Apple exploring universal power adapter to simultaneously charge MacBook, iPhone

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited January 2014
Apple has shown interest in building a new universal power adapter compatible with different DC voltage levels, allowing portable devices like a MacBook Pro, iPhone and iPad to be charged at the same time with just one wall plug.



The proposed invention was revealed this week in a new Apple patent application filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and discovered by AppleInsider. The filing, entitled "Multi-Output Power Supply," notes that most commercially available adapters do not include multiple outputs for supplying different DC voltage levels.



"As such, users may often purchase a device-specific adapter for powering a device," it states. "However, this requires that the user carry a separate adapter for each device, which can be cumbersome when a user is traveling, as many users forget to bring all of the associated adapters required for various devices."



Those adapters can also be relatively bulky, Apple notes, making them less than ideal to carry while traveling. The company also said that it can be confusing to users when multiple adapters are at use in a stationary location, like a home or office.



Apple's solution is a new universal power supply that would connect to multiple electronic devices. This would make it unnecessary for users to carry multiple power adapters while traveling with multiple portable devices.



The filing describes a single power adapter that includes a DC-to-DC converter, allowing it to meet the different voltage requirements of unique devices. The adapter could also intelligently control power supplied through its outlets to ensure that the correct voltage is sent out to appropriate devices.



In addition to iPods, iPhones and iPads, the application specifically notes that such a system could also be compatible with Apple's patented MagSafe technology, used to supply power to the company's MacBook line of notebooks.







The charging cable could include a power "brick" similar to the ones currently used with a MacBook Pro or MacBook Air. That brick would include the necessary voltage converter, and could allow another portable device like an iPhone to be plugged in to charge.



The proposed invention was first filed by Apple in May of 2010, and was made public this week. It is credited to Aleksandar Pance, Nicholas Alan Rundle, and John Douglas Field.



The latest application is not the first time Apple has shown interest in redesigning its power adapters to allow charging of multiple devices. In September, another filing showed the company is interested in building a universal charger that would allow portable devices to not only recharge their batteries, but also sync data while plugged in to the same adapter.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 38
    I'm not sure what the patent claims as new but this idea has been done before. About ten years or so ago, I think. The company that made then was Madsonline, and it was a nice charger. They can't do one now, unfortunately, because of Apple's patents on the MagSafe connector.
  • Reply 2 of 38
    irnchrizirnchriz Posts: 1,549member
    Twelvesouth have it all taken care of:



    http://www.twelvesouth.com/products/plugbug/
  • Reply 3 of 38
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by irnchriz View Post


    Twelvesouth have it all taken care of:



    http://www.twelvesouth.com/products/plugbug/



    Can't get over how sexy the Air is...
  • Reply 4 of 38
    dluxdlux Posts: 666member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by irnchriz View Post


    Twelvesouth have it all taken care of:



    http://www.twelvesouth.com/products/plugbug/



    I was just about to post the same link, but here's an image for the tl,dr crowd:









    I don't understand why this is such a big challenge. Perhaps in Apple's case the goal is keeping it compact.
  • Reply 5 of 38
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Dlux View Post






    I don't understand why this is such a big challenge. Perhaps in Apple's case the goal is keeping it compact.



    might have something to do with power draw...but at the same time I have no actual clue wtf I'm talking about in this regard. lol
  • Reply 6 of 38
    hill60hill60 Posts: 6,989member
    Macbook plugged into power adapter using one wall socket.



    iPhone plugged into MacBook USB port.



    Hey, I've been using one socket for over three years.
  • Reply 7 of 38
    dluxdlux Posts: 666member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by hill60 View Post


    Macbook plugged into power adapter using one wall socket.



    iPhone plugged into MacBook USB port.



    Hey, I've been using one socket for over three years.



    That Macbook and it's charger brick make for a pretty bulky iPhone charger, if that's the only part you need!



