Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has plans to make it possible to charge your iPad without ever plugging it in.
The company has a patent for a cover for its tablets that also works as a wireless charger. Titled Integrated Inductive Charging in Protective Cover," the patent details a protective cover for iPad that would charge the device via inductive charging -- a system where the device is either placed on a charging mat or near the source of power.
Apple is using a version of this same technology on its upcoming Apple Watch. That device "will be charged using a magnetized inductive charger that connects to the back of the watch and provides power wirelessly," according to GeekWire.
If the same technology is used with iPads, it would allow users to charge their tablets simply by setting them down. More importantly, it would also eliminate the power cable as well as the need for a port on the device to plug one in.
It's about cutting the cord
Apple's patent application focused on the changing form factors for device, which leaves space for little beyond the screen:
These handheld computing devices can be configured such that a substantial portion of the electronic device takes the form of a display used for presenting visual content leaving little available space for an attachment mechanism that can be used for attaching an accessory device or a cord that can be used to provide power for that matter.
Apple also suggests that the system would make it easier for consumers by simply placing the device down with the cover closed. People would no longer forget to recharge their devices.
Plus, Apple seems to think that people are really inconvenienced by power cords:
Although a variety of standards have been developed for providing wireless communication with electronic devices, these devices continue to be plagued with a need for corded power supplies. Typically, each electronic device requires a separate power supply cord. These cords are a burden to use, store and carrying around as needed. Cords can be unsightly and substantially hinder portable device mobility.
The company lays out a number of specific scenarios as to how the wireless power would work, but all of them boil down to charging when the cover is closed and having the device placed near the power source, which may or may not include a power mat.
How inductive power works
Inductive charging works by using a magnetic field to transfer electricity, allowing devices to receive power over the air rather than through a wire or cord. It doesn't require a specific charging mat, though some induction charging systems do use them. In the case of the non-mat systems, inductive charging works better as the device moves within closer range of the power source.
Apple seems to be moving toward inductive charging on its devices. The Apple Watch will use what the company describes as a combination of its MagSafe technology with inductive charging.
"It's a completely sealed system free of exposed contacts," the company wrote on its website. "And it's very forgiving, requiring no precise alignment. You simply hold the connector near the back of the watch, where magnets cause it to snap into place automatically."
The iPad patent doesn't make it clear whether some sort of charging mat or cable will be required, and it's possible that there will be multiple charging options.
A good move for Apple
Eliminating charging cables seems to be something consumers want, and it certainly improves aesthetics. With Android tablets costing much less than iPads and Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) partners offering Windows 8 tablets complete with Office 365 for under $100, Apple needs to keep the iPad on the cutting edge of technology to justify its price.
Wireless charging has a futuristic feel that might help do that. It seems a bit like magic, and that's a feeling Apple has to recapture to keep customers captivated.
The iPad was unique when it launched, but now it's just another tablet. A good one, certainly, but an expensive one. Inductive charging makes sense, and it should help the company gain a half-step on its competitors.