Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL ) been known to change its mind from time to time, just like the rest of us.
The clearest example of the iPad maker reneging on a previous decision was the launch of the iPad Mini, which came years after Steve Jobs famously bashed smaller tablet form factors, asserting that any tablet less than 10 inches in size would be too small for the average finger.
According to a new report out of Asian rumor mill DIGITIMES, Apple may be about to change its tune on a specific product feature it decided not to include in the iPhone 5: wireless charging. The Taiwanese publication believes that Apple is preparing to adopt wireless charging technology that it has been developing internally. The feature is said to possibly be facilitated by an attached accessory instead of being directly integrated.
Archenemy Samsung is also reportedly exploring wireless charging by adopting the Qi standard created by the Wireless Power Consortium. The South Korean company is set to unveil its next-generation Galaxy S IV next week at an event in New York.
Everybody's doing it
Nokia (NYSE: NOK ) is one of the more prominent smartphone vendors to make wireless charging a headline feature, which is included in its newest flagship Lumia 920 that launched late last year. That device uses a separate inductive charging plate to make the magic happen. Google also offers an orb-shaped inductive charger with the LG-built Nexus 4. The Nexus 4 charger also uses Qi.
Lumia 920 charger (left) vs. Nexus 4 charger (right). Sources: Nokia and Google. Images not shown to scale.
Exactly one week after Nokia showed off its latest and greatest to the world, Apple would proceed to unveil the iPhone 5. At the event, marketing chief Phil Schiller downplayed the added convenience of wireless charging, saying that users still have to carry around another wired device. Meanwhile, USB ports can be found everywhere nowadays, which is where the iPhone can refill its juice.
Wait for it
Apple has always said that when it's not a first mover in technology, it takes its time to get it right. That may prove true if it launches a larger iPhone, and it may also be the case here. Most current offerings still need an inductive plate, which still effectively tethers you -- just in a different way. Judging by a 2010 patent filing that was recently made public, Apple may have a solution for this after all.
Instead of using an inductive device like everyone else, it looks like Apple is exploring the use of a near-field magnetic resonance power supply. Any device with a similar resonator circuit inside of it could potentially draw power wirelessly, removing the need for a small charging station and dramatically expanding the charging range.
We're talking about a "virtual charging area" that could span approximately 1 meter from the power supply, which also means a user could theoretically keep all sorts of other Apple gadgets charged, such as keyboards, mice, iPads, or laptops.
Apple has also filed some other patents on inductive charging, so perhaps its solution will ultimately be some combination of various approaches.
DIGITIMES questions whether or not this feature will make it out this year. Since Apple has clearly adopted a strategy of incremental "S" upgrades every other year, the 2013 iPhone 5S is expected to feature a similar design. A feature like wireless charging, inductive or otherwise, would probably require the iPhone to be redesigned, which makes it unlikely that investors will see this happen in 2013.
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