Apple will soon let manufacturers in its Made for iPhone/iPad/iPod (MFi) licensing program include charging pads for the Apple Watch directly in their accessories, according to sources. Currently, dock makers can only offer charging by making unsightly openings in their docks for Apple’s official charger to sit, forcing users to bring their own cable and install it, and compromising an ideal design and user experience in the process. By making charging modules available to manufacturers to use, however, customers will be able to buy docks and stands with integrated chargers without needing to use their own.
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This is similar to how Apple provides lugs for third-party Apple Watch bands or — more closely — the Lightning cable program. Apple’s MFI suppliers provide access to the charging components for accessory manufacturers to incorporate into their designs. The component looks very similar to the bundled Apple cable; a round magnetic pad on which the watch can rest and charge.
The availability of the Apple Watch magnetic charging module will give accessory manufacturers more flexibility in creating dock designs. Right now, many are restricted by the fact that there has to be exposed grooves (or some kind of recess) for users to snake the Apple charging cable through the product. This limitation will be lifted and should enable more creative and unique types of docks and stands for the Apple Watch.
It’s still early stages, however, so don’t expect to see manufacturers touting integrated chargers for a while. As of this week, the component is available in ‘sample quantities’ to MFi partners but official plans for accessories including the part cannot yet be submitted for approval. We would expect to see the first accessories incorporating their own chargers by the end of the year.