updated 11:30 am EST, Thu February 5, 2009
Apple Univ Battery Patent
A US patent filing published today suggests Apple is considering universal battery formats that could be recharged outside of the device or familiar power outlets. The application describes the battery packs as having a potentially replaceable core and fitting into one of multiple yet standard formats that could have chargers in multiple hosts rather than require its own proprietary charger or adapter. A computer, keyboard or other device could have multiple slots that either charge batteries, including from other devices, or else use them to power the device itself.
The batteries would also be synchronized with each other in a way that hasn't previously been possible. While the batteries themselves wouldn't necessarily have wireless links, the wireless connections built into devices would send data about power levels between all the batteries in the user's personal network. Coordinating multiple batteries would let owners know when batteries are running low without having to control them and could even identify which batteries are suitable replacements.
Such intelligent monitoring could also more carefully manage the charge of batteries in regular use and deliberately drain batteries to recondition them, or else charge them with a priority on either maximizing the battery's lifetime or getting a charge as quickly as possible. A long-term history could also be kept to warn when batteries are losing their potential or when a battery has likely died from age.
Magnets could also be used to prevent the battery from giving a charge until it's plugged into a valid device.
Apple doesn't provide any hints as to whether or not the filing is intended for production devices but envisions the batteries as essential to creating a personal network where most devices can stay wireless and talk to each other over a short-range protocol, such as Ultra Wideband (UWB) or Wi-Fi, without having to worry about periodically plugging in.
At least four battery sizes also suggest intentions and scale from large packs more suited to notebooks down to mid-size batteries, for cellphones and similar devices, as well as a very small battery size for mice or sport headphones that need a compact shape. One example image shows an iMac-like computer with battery slots on its side. Apple has historically been resistant to removable batteries in iPhones and iPods, however, and has lately made the batteries non-removable on the MacBook Air and 17-inch MacBook Pro.
The patent was originally submitted at the end of July 2007 and is credited to Harold Ludtke.