Apple is currently working with partners in the US and Asia to develop wireless charging for iPhone and iPad, according to a new report from Bloomberg. Mobile devices with wireless charging capabilities could be released as soon as next year.
Wireless charging is already available for a number of devices including the iWatch. But Apple is looking on a new technology for distance charging of a wireless device – rather than placing the phone on a charging mat, a customer can actually walk around with the device, using it while it charges. Apple has not released the specific details on the range that could be available, but in December a Ukranian startup called XE claimed to have cracked wireless charging with a distance of up to 16 ft between the device and the charging station. As far back as 2010, Apple applied for a patent to use an iMac as a wireless charging hub for distances of 1 meter. In 2014 it applied for a patent on specialized housing for a mobile device with an integrated RF antenna, which would also allow for wireless charging by helping to eliminate the problem of metallic interference with charging signals. Apple would apparently be building on these ideas to create a new iPhone or iPad that could charge further away from the hub, while continuing to be used.
This announcement comes just after forecasting a sales decline for the first time since 2003. Shares in Apple stock fell to $95 – down 19% from value per share since January 2015. This was a shock for many, as Apple has been so strong for so many years. CEO Tim Cook offered Chinese expansion and new product launches, such as the Apple iWatch, as positive points for investors and analysts, but many believe that dependence on the iPhone will leave the company vulnerable to changes in demand.
Some have credited an already saturated market for iPhones and iPads – the iPhone 6 release in November 2015 was weaker than expected – and that could be due to a lack of product differentiation from one iPhone to the next. There haven’t been as many compelling reasons to trade in the old phone for a new one. But wireless charging will require entirely new devices, which could drive product sales when released.