back to article Apple eyes phallic iPhone, iPod charger

Apple has filed a patent application that describes a kludgey inductive battery-charging system, then adds – almost as an afterthought – a short description of a second, acoustically driven charger. Aside from electric toothbrushes, inductive charging is perhaps best known through the good services of the HP (née Palm) Pre's …


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  1. Matt Piechota

    It's all tingly

    ""Note that the vibrations can be generated in a non-audible frequency range (less than 20 Hz or greater than 20K Hz) to prevent users from hearing the acoustic charging signal," the filing says, answering the question that we're sure was on your worried mind."

    I dunno, what's on my mind is I don't really want ear buds producing more emag fields next to my brain.

  2. deains
    Paris Hilton

    That's the silliest thing I've seen today.

    I can only guess that Apple patented it to prevent anyone else bringing such a stupid product to market and calling it the iPhallus for iPod or something. It's not something I'd like associated with one of my products, that's for sure.

    Paris as I can't find the Cult of Jobs icons.

  3. Martin 71 Silver badge

    I always thought

    That being bloody obvious was a barrier to patenting stuff?

    1. Mark 65

      Not in the US

      see title

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    Just a wee bit of a kluge. Not nearly as slick as HPs touchstone charger for the Pre and touchpad.

  5. Gary B.

    Right, so... works much like plugging the device into a regular outlet, except much less convenient in that you have to wrap the audio cable around the iPole.

  6. Stoneshop

    Physics are no barrier for the Mighty Church of Jobs

    In the real world however, transformer coils need to form a closed circuit with 9primary) power source and the (secondary) device to be powered.

    Just wrapping a length of cord, with only one end connected to anything, round an electromagnetically excited dick won't do create such a closed circuit, and hence very little charging will occur.

    1. DavCrav


      Article says the earbud needs to be attached somehow to the iGadget, with the other end plugged in normally.

      1. Eddy Ito

        Yes, I see it

        Marked 110 in the cartoon is the other electrical contact on the bit that goes in your ear.

        Of course this means we should be expecting an Apple patent application titled "Correcting consumer behavior via direct electric stimulus to the auditory canal". I wonder if it will come with the Electric Boogie preloaded on the iPod... it's electric!

      2. Stoneshop

        That won't fly with Apple's design dept.

        Closing the loop through the earbud and the case means the contact area need to be bare metal, not the anodised aluminium alloy that the iThingies cases tend to be made of. Furthermore, the minimal contact provided by a earphone bud weighing just a few grams on a not-too-clean metal surface (fingerprints and other environmental influences) is rather weak at best. Nothing you would want to run the 100mA or so current required to do a reasonable bit of charging in a reasonable bit of time.

        If they can't spare the extra space for a charging socket, and they can't make the earphone/host socket function for charging either, they should just look into two contact points somewhere on the back of the case, and a stand that has matching contact leafs. Just like most cordless phones, walkie-talkies and such.

  7. Anonymous Coward

    3.5mm Jack ?

    Nope - you'll need proprietary headphones to use this

  8. IR


    Having the earbud mesh as the electric contact to charge the battery? Makes me a little worried to have something connected to the battery stuck in my ear.

    How many variations have they lumped into this single patent? It's like five combined into one.

  9. Mat Child

    Bit Pointless

    I for one would not want to be wrapping and unwrapping my earphones tightly around a pole for any reason.

    I was always led to believe that sort treatment of wires was bad for them.

    At least they aren't trying to claim ownership of contactless charging this time.

    1. Stoneshop

      Dedicated earphones

      And frequent replacement because of wire fatigue. The sales department must be having wet dreams already.

  10. Anonymous Coward

    So, this is better?

    So, instead of just putting my device into a stand with a charging plug - an operation that takes just a second or so - I am to wind my headphones around a pole, then put the earbud on the device to complete the circuit.

    Instead of being able to easily and efficiently deliver half an amp or more to my device, I am now delivering roughly a fifth of that.

    And this is better, how?

    Or, alternatively: instead of putting my device in a stand, I clip the earbuds into this acoustic coupler. Instead of delivering half an amp at 5V, I am now delivering a few milli-watts of audio energy.

    And this is better, how?

    1. Tomato42

      Re: So, this is better?

      This will allow to reduce the number of holes in the iGadgets. Jobsian empire has a serious aversion to those.

      "Who needs more than 2 USB ports anyway?"

  11. Wang N Staines

    They are showing

    that can come up with something original.

    I expect Samsung will be copying this innovative product soon.

    1. Craigness

      If only...

      The most likely product is the one mentioned at the top of the article, which is a copy of what Palm did. Not a copy, of course, but an entirely new way of thinking. Just to be clear. It's the sort of new way of thinking that iTards support import bans for when it's not Apple doing it: if anyone has incorporated an existing technology into a phone then all competitors must not be allowed to incorporate the same technology into any telephonic product, unless Apple wasn't first.

  12. Jeff 10

    It's the iPud

    An electrically stimulated one at that.

    Mine the one with all the hairs standing on end.

