AirPods Wireless Charging Case may not need precise location on a charging pad

Posted:
in General Discussion
A future version of the AirPods Wireless Charging Case may not necessarily require users to carefully line it up on a wireless charger for it to receive power, with Apple proposing a system where it could be placed in practically any position on an AirPower-style charging pad and still be able to inductively charge.




One of the issues with current wireless charging systems is that it requires a precise alignment between the charging coils in the charger and the receiving device in order for power to be transferred. If the two elements aren't lined up closely, the power transfer could take longer and potentially waste energy in the process.

While this isn't an issue for devices like the Apple Watch, which uses magnets to both ensure a close connection and sufficient alignment, not everything can use magnets in such a way.

In an Apple patent published by the US Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday for an "Inductively chargeable earbud case," Apple suggests a method of allowing for the most efficient charging to take place on a multi-coil charging mat, regardless of how the receiving device is oriented.

To illustrate the process, Apple's patent uses images of a charging mat somewhat reminiscent of the AirPower charging pad, which is equipped with multiple small coils overlapping each other, as well as the AirPods Wireless Charging Case.

A version of the AirPods Wireless Charging Case with two coils at the base. Another version has two longer coils running at the sides.
A version of the AirPods Wireless Charging Case with two coils at the base. Another version has two longer coils running at the sides.


Apple's solution is to use a pair of small charging coils in the case, occupying the bottom left and right hand corners of the rear section, typically the side that would make contact with a charging pad. Both coils would be capable of receiving a charge from a charging pad, effectively doubling its chances of being in an optimal charging position.

A second version uses two longer coils positioned towards the sides and running almost the entire length of the case. While taking up more room, the size would feasibly allow it to be more usable in a wider variety of charging positions.

While both points are capable of being used for charging, only one actually does get used, with a built in system switching between accepting power from one of the two receiving coils depending on how much power is able to be transferred at a time. Typically the weaker or more inefficient of the two coils would be disabled.

An example of an AirPower-style charging pad with multiple overlapping charging coils, and how the theoretical case design could function on it.
An example of an AirPower-style charging pad with multiple overlapping charging coils, and how the theoretical case design could function on it.


In one quite telling image, Apple displays the AirPower-like charging pad with a total of 16 charging coils, spread in three rows across the accessory's length and overlapping in sections. With the suggested dual coil charging system in the case, Apple suggests it would not matter if the case is placed lined up properly or at an angle across the entire surface of the pad, as it would mean at least one of the two receiving coils would be in a sufficient-enough position for charge.

In positions where both coils are capable of taking an adequate amount of power for recharging, again a switching system would disable the weaker of the two coils. Such a system would also allow for failure in a multi-coil pad similar to the hypothetical version depicted, as if one transmitting coil failed and one of the receiving points happened to be placed on top, there is a high likelihood the other receiving point would be in a position to accept charge from a functioning transmitting coil.

Apple files numerous patents on a weekly basis, but while the contents of the patents and applications show areas of interest for the company, it is not guaranteed to make an appearance in a future product or service.

Apple is currently expected to release its AirPods Wireless Charging Case and a version of the AirPower charging pad sometime this year, following some technical hurdles. While Apple has suggested that the AirPower could be used to charge multiple items at the same time, it is ultimately unknown if it has elected to use a system similar to the one outlined in the patent, both for it and the case.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 10
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,568member
    Did anyone expect it would? Wasn’t the whole point of AirPower and Apple’s acquisition of the start up so that an intelligent Qi-based inductive charging pad would allow for targeted power flow that would not only allow for “imprecise” placement of items, but also allow for other conductive items, like keys and coins to be on the pad without being a safety risk?
    tjwolfMetriacanthosaurus
  • Reply 2 of 10
    tjwolftjwolf Posts: 251member
    Echoing the comment by @Soli about how that (no need for exact placement) was always the intent of the charging pad to begin with, so no surprise there.

    But looking at the figures describing the two coils that this wireless charging case might have, I started wondering whether putting all this extra tech into what is already a pretty compact device might have an effect on the capacity of the charging case?  Assuming the current case's interior volume is mainly filled with battery, there obviously won't be as much volume with those coils in there.  I think I'd rather have more capacity than a wirelessly charged case.

