Apple exploring double-duty NFC, inductive charging coil for smartwatches, mobile phones

Posted:
in iPhone edited August 2014
On the heels of a report suggesting that Apple's long-anticipated "iWatch" could be unveiled within the next two weeks, a new patent application published Thursday by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office shows that the company has continued to contemplate wireless charging solutions for just such a device.

A wristwatch-like device as illustrated in Apple's patent application
A wristwatch-like device as illustrated in Apple's patent application


The patent, entitled "wirelessly charged electronic device with shared inductor circuitry," describes a method in which inductive charging mechanisms can be made smaller in order to fit inside more diminutive wearables. Apple specifically calls out "wrist-watch devices, pendant devices, or other wearable...devices" alongside traditional portables like mobile phones.

Using a cable to charge these devices can be "unwieldy," Apple argues, but felt compelled to invent the new methods because current wireless charging circuitry may be too bulky.

Interestingly, the patent appears to focus on ways in which Apple could make use of inductors already present in devices, rather than duplicating hardware. The charging circuit could make use of the magnetic coils of a speaker, for instance, or NFC antennae.

"Switching circuitry in the wireless charging circuitry can selectively couple the capacitor to the inductor when wireless charging signals are being received and converted into power in the electronic device and can selectively isolate the inductor from the capacitor when it is desired to use the inductor as part of a speaker, vibrator, or near field communications circuit," the application reads.




The application was filed in February 2013 and Apple credits Jeffrey J. Terlizzi with the invention of U.S. Patent Application No. 13/776,436. Terlizzi's name is on a number of Apple patents, including the Lightning connector.

Apple has been investigating wireless charging technology for years, holding a bevy of patents on the subject covering both inductive and magnetic resonance charging. Most recently, the company won a patent for a charging dock that could switch between data synchronization, diagnostics, or charging based on the orientation of the device on the dock.

Comments

  • Reply 2 of 17
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 31,187member
    When they start getting similar wireless charging patents for TVs, lightbulbs, computers, electric cars... Brave new world, here we come!
  • Reply 3 of 17
    Well, I feel vindicated now
  • Reply 4 of 17
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 31,187member
    miss priss wrote: »
    Well, I feel vindicated now

    A patent is not a product, so you are not vindicated yet. ????
  • Reply 5 of 17
    shogunshogun Posts: 360member
    Maybe you can charge it on your wrist and get an MRI at the same time!
  • Reply 6 of 17
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 31,187member
    shogun wrote: »
    Maybe you can charge it on your wrist and get an MRI at the same time!

    ...or a tan!
  • Reply 7 of 17
    roakeroake Posts: 642member

    Doesn't seem efficient.  If this could work out to charging while you were walking around with the thing on your wrist, that would be nice.  As it stands, I believe all this would accomplish is take more time to charge when the watch is on the charger at night, a big inconvenience if you are trying to charge between meetings, for example.

  • Reply 8 of 17

    So your watch can be your NFC payment device too, so you don't have to pull the phone out. Maybe that's where Apple's NFC is going to be and not in the actual phone, though likely it will be in both.

  • Reply 9 of 17

    That's a very Apple-y solution.

  • Reply 10 of 17

    While I'm not a fan of inductive charging in general, I gotta admit it makes sense for a watch.

     

    I love the idea of using existing coils! It seems so obvious, but only after someone smart points it out! :)

  • Reply 11 of 17
    misamisa Posts: 827member
    While I'm not a fan of inductive charging in general, I gotta admit it makes sense for a watch.

    I love the idea of using existing coils! It seems so obvious, but only after someone smart points it out! :)

    Well of course it makes sense in a watch. It needs to be light and any physical connector is simply too large. Though ultimately I still feel that any kind of "smartwatch" is doomed in the marketplace due to the need to charge it to begin with. Regular watches last years on a battery. Even the Timex watch Microsoft was involved with got "obsoleted" when we went from CRT's to LCD's due to the communication's link being a rather unique wireless optical solution, but it still lasted the same amount of time on a battery as any other watch.

    Like what would be killer for a smart watch is solar/kinectic charging, with actual inductive charging being pulled out of ambient RF fields.
  • Reply 12 of 17
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Roake View Post

     

    Doesn't seem efficient.  If this could work out to charging while you were walking around with the thing on your wrist, that would be nice.  As it stands, I believe all this would accomplish is take more time to charge when the watch is on the charger at night, a big inconvenience if you are trying to charge between meetings, for example.


     

    I would suspect that the inductive charging ability is meant as a supplement to other traditional charging forms.  That way it's no less convenient in situations where it's impractical, and very useful in situations where it is practical.

     

    I always figured inductive would be a continuous top-me-off kind of charging.  With a charging station at my desk, one on my nightstand, and a third in the cigarette lighter jack in my car there's a good chance I'll rarely if ever need to tether the device to a physical cord.

     

    Even better would be if your iPhone/iPad could (optionally) send out the charge for the watch to pick up.  As long as the larger device had at least, say, 50% battery it could help out a watch that was running low.

  • Reply 13 of 17
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    1) NFC and inductive charging? Two things I'm told that will never exist on an iPhone. Not that this is proof that it will, but it is proof that Apple is at least spending time trying to come up with unique ways to incorporate these technologies.

    2) Each of these are potential reasons why the rumoured leaks show thick, ugly bands.
  • Reply 14 of 17
    wovelwovel Posts: 956member
    solipsismx wrote: »
    1) NFC and inductive charging? Two things I'm told that will never exist on an iPhone. Not that this is proof that it will, but it is proof that Apple is at least spending time trying to come up with unique ways to incorporate these technologies.

    2) Each of these are potential reasons why the rumoured leaks show thick, ugly bands.

    I have not seen a single part claiming to be a band for a watch or wrist device made by Apple. There have been lots of hideous markups made by amateur designers on the Internet. Do you have a link to a leaked part?
  • Reply 15 of 17
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    wovel wrote: »
    I have not seen a single part claiming to be a band for a watch or wrist device made by Apple. There have been lots of hideous markups made by amateur designers on the Internet. Do you have a link to a leaked part?

    I meant the bands on the back of the rumoured iPhone casing separating the metal backing, not a watch band.
  • Reply 16 of 17
    philboogiephilboogie Posts: 7,438member
    misa wrote: »
    Like what would be killer for a smart watch is solar/kinectic charging

    I think a watch is way too small for solar charging. Plus it's also often covered by my shirt sleeve.
  • Reply 17 of 17
    philboogie wrote: »
    misa wrote: »
    Like what would be killer for a smart watch is solar/kinectic charging

    I think a watch is way too small for solar charging. Plus it's also often covered by my shirt sleeve.

    Roll your sleeves up. Problem solved.
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