Apple's research of Apple Watch charging coil use for haptic feedback could lead to thinne...

Posted:
in General Discussion edited October 2020
Apple is exploring using the wireless charging coil on an Apple Watch to also provide haptic feedback, potentially leading to smaller and thinner wearables.

Credit: Andrew O'Hara, AppleInsider
Credit: Andrew O'Hara, AppleInsider


Current Apple wearables are outfitted with a charging coil assembly to allow for wireless charging. But that component only provides charging at this point, and Apple is developing technology that could allow it to serve a double purpose.

In a patent application titled "Electronic Device with Coil for Wireless Charging and Haptic Outputs," published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Oct. 15, Apple details a way to use the inductive charging case as part of a device's haptic actuator. Essentially, using the coil to provide haptic feedback.

"Using the same coil for both wireless battery charging and haptic output operations may help reduce the size and weight of devices, as a common component may be leveraged for multiple uses," Apple notes of the potential for the technology.

A figure depicting the dual-purpose haptic and charging system. Credit: Apple
A figure depicting the dual-purpose haptic and charging system. Credit: Apple


However, traditional coils used in wireless charging systems aren't automatically suitable for a haptic actuation system. Apple writes that "the positioning of magnets, ferromagnetic materials, or ferrite, which may be used as part of a haptic output system, when positioned proximate a conventional charging coil, may be detrimental to the operation of the charging system."

To mitigate that, the patent envisions a system that could operate in different modes. Although the coil itself would be shared between the two devices, the patent notes that each system -- both haptic actuation and wireless charging -- could have dedicated components. Both systems would provide their respective function with the shared components.

In a charging mode, the coil would be "configured to inductively couple to an output coil ... of the external charging device ... in order to receive power from the output coil." In haptic output mode, it would operate in conjunction with the haptic output system to "cause, trigger, initiate, or otherwise produce a haptic output."

As far as how it would do, the patent contends that the coil be energized "in a manner that causes a haptic actuator component to produce a haptic output," whether through magnetic attraction, reluctance forces, or similar forces.

Interestingly, the patent doesn't stop at smartwatches, and points out that a similar system could be used on an iPhone or iPad. Apple just recently announced its new iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro models, which sport a MagSafe feature that brings Apple Watch-like wireless charging to the company's handsets.

The patent lists Benjamin G. Jackson; Brenton A. Baugh; Brian T. Gleeson; Steven J. Taylor; and Thayne M. Miller as its inventors. All have been involved in Apple haptic and Taptic Engine research in the past, including for devices like the iPhone and the Apple Pencil.

Apple files numerous patent applications weekly, and there's no guarantee that the technology described in them will ever make it to market. Similarly, patent applications don't give any indication when such features could arrive.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 7
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 33,061member
    If they could pull this off it would be significant. But rather than making the watch thinner, I’d rather a bigger battery. I’ve turned the always on display off on my Watch 6 as I did with my 5 previously. I don’t know why John Gruber is so enthusiastic about it. It seems to me that’s it’s mostly a feature that makes some coming from mechanical watches happy. Though, I haven’t missed it from my mechanical watches, which I’ve sold.

    I’ve found the feature to be almost worthless. The problem is, as it alway was with mechanical faces, that most of the time the face isn’t in position for you to see it without turning your hand anyway. And when you have a long sleeve on, most of the time you can’t even see the watch at all. So unless you position your hand unnaturally for the specific purpose of seeing the face without having to turn your wrist, it doesn’t work.

    it’s more a state of mind, than a useful feature most of the time. And for the diminished battery life, not a worthwhile one, at least, not for me.
    razorpitinTIMidatorwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 7
    XedXed Posts: 1,053member
    melgross said:
    If they could pull this off it would be significant. But rather than making the watch thinner, I’d rather a bigger battery. I’ve turned the always on display off on my Watch 6 as I did with my 5 previously. I don’t know why John Gruber is so enthusiastic about it. It seems to me that’s it’s mostly a feature that makes some coming from mechanical watches happy. Though, I haven’t missed it from my mechanical watches, which I’ve sold.

    I’ve found the feature to be almost worthless. The problem is, as it alway was with mechanical faces, that most of the time the face isn’t in position for you to see it without turning your hand anyway. And when you have a long sleeve on, most of the time you can’t even see the watch at all. So unless you position your hand unnaturally for the specific purpose of seeing the face without having to turn your wrist, it doesn’t work.

    it’s more a state of mind, than a useful feature most of the time. And for the diminished battery life, not a worthwhile one, at least, not for me.
    I'm glad the feature is there as I know many were on the fence about smart watches because the display wasn't as glanceable, but I'm like you, I'd rather maximize my battery life than have it on. I didn't even have raise-to-wake enabled because tapping the Digital Crown is easy enough for me.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 7
    JapheyJaphey Posts: 906member
    Hopefully this will lead to stronger haptic feedback on the Watch. With the current setup, I can barely feel the haptics at all even when set to prominent. One of the reasons I wanted the Watch in the first place was for the silent alarm feature. Unfortunately, it has never worked for me as I had hoped. 
    Beats
  • Reply 4 of 7
    cg27cg27 Posts: 127member
    Wonder if Apple could have the new MagSafe on the iPhone 12 charge an AppleWatch directly.  If not iPhone 12 or AW 6 then future iterations.  This would eliminate the concern of remembering to charge the watch daily and the need to carry a watch charger when traveling.

    And if your band is a Milanese loop or some other permanent loop band it could still fit around the phone, so no band removal needed (unless if you have a tiny band trying to wrap around an iP12 Pro Max, but then only one end of the band would need to be disconnected).
    edited October 2020 watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 7
    BeatsBeats Posts: 2,550member
    The bump on the bottom side is like the camera bump. Let's get rid of it!
  • Reply 6 of 7
    less space for other components = more space for battery. i’m all for it. glad that apple engineers are always thinking of ways to innovate. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 7
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 33,061member
    Beats said:
    The bump on the bottom side is like the camera bump. Let's get rid of it!
    That bump allows the sensors to have tighter, more reliable contact. It’s a strong technical reason for it, and it should remain, until Apple can figure out a way to do without it. At any rate, you never see it when you wear the watch. That’s from years of personal experience.
    edited October 2020 watto_cobrajony0
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