Apple wants an iPhone to charge other devices through the screen glass

Future iPhones could potentially charge accessories resting on the display

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Future iPhone models may not only allow for wirelessly charging other devices, but be able to do so through the front display, instead of the back of the phone.

Previously, the idea of wirelessly charging one device with another always seemed to work the same way. You'd slap your iPhone or iPad down face-first on a table, and then you'd place a heavy second device on the back.

You could possibly crack the display as you put it down. And you would have to be careful to position the second device so that it wasn't wedged up too high by the iPhone's camera bump.

Now, however, it seems that Apple has a lot more faith in the strength of its displays than users without AppleCare+ do. For a newly-revealed patent application proposes turning the iPhone over.

"Through-Display Wireless Charging," is concerned with making the display be the charging point. It's about making the screen be what you place the second device on in order to wirelessly be charged.

Apple's patent application is specific about some parts of the idea, but less so about others. What starts out sounding like wireless charging from underneath the display — like under-screen Face ID — becomes something a bit less appealing.

"A personal electronic device (e.g., a tablet computer) may be configured to wirelessly charge an accessory (e.g., a stylus) through a display face of the device," it states. "At least a portion of the display face may be transparent to facilitate display viewing."

That makes it sound as if the ability to display anything is just an optional part of the screen. That wouldn't make this workable as an iPhone, since the display is a somewhat crucial element.

However, drawings in the application suggest that what's proposed is more of a hybrid display. A section of the screen could be enabled for wireless charging, and that area might not — just might not — display anything.

Given how the only group of people more keen on reduced bezels than Apple is absolutely every user, it's hard to see the company bringing them back for any reason.

Except, perhaps, one.

"[Such] a configuration can include a tablet computer or smart phone that is configured to allow for a stylus or other accessory to be wirelessly charged on a face of the personal electronic device," continues the patent application, "e.g., thorough a display of the personal electronic device."

Top: example of an Apple Pencil resting on a display.  Bottom: detail showing where wireless charging coils could be positioned under the display
Top: example of an Apple Pencil resting on a display. Bottom: detail showing where wireless charging coils could be positioned under the display

Being able to rest your Apple Pencil across one edge of your iPad or iPhone screen and have it being automatically, wirelessly recharged, is an appealing possibility. It's not as appealing as being able to, say, rest your iPhone on your iPad and have that charge, but it's pretty good.

That's because it could take us a step further toward never having to think about batteries again. You use your Apple Pencil when you need, put it down when you're done, and it is charging.

We do already have wireless charging when you snap your Apple Pencil against the top of your iPad, but even that takes a little more conscious thought than putting a pen down.

This patent application is credited to eight inventors. That includes Zaki Moussaoui, whose previous related work includes a patent application about preventing wireless chargers interfering with CarKey.