Wireless charging and near-field communication or NFC could eventually make their way into Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) products according to a patent application published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday.
The patent application titled “Wirelessly Charged Electronic Device with Shared Inductor Circuitry,” describes an invention where wireless charging can be implemented in smaller devices. Rather than using separate circuitry for wirelessly charging, Apple proposes using shared circuitry to save space.
Among the components the wireless charger could share circuitry with, Apple names speakers, vibrators and interestingly enough, a NFC antenna. NFC, a technology that allows users to wirelessly share data between devices and special receivers, would enable Apple’s invention to communicate with wireless payment systems in retail stores and open doors equipped with wireless receivers, similar to how security badges function in many offices and buildings.
While Apple says in the patent description that the invention could be used in a variety of devices such as smartphones, it specifically uses as a “small portable device such as a wristwatch device,” as its example in the patent. The image include in the patent isn’t a design patent, but it’s inclusion has fueled further speculation from Apple blogs about the highly rumored wearable, the Apple iWatch.
It’s currently unknown if Apple plans to use wireless charging in any of their upcoming devices, though several reports have surfaced in recent weeks indicating that Apple plans to implement NFC in the highly rumored 4.7-inch iPhone 6.
Historically, Apple has turned its back on NFC as its rivals like Samsung (KRX:005930) and Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) have included it in their high-end Android devices for years. But the time may be right for Apple, which has hundreds of thousands of iTunes accounts in its portfolio and a number of retailers upgrading their credit card readers to support NFC and EMV credit cards, commonly known as “chip cards” in Europe.