Apple has filed for another patent (number 10,236,725) that gives us hope that the long-awaited AirPower may actually see the light of day at some point. It’s for a “wireless charging system with image-processing-based foreign object detection.”
Should it ever actually arrive, the AirPower will 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're placed on the pad. AirPower hasn't been priced yet, but guesses have it costing anywhere from $150 - $200. The patent in question would prevent an gadget that isn’t compatible with the AirPower from overheating if it gets placed on the wireless charger.
Here’s Apple’s summary of the invention: “A wireless power transmission system has a wireless power receiving device with a wireless power receiving coil that is located on a charging surface of a wireless power transmitting device with a wireless power transmitting coil array. Control circuitry in the wireless power transmitting device may use inverter circuitry to supply alternating-current signals to coils in the coil array, thereby transmitting wireless power signals. The control circuitry may also be used to detect foreign objects on the coil array such as metallic objects without wireless power receiving coils.
“For example, control circuitry may use inductance measurements from the coils in the coil array to identify segments of the coil array that correspond to potential wireless power receiving devices. The control circuitry may control wireless power transmission based on a comparison between the number of identified segments corresponding to potential wireless power receiving devices and a number of received device-identifiers.”
Of course, Apple files for — and is granted — lots of patents by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Many are for inventions that never see the light of day. However, you never can tell which ones will materialize in a real product.