As Tesla introduced a multi-device charger, Google filed a patent for a Next-Gen charger while Apple remains in Limbo
In March 2019 Apple stunned Apple fans with the news that their Multi-Device charging pad branded 'AirPower' was officially cancelled. In 2020 a stubborn rumor about the AirPower project was still alive came from Jon Prosser. In October 2021, Bloomberg's Mark Gurman noted that an AirPower-like accessory would "eventually come to fruition," though likely years out.
Since the AirPower's demise, many companies have released functional AirPower-like chargers and this week Tesla jumped in the market with a new three-device charger that was reviewed by Engadget's Cherlynn Low.
Now even Google wants to deliver a next-gen multi-device charger, according to a new patent filing published on WIPO on March 16, 2023 titled "Self-Alignment Wireless Charger." Instead of including dozens of charging coils to hopefully align with a device to be charged, the charging device has a moving charging coil that aligns itself with the device to charge it.
More specifically, Google's Patent Abstract states that "Methods and apparatus are described for self-alignment for wireless charging. In some implementations a method includes detecting a device to be charged by a wireless charger. The wireless charger includes a housing and a wireless power transmission coil that is movable within the housing. The method includes determining, by the wireless charger, a direction to move the wireless power transmission coil within the housing to improve alignment of the wireless power transmission coil with a wireless power receiving coil of the device to be charged. The method includes moving, by the wireless charger, the wireless power transmission coil within the housing in the determined direction to align the wireless power transmission coil improve alignment of the wireless power transmission coil with the wireless power receiving coil of the device to be charged."
Google's patent FIG. 1A below is a perspective view of an example charging station that can move a wireless power transmitting coil into alignment with an electrical device to be charged; FIG. 1C is a cross-section view of an example of calculating a distance to move a platform inside an example charging station for charging.
Google's patent FIG. 2A above is a perspective view of an example charging station with a grid of electromagnets configured to move an internal assembly having a wireless power transmitting coil.
Those wanting to dive deeper into this patent can explore it here. Google's patent that was published two weeks ago was originally filed back in 2020.
While only time will tell if Google will be able to deliver such a device, it's an interesting approach to say the least. Though we all know, some ideas never get to market and some fail early on. For instance, Xiaomi was determined to show the world that they were smarter than Apple and released a multi-charger device. It sold right up to last year and then mysteriously disappeared off the market and no longer available on their site. Did it not sell well? Are they planning an update or did it technically malfunction over time, forcing Xiaomi to kill it? There's been no word on this online.
As for Apple, they've since filed for a patent for an oddball charger that is unlikely to see the light of day. Perhaps Apple may have decided to simply add a killer inductive / reverse charging feature to a future version of the MacBook Pro and the back of an iPad Pro. Considering that Apple just updated their Glass-housing patent to include the iPad specifically, the glass backer could easily support reverse charging. I think that the MacBook Pro charging feature that they've patented is a really smart idea as presented in Apple's patent figures below.
Patently Apple has covered a series of patent reports on the MacBook feature since 2019 that you could review here: 01, 02 and 03+.
The Tesla multi-device charger that came to market this week along with Google's patent application for a next-gen charger were reminders of Apple's AirPower failure. And yet, Apple may have something far better to offer in the not-too-distant future and it just may be related to their Pro devices offering inductive charging.
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