Apple, WiTricity, and wireless charging

Apple, WiTricity, and wireless charging

With rumors of Apple exploring new ways to charge iPhones and iPads, MacRumors pulls together threads from a company called WiTricity, which is based wireless charging research from MIT, and puts it together with an Apple patent application that surfaced earlier this year.

Apple describes a scenario where your iMac could be the source of this resonance power to provide a virtual charging area in front of your computer. Keyboards, mice and even mobile electronic devices like the iPhone or iPad could be charged simply be being in a 1 meter proximity to your computer. In typical Apple fashion, they describe that "by doing away with clumsy and annoying cables and eliminating the need to replace batteries, an easy to use and efficient local computing environment can be provided to the user."

So unlike <a href=""tags/touchstone">HP/Palm's TouchStone, it wouldn't require direct contact, just proximity. Whether or not Apple is or will work with WiTricity, or does anything with wireless charging any time soon, it's interesting to see what's being explored in the labs.

I've used inductive charging with the Pre Plus and with PowerMat, and while it feels like the future, it feels like a very close future. Like a novelty and not that far removed from the tether (trading the socket for a surface). True wireless charging, the ability to put your iPhone or iPad down pretty much where you want, and pick it up again fully charged? Way closer to Star Trek.

TED video after the break.

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Apple, WiTricity, and wireless charging


People are getting so comfortable with electromagnetic fields. Too comfortable perhaps. Electromagnetic fields at any frequency at high enough power levels can damage cells. Let's just turn our homes into microwaves and cook ourselves SLOOWWLY. :) I wish he would have stated how many dBm the power amplifier is putting out. I'd wager quite a bit to deliver enough watts to power the TV. For reference, cell phone PAs put out around 2W (33dBm) at max power.
I wonder if this addiction to electromagnetics (aka. wireless) may come back to haunt us someday.

I think just plugging it into a cable is a lot more straightforward than all of this special equipment that creates a lot of electrical interference in the immediate environment. Is this a solution searching for a problem?

I believe this is where the future is headed. I just think we ought to be careful about how much exposure we let ourselves have to higher power electromagnetic fields. We are always being bombarded by fields and rays it's true, but adding more sources in our very home -- we need to be careful.
Yes, I airplane mode my iphone at night since it charges on my nightstand.

While this sounds awesome, I'm still just a bit cautious about the whole "wireless energy flowing through my junk" part. I kinda feel like my swimmers are like bees, and WiTricity might be some really high-tension, high-capacity power lines. I'm cool with bees, and cool with power lines, but the two just don't mix. I'm NOT cool with that.

Haha, people are always gonna be afraid of new technology; they always have. When microwave ovens were first released, it was commonly believed that it would make your food radioactive and kill you. When trains and cars were first around, people thought that if you went over 40MPH, your head would implode. Now, thanks to the internet, people think cellphones can pop popcorn. The electromagnetic resonance of water is extremely different to the magnetic resonance they're using to translate an electric signal between two magnetically prepared devices.

@jhembach: how about physics as something to back it up. Your type of response is the type of thinking that is ruining our world, making it less and less sustainable and safe. You have no idea what an EM field is do you? Data-based decision making?! What a load of fluffy bullcrap. Data can be fudged but a first-principles approach to understanding cannot. How can you make decisions based on data if you don't even know what the data is telling you? The world is really going to end soon because it's ruled by business majors that trust this thing called 'data' but really it's just a set of numbers another person gives (and often interprets) for them.

First, I'd like to apologize for sounding rude. I simply didn't agree with how you belittled another person reading this blog and sharing his opinion. I'll admit that my post was broad and uninformative. Since you sound like you care about knowing real facts:
The article is written fairly well where it explains why there is concern for daily use of radiation, even at 'safe' frequencies.
To be honest, I just hit I'm feeling lucky on Google and it gave me that site. You mention frequency as a reason why cell phones are safe, but if you understand why frequency matters, you'll see that there is really no way to make the claim that cell phome radiation doesn't affect the body. Actually, the opposite is true because the power of the signal decreases significantly (relative to through air) as it passes through the body. Also, knowing a little bit about engineering, you'll know that signal generators that produce a single frequency without noise doesn't exist.
As for the comment that data can be fudged, it's central to what I wanted to say because if you look at modern research, there are many bad papers that present the data is a way that suggests their interest or point. These papers are accepted into journals bcause journals are largely self-regulated and many professors don't take the time to closely read when they review (they generally just look for gross errors in calculation by doing magnitude and unit checks). Large corporations that make billions on this radio technology have a stake in its public acceptace. It would be foolish to think that WHO doesn't have interest in the global economy. Even the article I presented, which quotes many other papers, has motivation to 'raise awareness' and may bias the perspective with which it is written. My point is that everyone should always think critically about what they are told is 'true' and use knowledge from first-principles to verify if what they are told makes sense. With that said, I enciurage you to pick up an elementary book to modern physics (an actual text book with problems and solutions, not a book where someone is commenting on what the subject is about). I would suggest one but I'm afraid i forgot the title of mine at home and it's written in the 70's so you'll probably be able to find a better book anyways.
Cheers to understanding-based decision making and a of better understand of our world.
John A