NYT: Apple looking into solar, wireless inductive charging for 'iWatch'

Posted:
in General Discussion edited February 2014
A New York Times report published on Sunday claims inside knowledge of Apple's plans for the so-called "iWatch," saying the wearable device will incorporate inductive wireless charging, a curved display and possibly solar panels.

Wearable Device


Citing people familiar with Apple's rumored iWatch project, The New York Times reports the company is investigating multiple methods of improving user experience by increasing battery life and ease of charging. Some of the methods described include integrated solar panels and inductive charging, technologies Apple has yet to include in a consumer product.

Power management has become a major hurdle for manufacturers looking to satisfy consumer expectations of generational device overhauls. Many expect new products to have improved performance in smaller form factors while at the same time maintaining, or improving upon, battery life. Unfortunately, battery technology traditionally lags behind performance advancements, prompting companies like Apple to rely on clever hardware and software design to save power.

The publication cites Nest cofounder and "father of the iPod" Tony Fadell as saying Apple tried for years to put a "smarter" battery in the iPhone and iPod product lineups, including solar power technology, but an adequate solution was never found. He notes that a majority of users keep phones and other portables in their pocket or bag, making a light-based charging system somewhat impractical.

While the unnamed source claims one option would be the inclusion of solar cells disposed in a layer of the iWatch display, as seen in a 2013 Apple patent, existing solar technology is not efficient enough to charge a device with the features many expect to come built into the iWatch.

Perhaps the most believable of the source's claims is a magnetic induction charging method, a technology for which Apple has a number of patents. The technology allows a device equipped with special equipment to charge wirelessly when in range of a near-field magnetic resonance (NFMR) transmitter.

Low-power devices like electric toothbrushes have successfully used the technique to trickle charge on-board batteries, while recent advancements have upped power output to levels adequate for charging smartphones. For example, Nokia's Lumia 920 smartphone comes with the tech built-in.

AppleInsider was first to discover what are now being referred to as "iWatch" patents, including a property for a wearable wristwatch design with flexible display and kinetic charging systems.

Wearable Device Display
Illustration of wearable device with display (402), kinetic energy gathering device (502),
wireless antennas (506), connector, (508) and battery (504).


Apple holds a number of exotic power management patents, including a version of the "shake to charge" method readily used in quartz wristwatch designs. While efficient, it remains unclear if the iWatch will sport a chassis large enough to carry a generator and storage system capable of impacting battery performance.

At this point, everything "known" about the iWatch is rumor and speculation as no hard evidence pertaining to the purported device has surfaced. Apple could very well be experimenting with a number of different designs, including solar-powered iterations, but there is no guarantee that such tech will make its way into a final production model.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 40
    "Citing people familiar with the matter..."

    If only that worked in court.
  • Reply 2 of 40
    How long before Samsung sends out a press release saying they're doing the same thing.
  • Reply 3 of 40
    Originally Posted by robotstorm View Post

    How long before Samsung sends out a press release saying they're doing the same thing.

     

    They’re already busy setting back the date and time on all of their servers so that the future e-mails they send out about their knockoff product are backdated. That way they can claim “We were working on it BEFORE Apple!” in the inevitable lawsuit.

  • Reply 4 of 40
    So the speculation over possible iWatch features has reached fever pitch.

    Hopefully, with convincing-sounding arguments for improbable uses of technology that almost exists at a level to be successful in the marketplace, "analysts" may be able to make a profit off the inevitable stock tank when the final product "under-delivers".

    It happened with the iPhone (what, no hardware keyboard!?!) and the iPad (what, just a big iPod touch!?!) and the Apple TV (what, no hardware display!?!), and it'll happen again.

    At first.

    Then the software will kick in.
    And we'll all be floored again.

    Maybe Pebble will be bought by HP? Google? Let's hope not, for their sake.
  • Reply 5 of 40

    Still can't get my head around this iWatch idea.

     

    To get people to start wearing watches again it would have to be cheap... and very functional with a lot of practical applications.

     

    Not saying Apple couldn't do it but I keep thinking about how uncomfortable it would be to have something on my wrist being anything other than a watch.

  • Reply 6 of 40

    The iWatch will also include a microwave oven.

  • Reply 7 of 40
    jakebjakeb Posts: 557member
    Still can't get my head around this iWatch idea.

    To get people to start wearing watches again it would have to be cheap... and very functional with a lot of practical applications.

    Not saying Apple couldn't do it but I keep thinking about how uncomfortable it would be to have something on my wrist being anything other than a watch.

    People stopped wearing watches because they already had a thing that told them the time -- their phone. This will do much much more than tell the time. The "watch" name is a red herring. This is an entirely new thing and comparing it to a watch is like saying in 2007 "I don't know why Apple is releasing this new thing, people stopped carry pocket watches years ago"
  • Reply 8 of 40
    enzosenzos Posts: 344member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by jakeb View Post





    People stopped wearing watches because they already had a thing that told them the time -- their phone. This will do much much more than tell the time. The "watch" name is a red herring. This is an entirely new thing and comparing it to a watch is like saying in 2007 "I don't know why Apple is releasing this new thing, people stopped carry pocket watches years ago"

    Exactly right! It might feature a watch-face for time-tellling and it may act as a reminder/scheduler but it will be the connected collection of functions that people will wear it for. Health monitor, work-out kinetics monitor, credit card, TV remote, Mac remote, lighting/air-con remote, ...  

  • Reply 9 of 40
    asciiascii Posts: 5,941member

    If they are serious about it being an exercise device, then the only way to charge it should be by moving your arms.