    Maybe I'm a curmudgeon, but I don't really see much point behind wireless charging mats at home.  Pictures always show an iPhone, an Apple Watch, and an AirPods case on such a mat.  But let's look at these: the AirPod case only needs charging, what, once a week?  And then it's just plugging in a bi-directional lightning plug, which isn't much hassle (unlike mUSB) to begin with.  Apple Watch?  While I charge my watch every night, the magnetic charger it comes with is just as easy to connect as a lightning cable.  Putting the watch on a mat would actually be *harder* - since it would require me completely unbuckle whatever watch band is being used.  I don't know about you, but neither my Milanese loops nor the Nike velcro-based bands are a joy to completely undo - better to just open them wide to slip out of.  Lastly, there's the iPhone: I use a stick-on pouch on the back of my naked phone.  Obviously that wouldn't work with wireless charging.  Anyone using cases of some thickness would probably face similar issues.  Meanwhile, a lightning plug connects you in 1/4sec.  And wired charging is always going to be faster than wireless.

    So what problem does this charging mat solve?  Elimination some wires on your night table?
    Soli
  • Reply 3 of 10
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,013member
    Given the name it should not even need to be touching ... when will we get wi-Tricity charging?/cue up the Tesla invented it/it will kill people with pacemakers and it's science fiction comments ;)
    edited February 19
  • Reply 4 of 10
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,568member
    tjwolf said:
    Apple Watch?  While I charge my watch every night, the magnetic charger it comes with is just as easy to connect as a lightning cable.  Putting the watch on a mat would actually be *harder* - since it would require me completely unbuckle whatever watch band is being used.  I don't know about you, but neither my Milanese loops nor the Nike velcro-based bands are a joy to completely undo - better to just open them wide to slip out of.
    That's an issue that I've seen a lot of people whom I consider to be tech minded that have 1) waited for AirPower, 2) chosen to not get any of the other cheap and convenience Qi-based changers to work with their capable iPhone, 3) use Apple Watch bands that are metal and looped which I assume will not work with AirPower unless they've done something super secret with their materials or are defying laws of physics.

    I'm surprised Apple hasn't addressed this since those bands come with their pricer Watches. Since AirPower has a Lightning plug in the back you could have an upright Watch stand to be placed in the back as a pass-through device in-between the Lightning cable and AirPower mat.


    MacPro said:
    Given the name it should not even need to be touching ... when will we get wi-Tricity charging?/cue up the Tesla invented it/it will kill people with pacemakers and it's science fiction comments ;)
    They aren't touching. There is no metal to metal contact, but the electromagnetic field is small due to rate of return on energy the further away you go. If you want to strip casings from devices so you can hover an inductive coil barely over a charger you can see this is the case.
  • Reply 5 of 10
    Soli said:
    Did anyone expect it would? Wasn’t the whole point of AirPower and Apple’s acquisition of the start up so that an intelligent Qi-based inductive charging pad would allow for targeted power flow that would not only allow for “imprecise” placement of items, but also allow for other conductive items, like keys and coins to be on the pad without being a safety risk?
    Exactly. The "point" of AirPower is to solve a list of problems with typical Qi chargers. Placement being one of them.
  • Reply 6 of 10
    anomeanome Posts: 1,243member
    Given that the patents only just seem to have been granted for AirPower et al, is this why it's taken so long? Everyone seemed to think there was a technical problem, but were they actually waiting on patent protection for the design before letting them loose on the public?
  • Reply 7 of 10
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,013member
    Soli said:
    tjwolf said:
    Apple Watch?  While I charge my watch every night, the magnetic charger it comes with is just as easy to connect as a lightning cable.  Putting the watch on a mat would actually be *harder* - since it would require me completely unbuckle whatever watch band is being used.  I don't know about you, but neither my Milanese loops nor the Nike velcro-based bands are a joy to completely undo - better to just open them wide to slip out of.
    That's an issue that I've seen a lot of people whom I consider to be tech minded that have 1) waited for AirPower, 2) chosen to not get any of the other cheap and convenience Qi-based changers to work with their capable iPhone, 3) use Apple Watch bands that are metal and looped which I assume will not work with AirPower unless they've done something super secret with their materials or are defying laws of physics.

    I'm surprised Apple hasn't addressed this since those bands come with their pricer Watches. Since AirPower has a Lightning plug in the back you could have an upright Watch stand to be placed in the back as a pass-through device in-between the Lightning cable and AirPower mat.


    MacPro said:
    Given the name it should not even need to be touching ... when will we get wi-Tricity charging?/cue up the Tesla invented it/it will kill people with pacemakers and it's science fiction comments ;)
    They aren't touching. There is no metal to metal contact, but the electromagnetic field is small due to rate of return on energy the further away you go. If you want to strip casings from devices so you can hover an inductive coil barely over a charger you can see this is the case.
    Right but I'd like a ten-foot radius air gap charging ability :)
  • Reply 8 of 10
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,568member
    MacPro said:
    Soli said:
    tjwolf said:
    Apple Watch?  While I charge my watch every night, the magnetic charger it comes with is just as easy to connect as a lightning cable.  Putting the watch on a mat would actually be *harder* - since it would require me completely unbuckle whatever watch band is being used.  I don't know about you, but neither my Milanese loops nor the Nike velcro-based bands are a joy to completely undo - better to just open them wide to slip out of.
    That's an issue that I've seen a lot of people whom I consider to be tech minded that have 1) waited for AirPower, 2) chosen to not get any of the other cheap and convenience Qi-based changers to work with their capable iPhone, 3) use Apple Watch bands that are metal and looped which I assume will not work with AirPower unless they've done something super secret with their materials or are defying laws of physics.