  13. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge
    Thumb Down


    This can only work if the earbuds electrically touch the iThing. (If not, the field on the way out to the buds and on the way back to the jack match and cancel out). This is dumber and more cumbersome than simple designs that directly touch electric wires to a device.

    Maybe you can wind and unwind the earbuds on the magno-pole a few dozen times while you're waiting for iTunes to stop hanging.

  14. Rob Daglish

    Genius plan...

    Yup, patent something completely stupid, wait til samsung copy it, and then either

    1) they'll fail and go bust

    2) they'll electrocute all their users and go bust

    3) sue them for breaching your patent and they'll go bust.

    Either way, it's goodnight s2 and a win for the home team...

  15. Havin_it

    Can't wait to try this

    with my Bluetooth headphones.

  16. Terry Kiely


    I have enough trouble remembering to plop my phone into the RothDock or to plug in it's own charger before going to bed!

    cant imagine waking up to think. Ar$3! forgot to wind cable 27 times round the pole and balance the left ear plug upside down on the iHole last night!

    mines the one with the emergency solar charging panels to power phone on way to work

  17. stucs201

    Well someone completely missed the point...

    ...that the point of wireless charging (*) is convinience and not having to mess about with wires.

    Doh! Given the company involved I'm guessing they've been investigating ways to remove another blemish (port) from their idealised featureless black slab design (**) but were worried that they might add a millimetre to the device thickness and this would be seen as a backwards step by their fanbois^h^h^h^h^h^h^h loyal customers. Classic bit of form over function design.

    (*) exception electric toothbrushes where its about keeping water out.

    (**) They'll probably be sueing Stanley Kubrik for copyright infringement in 2001 when they achieve this.

  18. D@v3

    Important question

    Does the acoustic charger use whale song?

  19. poohbear

    too big

    This thing is too big for a Standard-Issue Japanese apartment.

  20. Razor Rich

    Stupid idea

    Any real iPhone / iPod user doesn't use the earphones that are supplied. They are extremely uncomfortable and have terrible sound. I am still shocked that they haven't changed since first launched.

    So I doubt most users will be able to use this technology.

    1. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart

      terrible sound

      No, that’s iJobs you're listening to...

  21. darklord

    Surely Philips/Braun where there first

    My Toothbrushe does this "a small coil wrapped around a post inside". So no samsung wont be copying as the theory alreadty exists and is in the real world.

    Just give us a decent charging dock which samsung dont do for the galaxy S.

  22. Anonymous Coward

    Less convenient than plugging the charger cable into the iDevice

    Therefore utterly pointless.

  23. This post has been deleted by its author

  24. stucs201

    An for those who don't use headphones?

    My iPod gets used in the car with the car stereo. Do they really expect me to plug in headphones if I want to charge it at home?

  25. Identity

    Think of the dogs!

    ""Note that the vibrations can be generated in a non-audible frequency range (...greater than 20K Hz) to prevent users from hearing the acoustic charging signal,"

  26. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart
    Paris Hilton

    iPatient for iPerpetual iMotion iMachine

    It’s only a small iStep from there to iWrap part of iHeadphone iCable around an iSuitable iCore to create an iElectro-magnet and then use the other iHalf of the iHeadphone iCable to iCharge the iDevice. And then you’ll iNever have to iPlug an iCharger into the iDevice ever again and iJobs can get rid of one iPort for aestheticly pleasing reasons.

    While I’m at, I must get a USB powered toaster as well

    Paris - one iPort

  27. Lance 3

    Just another way

    Probably just another way Apple can make sure people use their accessories and lock the after market out.

    "The iPole, you know you want it."

    "Hop on the iPole"

    I wonder if four rings is enough to unwrap the headphones from the pole before the call goes to VM. I can hear it now, "hold on, I'm unwrapping the pole."

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    Dear Ms Hilton

    Please excuse me for foregoing the formalities and get straight to the point. I am the inventor of a handy charging device for portable music players, that derives power from being wrapped around suitably shaped electrical apparatus that a young lady like yourself may have in a bedside cabinet. I think you may well be the best person to endorse and help make the device a success. Whilst your people and my people negotiate the exact terms of business, I need some help in optimising the design of the charging circuit, and was wondering if you would be free to come around next weekend to my laboratory. There are lots of equipment with dials, and especially knobs which are sure to make you feel at home.


    I. N. Ventor

    ps - Don't forget to bring your favorite (battery powered) electrical apparatus. In the meantime, I'll go down to the local Maplin store (a bit like Radio Shack) and stock up on batteries - they have deals on their own brand bulk packs - unless you think Duracells are better - those rabbits seem to go on and on...

  29. ArmanX

    Here's a better idea...

    Instead of trying to turn your headphones into a power jack... why not just add a coil, then use it for multiple things? Wirelessly charge, but also wirelessly transmit - when headphones are stuck to it (with a magnet, or something), the iDevice uses the coil to transmit to the (passive) headphones. Now, since you don't need any holes for charging or inserting headphones, you can seal the entire device; no user serviceable parts, indeed!

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