    (Also, do the current MacBook USB ports still deliver juice if the machine is asleep? My older Powerbook doesn't.)
  • Reply 8 of 38
    They could possibly make the iPhone charge faster if it wasn't limited by USB voltages and current...
  • Reply 9 of 38
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,946member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Dlux View Post


    That Macbook and it's charger brick make for a pretty bulky iPhone charger, if that's the only part you need!



    (Also, do the current MacBook USB ports still deliver juice if the machine is asleep? My older Powerbook doesn't.)



    I think so, but I haven't tried in a while.



    The problem I see is the dock cords are so short that connecting directly to the power brick means putting the device on the floor near the brick (bad idea) or the brick and device on a table, which can shorten the effective cord length from the brick to the wall.
  • Reply 10 of 38
    Just replace the dock connector with a Thunderbolt MagSafe port.



    Apple has already looked into a new enhanced MagSafe connecter that has an optical port in the middle used for Thunderbolt. This would allow for a single cable to connect a MacBook to a Cinema Display for both power and data.



    Similarly, an iPhone, iPod and iPad would benefit. Have the power adapter recognize which device is connected and then adjust the DC voltage accordingly.



    An iPhone dock with MagSafe would be great. No more fiddling to adjust it just right into the dock.
  • Reply 11 of 38
    drdoppiodrdoppio Posts: 1,132member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    ...

    The proposed invention was revealed this week in a new Apple patent application filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and discovered by AppleInsider. The filing, entitled "Multi-Output Power Supply," notes that most commercially available adapters do not include multiple outputs for supplying different DC voltage levels...



    How is this an invention if it has been around for a while?



    http://www.amazon.com/Dell-Laptop-Ch.../dp/B004U5Y2NM
  • Reply 12 of 38
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    I'd like to see the power bricks change design. Noe that notebooks are so thin I'd love to see the power bricks become thinner, too, even if that means they have a larger footprint. Just easier to slide into computer bags.





    Quote:
    Originally Posted by iPedro View Post


    Apple has already looked into a new enhanced MagSafe connecter that has an optical port in the middle used for Thunderbolt. This would allow for a single cable to connect a MacBook to a Cinema Display for both power and data.



    They even have a patent for it.
  • Reply 13 of 38
    Holy Smokes!!!
  • Reply 14 of 38
    I'm fine with two separate cables. I don't want an universal one.
  • Reply 15 of 38
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by ghostface147 View Post


    I'm fine with two separate cables. I don't want an universal one.



    As much as Apple wants to make the Mac into just another device I don't see a universal cable between the iPod Nano and MBP happening. Even with Thunderbolt's increased power throughput, double that if USB3.0, it's still only 10W.
  • Reply 16 of 38
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by irnchriz View Post


    Twelvesouth have it all taken care of:



    http://www.twelvesouth.com/products/plugbug/





    that doesn't work with the long power cord.
  • Reply 17 of 38
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by solipsism View Post


    They even have a patent for it.



    And that's the last thing we need to see; fragmentation of Thunderbolt.



    Sony already tried and they've kicked themselves in the genitals for it.
  • Reply 18 of 38
    dluxdlux Posts: 666member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post


    The problem I see is the dock cords are so short that connecting directly to the power brick means putting the device on the floor near the brick (bad idea) or the brick and device on a table, which can shorten the effective cord length from the brick to the wall.



    http://www.buy.com/prod/the-white-10...225631487.html



    (There are others available as well.)
  • Reply 19 of 38
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,946member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Dlux View Post


    http://www.buy.com/prod/the-white-10...225631487.html



    (There are others available as well.)



    Thank you! They're a lot harder to find than they should be.



    I have Griffin's 10ft dock cable, but the shell on the dock end is so big that it doesn't fit through the cases I've tried because it's not standard. This one looks it's more normal sized.
  • Reply 20 of 38
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post


    And that's the last thing we need to see; fragmentation of Thunderbolt.



    Sony already tried and they've kicked themselves in the genitals for it.



    It doesn't seem like this implementation would fragment Thunderbolt. It would just be built into the pre-existing MagSafe receptacle.



    If you use it on an older computer, it would still transfer just power. I can see why the marketers called it Thunderbolt though!
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