Apple wireless battery charging experiments could end up in iWatch

JC Torres - Feb 3, 2014, 12:12 am CST
Apple wireless battery charging experiments could end up in iWatch

As mobile devices get more powerful and wearables start getting traction, the bottleneck of delivering a great user experience lies not on the processor anymore but on batteries. While other companies are sweating over the next battery revolution, Apple is reported to be taking a more muted approach and focusing on improving charging methods instead.

With smartwatches and smart glasses and other kinds of wearable technology entering mainstream consciousness, the question is no longer “how powerful is it?” but “how long before you start running for the nearest power outlet?” While majority of the technology involved has made major strides forward, battery technology has pretty much been stuck in the past. But while some are trying to push the technology forward by changing materials or manufacturing processes, other believe that the way forward is through incremental steps. And what could be more incremental than improving the way we charge those batteries.

Alternative means of charging devices that eschew the tangle of cables aren’t exactly new. We have wireless chargers, solar-powered chargers, and even more experimental ones that employ minuscule windmills. Apple is definitely no stranger to those attempts either. Former Apple VP Tony Fadell, credited for leading the development of the iPod and the iPhone, was reported to have toyed around with solar charging. That, however, proved to be an exercise in futility considering how these devices mostly ended up in pockets or bags anyway.

Wearables, particularly smartwatches, are changing the scene, however, and Apple is trying another stab at this problem, with an additional new method to boot. According to sources, Apple is testing new methods to charge the company’s much anticipated smartwatch, currently dubbed the iWatch. Both methods are actually not that new. One makes use of magnetic induction, where a device placed on a charging plate receives electrical charge via magnetic fields. The other involves once again solar power. Sources close to the matter hint that the iWatch will have a curved glass screen and a solar-charging layer, which, admittedly, will get more exposure compared to a smartphone.

Of course, these are all but unconfirmed tips, but Apple’s recent job listings also hint at that direction. Apple has hired former employees from the likes of Tesla and Toyota who specialize in battery design. The company also acquired last year low-energy chip specialist Passif Semiconductor and was also reported to be on the lookout for experts in solar energy. It’s definitely not a 100 percent confirmation, but it does paint a pretty picture of what we could expect, if not long for, when Apple does finally make its big iWatch reveal.

SOURCE: New York Times

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