A patent newly published by the USPTO and filed by Apple in June reveals plans for a system through which devices could be charged by the movement of a person’s body, thanks to electromagnetic induction using printed coils. Such a system could potentially allow an iPhone, iPad or any portable device to build up a charge as a user moves around, giving up a continual source of extra juice that should at the very least ensure that you never run completely dry while on the go.
Generally speaking, this kind of technology is so large that it would be hard to imagine it fitting into a sleek shell, like the thin and light design of the new iPhone 5. That’s where this unique design comes in, since it offers a method for printing coils in the same way that circuit boards are printed, in dense layers that, when paired with a signal moveable magnet array, could theoretically generate the same kind of electromagnetic charge as, for example, the machine in the YouTube video below.
There are plenty of devices that use similar methods for power creation, including flashlights and some quartz wristwatches. But Apple’s method is clearly aimed at making it possible for this tech to work with smartphones and other mobile gadgets, and could theoretically work either as contained system or as a two-part arrangement in which the magnet portion could live in a holster, case or other device to reduce the necessary bulk. It also doesn’t necessarily have to make iPhone self-powered – a small array that provides enough juice to slowly feed back some charge and thus extend battery life considerably throughout the day would provide considerable benefit, even if it can’t fully charge the device in any reasonable amount of time.
While motion-powered charging for devices as power-hungry as the iPhone still might seem a long way off, there are reasons to believe that Apple might be thinking about this problem as a more immediate concern. First, it seems obvious that the company is looking for ways to maximize its device battery life, as evidenced by it taking the reins on the A6 chip design. Second, a WSJ report from last year that detailed a lot of accurate information about the iPhone 4S also said that Apple was “experimenting” with new features including new methods for charging, for inclusion in future phone models.
Of course, Apple also patents a lot of things, not all of which make it to shipping products. But an iPhone or iPad that powers itself would definitely be a feature addition that would stand out from the increasingly crowded smartphone and tablet race.