In the future, charging your iPhone could be as seamless as getting in range of a Wi-Fi signal.
Apple was recently granted a patent for a system equipped to harness the wireless signals emitted by routers to charge electronic devices. The system described in the filing, which was uncovered by AppleInsider, would depend on the same frequencies we now use to transfer data over the air to give our phones a constant source of power.
You could walk into a room with one of the routers and automatically connect to the power source, finally freeing up our phones from wires, external packs, and charging platforms to make battery woes a thing of the past.
The design calls for routers with specialized antennae and circuitry systems that could boost the wireless signal with even more output power, which would then be harnessed by a receiver in the iPhone and converted to more juice for your battery.
The antennae could make use of beam steering (or beamforming), a technology used to more accurately direct wireless signals to connected devices. Beam steering has already been utilized in Apple’s AirPort routers, which the company reportedly abandoned last year. But the potential to usher in a new charging platform could be an incentive to get back in the game.
This type of wireless charging system isn’t exactly a new idea. A research team at the University of Washington successfully tested a Wi-Fi-powered charging method back in 2015. A group of scientists at Disney Research even demonstrated a system earlier this year that could potentially turn your living room into a charging hub using electromagnetic fields, no Wi-Fi signal necessary.
But, unfortunately, as the power-pad-based limits of current wireless charging tech suggests, we’re still a ways off from truly practical untethered power sources for our phones. The upcoming iPhone 8 is rumored to use that setup of close range wireless charging using the Qi standard (the same inductive setup used by Samsung and others) — so for now, our full-on wireless dreams will have to wait for the technology to develop.