Apple Granted New Patents for Wireless Power and a Camera Accessory

You could soon charge your iPhone using your MacBook, wirelessly.


Apple has been granted two new patents that give a glimpse into the technology that could form part of upcoming Apple products. The first patent is a camera lens accessory system that can be used on iPhone and iPad as well as MacBooks, while the other patent focuses on the technology involved with wirelessly transferring power from a MacBook to an iPhone.

Camera accessory system

Apple has been granted an application for the technology to create a camera lens accessory system that can be used on the iPhone, iPad, and MacBook devices. Originally reported in February by Patently Apple, the company has finally been granted the application but the history of Apple exploring camera accessories can be traced back as far as 2009.

The patent provides the technology to create a device that can be used for improved image quality for a small format factor (SFF) camera when using accessory lensesThese small form cameras could be used in mobile devices such as smartphones, cell phones, pad or tablet devices, but can also be used in other devices such as laptop or notebook computers. Apple further notes that “In some embodiments, the presence of an accessory lens may be detected using a sensing technology interface, for example, an electrical, magnetic, optical, or radio frequency (RF) sensing technology interface.”

Patently Apple summaries the possible use of additional lenses that could form part of a camera accessory system that the patent may cover:

Accessory lenses may be provided that attach to or mount in front of the SFF camera’s lens. These accessory lenses can be used to shrink or expand the focal length of the camera lens, or to enable closer-focusing macro capabilities, for example. To achieve optimal image quality, the optical axis of the accessory lens should be coaxial with the optical axis of the camera lens in the device to which it is attached. In addition, spacing between the accessory lens and the camera lens should be correct.

This patent was originally filed in Q3 of 2016 and patent 10,031,312 was granted this week.

Wireless power transfer

In a completely different patent, Apple has been granted the rights to technology that would enable the wireless transfer of power from and to a mobile device. Put simply, the technology could be used to charge your iPhone by transferring power from one device to another using a charging coil that can pass charge bi-directionally. This means that if you find yourself out of battery on your iPhone, you could be able to charge it using a MacBook or iPad.

According to the patent, published by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) on July 26, the “inductive charging between electronic devices” lets two devices, such as a tablet and a smartphone, charge each other’s batteries using their existing charge. Furthermore, the patent goes into more detail to suggest that a MacBook, for example, could feature multiple charging points lending speculation that it could be used to charge an iPhone and Apple Watch simultaneously.

The logic behind allowing one device to charge another is clear in that it reduces the number of charges and cables you’ll need to carry when travelling, with the inductive device just acting like a large power bank. The technology is achieved by using the same inductive coils that receive power to wirelessly charge a device to now also transmit power too, thus enabling one device to wirelessly charge another. An iPhone, for example, can be placed on top of an iPad and power wirelessly move from the iPad to charge the iPhone.

While this will presumably require new hardware to achieve the transmitting of power from a device, it is certainly a promising look into what Apple has in store for future products.