    I'm surprised Apple hasn't addressed this since those bands come with their pricer Watches. Since AirPower has a Lightning plug in the back you could have an upright Watch stand to be placed in the back as a pass-through device in-between the Lightning cable and AirPower mat.


    MacPro said:
    Given the name it should not even need to be touching ... when will we get wi-Tricity charging?/cue up the Tesla invented it/it will kill people with pacemakers and it's science fiction comments ;)
    They aren't touching. There is no metal to metal contact, but the electromagnetic field is small due to rate of return on energy the further away you go. If you want to strip casings from devices so you can hover an inductive coil barely over a charger you can see this is the case.
    Right but I'd like a ten-foot radius air gap charging ability :)
    It would be great, but I’m not even convinced that we’ll see that for consumer devices within our lifetime.
  • Reply 9 of 10
    Soli said:
    MacPro said:
    Soli said:
    tjwolf said:
    Apple Watch?  While I charge my watch every night, the magnetic charger it comes with is just as easy to connect as a lightning cable.  Putting the watch on a mat would actually be *harder* - since it would require me completely unbuckle whatever watch band is being used.  I don't know about you, but neither my Milanese loops nor the Nike velcro-based bands are a joy to completely undo - better to just open them wide to slip out of.
    That's an issue that I've seen a lot of people whom I consider to be tech minded that have 1) waited for AirPower, 2) chosen to not get any of the other cheap and convenience Qi-based changers to work with their capable iPhone, 3) use Apple Watch bands that are metal and looped which I assume will not work with AirPower unless they've done something super secret with their materials or are defying laws of physics.

    I'm surprised Apple hasn't addressed this since those bands come with their pricer Watches. Since AirPower has a Lightning plug in the back you could have an upright Watch stand to be placed in the back as a pass-through device in-between the Lightning cable and AirPower mat.


    MacPro said:
    Given the name it should not even need to be touching ... when will we get wi-Tricity charging?/cue up the Tesla invented it/it will kill people with pacemakers and it's science fiction comments ;)
    They aren't touching. There is no metal to metal contact, but the electromagnetic field is small due to rate of return on energy the further away you go. If you want to strip casings from devices so you can hover an inductive coil barely over a charger you can see this is the case.
    Right but I'd like a ten-foot radius air gap charging ability :)
    It would be great, but I’m not even convinced that we’ll see that for consumer devices within our lifetime.
    Not with that attitude. 
  • Reply 10 of 10
    Soli said:
    MacPro said:
    Soli said:
    tjwolf said:
    Apple Watch?  While I charge my watch every night, the magnetic charger it comes with is just as easy to connect as a lightning cable.  Putting the watch on a mat would actually be *harder* - since it would require me completely unbuckle whatever watch band is being used.  I don't know about you, but neither my Milanese loops nor the Nike velcro-based bands are a joy to completely undo - better to just open them wide to slip out of.
    That's an issue that I've seen a lot of people whom I consider to be tech minded that have 1) waited for AirPower, 2) chosen to not get any of the other cheap and convenience Qi-based changers to work with their capable iPhone, 3) use Apple Watch bands that are metal and looped which I assume will not work with AirPower unless they've done something super secret with their materials or are defying laws of physics.

    I'm surprised Apple hasn't addressed this since those bands come with their pricer Watches. Since AirPower has a Lightning plug in the back you could have an upright Watch stand to be placed in the back as a pass-through device in-between the Lightning cable and AirPower mat.


    MacPro said:
    Given the name it should not even need to be touching ... when will we get wi-Tricity charging?/cue up the Tesla invented it/it will kill people with pacemakers and it's science fiction comments ;)
    They aren't touching. There is no metal to metal contact, but the electromagnetic field is small due to rate of return on energy the further away you go. If you want to strip casings from devices so you can hover an inductive coil barely over a charger you can see this is the case.
    Right but I'd like a ten-foot radius air gap charging ability :)
    It would be great, but I’m not even convinced that we’ll see that for consumer devices within our lifetime.
    I’m pretty certain that valid safety concerns will keep it at bay for a long time. We should be trying to minturize solar instead. The large front faces of Macs, iPads and iPhones would make spectacular solar receptors. 
Sign In or Register to comment.