The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office officially published a series of 64 newly granted patents for Apple Inc. today. In this particular report we cover two of Apple's granted patents that relate to charging Apple Watch. The first patent covers Apple's current inductive charging method. The second patent is a bit of a mystery as to where this invention fits into Apple's road map for Apple Watch. Yet the perceived twist to this invention is that it could technically add a new function to the Digital Crown: Fast Charging – a new method of providing Apple Watch with an added boost of power when it's running low.
Apple Watch Inductive Charging
Apple has been granted two patents today relating to methods of charging Apple Watch. The first is granted patent 9,449,754 which generally relates to Apple's current method of charging Apple Watch using inductive energy transfer. More particularly the patent covers coil constructions for improved inductive energy transfer in an inductive energy transfer system.
Apple Watch Charging: Fast Charging
Apple's second newly granted patent 9,450,446 titled "Connector-free magnetic charger/winder" relates to Apple Watch charging and possibly an alternative charging method. Whether Apple has abandoned this method or is a future possibility is unknown at this time.
This particular granted patent for Apple Watch relates to driving an element using magnets and using a magnetic field to drive an element without physically contacting the driven element.
Apple notes that charging an electronic device generally requires connecting the electronic device to an external power source in order to draw current into, for example, a component of the electronic device. A port electrically connected to the component may receive a jack that is electrically connected to the external power source. This may require additional space and/or several components in the electronic device associated with charging. This may also limit the ability to reduce the overall footprint of the device, particularly in a portable electronic device where it may be desirable to create a relatively small device.
In addition, the enclosure may include an aperture in which the port is disposed. The aperture allows ingress of dust, liquid, or other contaminants to penetrate the electronic device and cause damage. It may also prevent creating a waterproof device.
Therefore, it may be desirable to charge or wind a component without direct contact between two structures.
Apple notes that in one aspect of this invention, a non-contact method for charging a component in an electronic device having a housing at least a portion of the housing is formed of a non-magnetic material is described.
The method may include magnetically coupling an internal drive mechanism and an external drive mechanism. The internal drive mechanism may be connected to a charge generator. The method may also include causing the internal drive mechanism to rotate.
The method may also include generating an amount of charge in the charge generator in accordance with the rotation of the internal drive mechanism. The method may also include passing at least some of the amount of charge to a charge storage device.
In another aspect of the invention, a portable electronic device having an enclosure is described. The portable electronic device may include a rotating member within the enclosure of the portable electronic device; the rotating member may include an element attracted to a rotating magnetic element external to the enclosure. The portable electronic device may also include a charge generator within the enclosure that receives a portion of the rotating member. The charge generator is capable of creating electrical energy.
Technically this could translate into updating and advancing the digital crown mechanism for Apple Watch.
In another aspect, a method of winding a coil element within an enclosure, the coil element magnetically attracted to a magnet outside the enclosure, is described. The method may include rotating the magnet, the rotating the magnet causes the coil element to wind from a first configuration having a first length to a second configuration having a second length, the second length less than the first length.
For example, rapid charging of an internal power supply may be useful to reduce charging time. Also, some devices may include additional components which may then require additional charging time.
For example, a tablet computing device may require additional charging time as compared a mobile device. By rotating a generator in the tablet computing device at a higher speed, the tablet computing device may be able to charge (or recharge) in the same amount of time as the mobile device.
This point is interesting as it adds context to an iPad patent filing that surfaced back in July of this year about adding a digital crown to an iPad. Apple noted in their filing that the digital crown could be used as a volume controller or locking the touch screen, turning on the touch screen, taking a picture, resizing text and other actions. And in context with today's granted patent we're able to add one more reason for adding a digital crown to an iPad: Fast Charging.
The granted patent further notes: "While an external rotating magnet may produce electrical energy as described, an external rotating magnet may also rotate other components configured to generate mechanical energy." In this scenario, the "external rotating magnet appears to be an accessory as noted in the patent figure below.
Apple's patent FIGS. 14 and 15 noted below illustrate rotary device #102 rotating first shaft #103 and first magnet #105 configured to wind a spring #615 in a timepiece 500, a watch.
As shown in FIG. 14, when first magnet is rotated, the spring mirrors the rotational movement of first magnet. In addition, the spring is configured to wind, and when doing so, the spring winds in a direction away from first magnet. This winding action may be similar to winding a traditional timepiece using a dial located near an outer surface of a timepiece.
However, in the embodiment shown in FIGS. 14 and 15, the watch is free of external rotating components that require apertures to couple with internal components, thereby reducing the probability of ingress.
Considering that Apple is committed to the digital crown of the Apple Watch, it would appear that they could technically advance the digital crown so as to offer a 'Fast Charging' feature in the future.
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