Apple’s iPhone 5 might not need wires for charging when it comes out later this year.
According to Patently Apple, today the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published an Apple patent the company applied for back in 2008. The patent is for inductive charging: using a specially designed dock to charge a device without the need for a wire. The dock still needs a wire connecting it to the power source, but the iPhone just needs to sit in the dock without any sort of attachment.
Inductive charging is nothing new, Palm included it in the original Pre, and every WebOS device after, and other devices feature the same technology. Devices like the Duracell Powermat even bring the technology to the iPhone through cases. Inductive charging built into an iPhone 5 would be a first for Apple, however.
If Apple does include inductive charging in the iPhone 5, it could be another reason for the smaller dock connector in the device. Apple will need some more space inside the iPhone to put the inductive charging components.
Knowing Apple, if it does include the technology, users will need to buy a separate dock in order to use it, and the dock will likely be expensive. The dock won’t sync the iPhone to a computer directly, though Apple did recently introduce WiFi syncing which would solve that problem. There might even be a small argument that Apple added WiFi syncing in iOS 5 in anticipation of a future device with inductive charging.
There were rumors of inductive charging in the iPhone last year, thought they obviously never came true. Maybe this year they might.