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Apple goes plug-free with new charging patents

A new patent from Apple suggests that the company is investigating methods of charging an iPod, iPhone, or even an iPad without having to plug it in to the mains.

According to Apple-watcher Patently Apple, the company has filed patents on two methods for charging a portable device's battery without using a traditional charging system - both of which are likely to raise some eyebrows in the industry.

The first uses a 'charging tower,' around which the headphone lead of a portable device is wrapped. This acts as the secondary coil of a transformer, picking up energy radiated from the primary coil inside the tower and transferring it to the portable device.

The second, and even odder, method, details the use of an 'acoustic charging system' in which one - or both - of the earpieces of a portable device is plugged into a charging system that uses a speaker of its own to cause the one in the earpiece to vibrate. This vibration, Apple explains, would create enough power to charge the device while remaining in non-audible frequencies.

Both techniques are interesting, but it's hard to see why Apple would implement either: wireless charging is already here, with the Qi standard from the Wireless Power Consortium and the rival WiPower standard from Qualcomm both offering easy ways to charge portable devices without wires. With both of Apple's suggestions needing more interaction than just placing the device on a charging mat, it's difficult to see any advantages that they might offer.

So far, Apple has yet to confirm or deny plans to introduce either system in a commercial product.

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