Apple’s AirPower system was abandoned three years ago. However, Apple still files or is granted patents that hint at such a charging device. A new one is a patent filing for “detection of object location and orientation on a wireless charge mat.”
The AirPower (pictured in an image released by Apple almost four years ago) was originally announced in September 2017 alongside the iPhone X. It was supposed to be able to charge a Qi-compatible iPhone, an Apple Watch, and a pair of AirPods (in a special wireless charging case) at the same time regardless of where they were placed on the pad. However, there was constant rumors of production, engineering, and manufacturing difficulties. Seems those rumors were right, as Apple announced in March 2018 that work on the device was being canceled as, in Apple’s words, “will not achieve our high standards.
About the patent filing
The patent filing relates to wireless charging of an electronic device and, in particular, to systems and methods for detecting a location and an orientation of an electronic device placed on a charging surface of a wireless charging mat relative to one or more transmit coils disposed below the charging surface.
An electronic device can receive power wirelessly, such as via electromagnetic induction. For example, an electronic device can include a coil for receiving power (a “receive coil”) and a transmitter device can include a coil for transmitting power (a “transmit coil”). The electronic device is positioned nearby the transmitter device so that the transmit coil can transfer power to the receive coil via mutual induction.
Apple says the efficiency of the power transfer is affected by, among other things, the proximity and alignment of the receive coil relative to the transmit coil. More specifically, if a receive coil is not aligned with–or is poorly aligned with–a transmit coil, the amount of power received by the electronic device is reduced. To compensate, the transmitter device typically increases its power output, thereby lowering the power-transfer efficiency of the system.
Summary of the patent filing
Here’s Apple’s abstract of the patent: “A wireless charging mat and method of operating the same. The wireless charging mat includes a detection system configured to determine a location and an orientation of an electronic device on the wireless charging mat. The location and orientation are determined based on detected locations of one or more structural features of the electronic device. The wireless charging mat is operated according to the detected location and orientation.”