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Apple exploring the possibilities of charging devices over WiFi

By Cal Jeffrey ยท 25 replies
Apr 27, 2017
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  1. According to a U.S. Patent and Trademarking application that was made public today, Apple appears to be looking for a way to charge devices like the iPhone and iPad using wifi-router signaling. The technique is somewhat similar to the induction charging that it uses for the Apple Watch but increases the distance that the device can be from the charging antenna.

    Apple titled the technique “Wireless Charging and Communications Systems With Dual-Frequency Patch Antennas” and appears to have several ideas on how they can get it to work. According to Apple Insider, they theorize that power transfer can occur in communication signals ranging from 700 MHz and 2700 MHz and on the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz wifi bands.

    The proposed device would use something similar to the “beam steering” technology that Apple uses in its current routers to improve signal quality, except that in this case power would "piggyback" on the data signal and trickle-charge the device.

    The filing touches on ways that Apple could extend the range of its induction charging technology. While it does not go into great detail, some of the concepts mentioned include dual mode circuitry, dual-polarization, dual-frequency patch antennas, substitute antenna arrays, and wireless circuitry configurations.

    Apple Insider also reports that a “purportedly leaked 'iPhone 8' schematics appeared to reveal space for a large wireless charging pad to be positioned in the handset's rear casing. Interestingly, the area resembles a patch antenna similar to applications described in today's patent filing.”

    It has been speculated that the iPhone 8 will indeed have some form of wireless charging, but AI doubts that the tech described in the patent are a part of that. However, the patent was first filed in 2015, so who knows how far Apple has come in its research since then. We might be seeing wifi charging or something similar in the not so distant future.

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    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 4, 2017
  2. Squid Surprise

    Squid Surprise TS Evangelist Posts: 2,546   +1,537

    If they can actually come up with a way to allow my iPhone to charge wirelessly while I'm using it on my couch, I'm buying :)

    Now I wait for the comments from people saying "it's impossible" because clearly they are far more knowledgeable than any Apple engineers....
    Bryan1223, Reehahs and Cal Jeffrey like this.
  3. TheBigT42

    TheBigT42 TS Maniac Posts: 322   +220

    Does anybody think what this will do to the human body?
    Cal Jeffrey likes this.
  4. Rippleman

    Rippleman TS Evangelist Posts: 871   +393

    You know how the kids are nowadays, especially on apple branded products. Ahhh, to be young and stupid again. I miss it.
    Reehahs and Greg S like this.
  5. Greg S

    Greg S TS Evangelist Posts: 1,607   +443

    Fun fact: some of us are engineers and are more knowledgeable than others. Know who developed the Qi standards?
  6. Kotters

    Kotters TS Maniac Posts: 330   +223

    Yeah, they're just holding it wrong.
    Reehahs, BSim500 and ForgottenLegion like this.
  7. Squid Surprise

    Squid Surprise TS Evangelist Posts: 2,546   +1,537

    So... you're claiming to be more knowledgeable than the engineers at Apple? Figured someone would claim to be...
    Rippleman likes this.
  8. Greg S

    Greg S TS Evangelist Posts: 1,607   +443

    What makes you think someone is a better engineer just because they work for Apple? Are Intel engineers less capable? I'm pointing out that Apple has little experience compared to most small independent design companies in wireless power. Premier Farnell has far greater experience than just about any company for wireless power other than the original inventors.
    Kotters, Reehahs and BSim500 like this.
  9. BSim500

    BSim500 TS Evangelist Posts: 607   +1,222

    I think he's saying it seems to be the trendy new thing for some trying too hard to be "anti-pessimists" and shut down any commentary on potential issues of new tech at all from the first post on the grounds of "show your Doctoral Engineering qualifications before posting anything" in simple everyday forum debates, completely missing the whole point of what public discussion forums are all about...

    In reality, anything wireless charging related is "possible" if you beam enough energy at it inside a lab. The obvious common sense issues with real-world consumer devices are : 1. Cost (vs making the battery thicker and having to replace your router), and 2. Charging efficiency (given Inverse Square Law something 5m away from an induction charger needs 10,000x (not 100x) more radiation energy vs induction charging something under 5cm distance on a wireless charger pad. What's more where stuff like Samsung's wireless charging pads pump out 38.5dbm / 7w over a few cm, Wi-Fi is typically capped at 30dbm / 1W (emission regulations). So a "Wi-Fi charger phone" will be receiving typically 7x less power output at source that rapidly drops off at a rate of square the increase of distance (1/4 power per doubling distance) and used at a typical +100-200x greater distance (5-10m from router vs a sub 5cm wireless charge pad).

