As is usual with Apple patent applications, the wording is as general as possible – encompassing both wired and wireless charging – but the problem it aims to solve does appear to be one that arises primarily with long-range wireless charging …
RF-based charging has two problems. First, the amount of power available to devices drops off dramatically as the distance from the charger increases. Second, safety requirements limit the amount of power that can be transmitted in the first place.
The net result is that the amount of usable power available to devices will often be very limited, so what Apple’s patent proposes is a method of prioritizing which devices get charged in what order.
An online user account may be maintained on computing equipment in the system. The computing equipment may communicate with the electronic devices or power adapter over a communications network. The power adapter or other components in the system may gather information from the online account, from the electronic devices, and/or from the power adapter to use in identifying an optimum power transfer strategy for the power adapter to use in transferring power to each of the electronic devices. The optimum power transfer strategy may involve transmitting different amounts of power to different electronic devices.
The information that is used in identifying appropriate amounts of power to transmit to each of the electronic devices may include information such as user device charging priority settings, battery charge state information, device type information, usage history information, calendar information, and other information.
In other words, you’d be able to tell the system to charge your iPhone before your iPad, for example. But the text suggests that more sophisticated tailoring may be possible, such as giving a device enough charge to last a typical day based on your usage patterns, then switch to charging the next device.
As always with Apple patents, there’s no way to know which ones will make it into production. We’ll be taking a closer look at the whole area of RF-based charging in a future piece.