslut View Post


    Yes:



    "The filing goes on to use the Palm Pre's method of inductive charing as an example of how "cumbersome" and "bulky" other methods can be. The Pre, for instance utilizes a snap-on attachment to facilitate charging."



    And Palm (HP) isn't the only company doing this. You can get snap-on inductive chargers for the iPhone from 3rd parties.



    Except that the patent's description of HP/Palm's method is kind of BS. That "snap-on" attachment is the back cover of the phone which doesn't add to the bulk of the phone. The inductive charging backplate is standard on at least the Pre 2 and Pre 3, whereas other models need to buy it separately.



    Thus, I'd say that the OP you're responding to is correct in saying that HP has the most elegant version of inductive charging at this point considering it is a part of the phone, not a separate piece of gear.
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