    In short, if something trickle charges thousands of times slower than "near contact" wireless charging pads (let alone plugging in a fast charge cable) and then requires a new expensive proprietary Apple router, the space (and money) may be better employed simply using a bigger battery from which you also gain significantly more benefit outside your own house. You certainly don't need to "work for Apple" to figure out the basic viability issues, and whilst it's great to be optimistic and see how far they can push the tech, the laws of physics (esp Inverse Square Law of electromagnetic radiation) hardly cease to exist simply because a device has a picture of a piece of fruit on it...
  10. Squid Surprise

    Squid Surprise TS Evangelist Posts: 2,546   +1,537

    Just because someone works for Apple doesn't make them smarter than everyone else.... however.... I will assume that ANY successful giant company will have some fairly competent people doing their research, tech, etc... What makes a random poster on this website more qualified to say what is possible?

    For some interesting reading, check out


    Energous has long been rumoured to be in partnership with Apple... wonder if a future iPhone uses that instead?
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2017
  11. Squid Surprise

    Squid Surprise TS Evangelist Posts: 2,546   +1,537

    Hopefully, it will give us super powers! Everything I've read in comics and seen in the movies points to this probability, so it must be true :)

    Electroman, here I come!
    TheBigT42 likes this.
  12. Theinsanegamer

    Theinsanegamer TS Evangelist Posts: 1,547   +1,767

    Agreed. This phone is like all those prototype cars that seem amazing, until you try to actually make more then 1 of them.

    Wireless charging has been trying to happen for years, IMO it wont happen. It's already way too slow, and doing it over any kind of distance makes it much slower. This power over wifi smells more like a patent grab then anything else, unless they are planning on using it to introduce wireless charging with metal phones in the same way QI works, but using the wifi antenna instead of a coil. That sound much more likely.
  13. Igrecman

    Igrecman TS Maniac Posts: 276   +165

    Well, anything is possible, if my video games are working on steam.
    Cal Jeffrey and Bryan1223 like this.
  14. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 5,390   +3,779

    What???? Tesla's technique wasn't good enough for them!?!?!?!
    Cal Jeffrey likes this.
  15. Skidmarksdeluxe

    Skidmarksdeluxe TS Evangelist Posts: 8,647   +3,286

    Why should it affect the human body in any way? It works on electrical impulses anyway.
  16. Skidmarksdeluxe

    Skidmarksdeluxe TS Evangelist Posts: 8,647   +3,286

    If they can get the tech to work, great, I'm in too, but buy into anything Apple? Don't be ridiculous. All other manufacturers will have their versions of the same tech out of the door long before Apple can wipe the crap out of their eyes.
  17. BSim500

    BSim500 TS Evangelist Posts: 607   +1,222

    My point was, the whole point of a discussion forum is precisely to discuss the possibilities and obstacles, not simply be a Marketing Board that recirculates empty promises from every new PR release or startup pitch. ^ And your Energous link is a perfect example of what I mean with many claims failing the "obvious smell test":-

    "Energous: Don't Buy The Company's Story Or Stock"

    ^ Above Seeking Alpha article is an excellent read on the "marketing vs physics" problems with this stuff and the need for healthy debate, not just "Pollyanna Posts". Examples:-

    - Energous claims that their power output is "2W delivered to 4 devices simultaneously within 5-10 feet." Again, Wi-Fi is capped to 1W max total output at the source (not per beam) and is set there for health reasons instantly debunks this. Their "hotel room testing" involving pumping multiple watts is flat out illegal if they tried to sell it. Factoring in the actual Inverse Square Losses losses of the power delivered at the target, the transmitted input router power needed to deliver 8w several metres away through the air would be 20,000 watts. Aside from obvious health issues, that's one hell of an illegal radio jammer...

    - Energous transmitter uses "hundreds" of antenna (essentially designed far more like a Phased Array / AESA Radar found on a Navy Destroyer than Wi-Fi beamforming via 2-8x omni-directional antenna) isn't remotely cost effective vs a charging pad.

    - "Each device will be perfectly located in 3D space via triangulation". In reality, triangulation determines mostly direction not distance. Sounds like Energous doesn't understand triangulation vs multilateralation. Or mention the fact you need multiple transmitters...

    I know this is Energous not Apple but as you posted the link, seriously there have been over a dozen "startups" promising "free energy from radio wave harvesting" and all have turned out pure unadulterated BS. That Energous are claiming to deliver power figures several times higher at the target than the legal limit of what radiates out of the router in totality at 0cm distance is your first obvious "red flag".