  • Reply 10 of 40
    The more the New York Times writes about Apple's possible iWatch, the more I feel dread about what it's other reporters are preparing to write about after the supposed iWatch is released. There will be article after article after article about working conditions in Apple supplier plants in China. Nothing or very close to nothing will be written about Apple's competitors having the same or worse working conditions.
  • Reply 11 of 40
    The more the New York Times writes about Apple's possible iWatch, the more I feel dread about what it's other reporters are preparing to write about after the supposed iWatch is released. There will be article after article after article about working conditions in Apple supplier plants in China. Nothing or very close to nothing will be written about Apple's competitors having the same or worse working conditions.

    IMO, the NY Times' reputation is already tainted with their terribly biased stories. Not really a news organization as much as a clickbait generator.
  • Reply 12 of 40
    asdasdasdasd Posts: 5,312member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by enzos View Post

     

     it may act as a reminder/scheduler but it will be the connected collection of functions that people will wear it for. Health monitor, work-out kinetics monitor, credit card, TV remote, Mac remote, lighting/air-con remote, ...  


     

    It will do everything except tell the time
  • Reply 13 of 40
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member
    So basically this isn't a NYT report on Apple's rumored "iWatch" but a genetic story on battery technology sprinkled in with unnamed sources claiming they know what Apple's future plans are.
  • Reply 14 of 40
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by TimmyDax View Post



    Maybe Pebble will be bought by HP? Google? Let's hope not, for their sake.

     

    You do realize that a company being bought by another company is the their decision right? They can't just be bought without their approval.

  • Reply 15 of 40
    irelandireland Posts: 17,620member

    My presumption all along with iWatch was inductive charging. I still say, though, my ideal iWatch would mainly be a music playing iPod-killer, with sensing and notifications as the icing on the cake. That'd be a real reason me me to own one, because it'd be great not needing an iPhone or an iPod while going jogging or being active, simply instead using your watch and a new kind of wireless EarPods that inductively+magnetically charge to some kind of dock along with your iWatch. It'd be a more effective, more efficient type of music player I think. No wires dangling, nothing clipped on your garments swinging around, with no requirement to go into your pocket to change songs and look at what you're about to select.

  • Reply 16 of 40
    rolyroly Posts: 66member
    I still don't get why people claim nobody wears a watch anymore. There are plenty of people who do. The whole argument about using your phone to check the time of day and doing away with a wristwatch seems crazy to me. How convenient is it to take your phone out of jeans pockets? I for one do wear a watch, it's more convenient and as a motorcycle rider lets me glance quickly to see what time it is; and also as a fashion accessory. If Apple do bring out some sort of 'watch' I'll be wearing one and a regular timepiece. Agree with the comments though that indeed it does need to do much more than telling the time and alerting the wearer to calls and messages. How about a solar + kinetic + battery watch with inductive charging, Bluetooth LE, one week battery life, health and fitness capabilities built in and Siri. Would be great to be able to add a contact to the iPhone by simply talking to the watch, as an example.
  • Reply 17 of 40
    ireland wrote: »
    My presumption all along with iWatch was inductive charging. I still say, though, my ideal iWatch would mainly be a music playing iPod-killer, with sensing and notifications as the icing on the cake. That'd be a real reason me me to own one, because it'd be great not needing an iPhone or an iPod while going jogging or being active, simply instead using your watch and a new kind of wireless EarPods that inductively+magnetically charge to some kind of dock along with your iWatch. It'd be a more effective, more efficient type of music player I think. No wires dangling, nothing clipped on your garments swinging around, with no requirement to go into your pocket to change songs and look at what you're about to select.

    Nah cause they could just release those same headphones to work with your phone. You'd need a reason to buy the watch... The healthbook app seems the most likely to me so far, especially if the watch can read certain vitals
  • Reply 18 of 40
    ireland wrote: »
    My presumption all along with iWatch was inductive charging. I still say, though, my ideal iWatch would mainly be a music playing iPod-killer, with sensing and notifications as the icing on the cake. That'd be a real reason me me to own one, because it'd be great not needing an iPhone or an iPod while going jogging or being active, simply instead using your watch and a new kind of wireless EarPods that inductively+magnetically charge to some kind of dock along with your iWatch. It'd be a more effective, more efficient type of music player I think. No wires dangling, nothing clipped on your garments swinging around, with no requirement to go into your pocket to change songs and look at what you're about to select.

    Interesting. What will hold the earbuds in place? If they slip and fall out, they're gone, no?
  • Reply 19 of 40
    irelandireland Posts: 17,620member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by justp1ayin View Post



    Nah cause they could just release those same headphones to work with your phone. You'd need a reason to buy the watch. The healthbook app seems the most likely to me so far, especially if the watch can read certain vitals

     

    That's true, but the headphones could come only with the watch purchase bundled with the product. And, yes, they could then work with your phone, but if you bought the watch you'd probably want to wear it. Also, you don't think a music playing watch isn't a viable reason to buy the watch? I certainly do. I know lots of people who don't like their phone with them while jogging or exercising, and they all wear iPods. But currently even the smallest iPod needs to be clipped to your clothing it a headphone wires getting in the way often. This setup would make more sense for active people. Most people buying music playing iPods now are buying them solely for their exercise routine. All of the sensors will be too also necessary for it to be a great fitness product. The music is part of that experience. This would truly separate the iWatch product from the Pebbles and the Gears of this world.

  • Reply 20 of 40
    irelandireland Posts: 17,620member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by anantksundaram View Post



    Interesting. What will hold the earbuds in place? If they slip and fall out, they're gone, no?

     

    That's what Apple would need to figure out. And an elegant way of doing it too.

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