    How will Apple fare? Right now it's just a theoretical patent that maybe will be used to deliver 200 microwatts (0.000250 w) delivered within the "legal" Wi-Fi power envelope that'll give you +0.01% extra battery life. Or maybe they'll just shelve it and just make the battery thicker like everyone is asking for. The prior Energous marketing claims you linked to however, is precisely why it's quite sane to be cynical over new startups who pay their CEO a $2m bonus despite never selling a single product or having patents that actually make an attempt to explain how what they're trying to patent works... ;)
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2017
  18. abysal

    abysal TS Booster Posts: 115   +40

    Maybe they can wirelessly charge it using quantum entanglement, but the down side is that in some box out there, a cat may or may not be dead everytime you do it.
    BSim500 likes this.
  19. TheBigT42

    TheBigT42 TS Maniac Posts: 322   +220

  20. Squid Surprise

    Squid Surprise TS Evangelist Posts: 2,546   +1,537

    They are far from the only ones.... and if you read the comments near the end, you'll notice that while Energous itself MIGHT be a scam, their stock has actually multiplied since that article said "don't invest"... I also find it interesting that the last comment is from 4 months ago...

    My point is, we don't really know what is actually possible.... I'm sure I could have found hundred of experts swearing to you up and down that flying to the moon was impossible (without magic) 200 years ago....

    I have no issue with people providing their opinion - we all have one - but to claim that something is IMPOSSIBLE while other highly qualified people from very big companies state that it is.... well, that's what I find annoying.... but predictable :)
  21. Skidmarksdeluxe

    Skidmarksdeluxe TS Evangelist Posts: 8,647   +3,286

    If not going to bother following the link because if I had to take everything that medical science says is bad for you seriously I would've been dead 60 years ago. All it takes is a bit of common sense to know what's good for and what's dangerous to you. I'm not saying medical science is always wrong but one has to lead their lives as they're supposed to. A few years ago using a cellphone was supposed to be a cause for brain cancer... We're still waiting for proof, and the list goes on and on and on. If I was to worry about them all I'd never get out of bed only to pass away prematurely from being too sedentary. We've all got to die of something one of these days.
  22. BSim500

    BSim500 TS Evangelist Posts: 607   +1,222

    Build a big enough rocket and yes "flying to the moon" is possible through simple scaling. "Teleporting 8w of RF energy through the air losslessly from a 1w RF source" (a claim of 700% electrical efficiency) is of course something we do know is 100% impossible. Maximum 0.5-1.0w legal Wi-Fi emissions are what they are in every country on Earth for health reasons. It's no more going to be scaled up into tens / hundreds of watts than selling microwave ovens without a door and shielding is going to be legalized. It's either something you understand or do not, and those who don't aren't really in a position to bash what they perceive as "no one can possibly know..." naysayers. It's actually this "Appeal To Ignorance" logical fallacy that fuels a lot of tech / financial scams.

    Energous stock price increased (after its prior collapse) precisely because they've been furiously backpedalling from previous marketing and have changed their claims from "8-10 watts over several metres" (from a 1 watt source) based on "Magical Beans Wi-Fi Charging (tm)" to "within millimetres of the transmitter, provides milliwatts of power" which is possible using the same Near Field charging tech as every other wireless charger pad (Qi, etc). The former claim was 100% BS and they (and everyone else who wasn't totally gullible) knew it. They even openly admitted the amount of power required far exceeded the legal Wi-Fi limits, and therefore couldn't be sold as "Wi-Fi charging" at all in any legal sense, which is why they didn't even attempt to certify a genuine working product in an FCC lab (which would cost them 1/100th of what their CEO is happy to take home annually for 3 years of vaporware...)

    It may well "annoy" you, but when someone makes an outrageous claim, the onus is 100% on them to prove it, not on bystanders to disprove their own natural disbelief of vaporware that clearly defies the laws of physics... If someone else claims something you've claimed you can do is impossible, then the solution is quite obvious - don't sulk because your claims are questioned, just prove it (or as they say in Missouri, "show me").
  23. Squid Surprise

    Squid Surprise TS Evangelist Posts: 2,546   +1,537

    My point wasn't about Energous specifically.... or their exact specifications.... the original article simply had Apple charging things wirelessly over WiFi.... And that MIGHT be possible one day.... we don't know how yet.... possible no one does.... but it isn't proven to be impossible!
  24. TheBigT42

    TheBigT42 TS Maniac Posts: 322   +220

    Ignorance is bliss....
  25. Skidmarksdeluxe

    Skidmarksdeluxe TS Evangelist Posts: 8,647   +3,286

    If ignorance is bliss then I must be the happiest person on the planet.

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