Apple's Wireless Charging Watch Not So Wireless

John Lister's picture

To some, Apple's new high-tech watch could be the device that helps bring electronic wireless charging technology to the masses. But to others, Apple's latest offering may not be enough of a breakthrough to overcome years of stalemate between rival technologies.

As expected, Apple unveiled a smartwatch this week. As with several similar devices, the watch connects wirelessly to a nearby smartphone (in this case, an iPhone). The smartwatch then allows users to quickly check phone alerts and details, including text messages and emails without the need to pull the phone from their pockets.

Like any other battery-operated device, the watch needs charging, though Apple hasn't confirmed the precise battery life or charge time. Before the launch, many in the tech industry speculated Apple would use some form of wireless charging for the smartwatch, rather than require users to plug in a charger cable as they do with their smartphones.

'Wireless' Charger Needs Physical Connection

It turns out, that's only partially the case. To charge the watch, a wireless charger is used that clips to the back magnetically. (Source:

The wireless charging system uses magnetic induction coupling technology. It works by both the charger and the watch having magnetic coils; when correctly aligned, it creates a magnetic field which can be used to carry electricity over a small distance.

Magnetic Resonance Technology May Offer More

Some tech enthusiasts were hoping that Apple would opt for a different wireless charging technology, called magnetic resonance. This also uses magnetic coils, but they "sync" not by their physical alignment, but by their resonance: an electrical characteristic.

In very simplified terms, the coils can transmit and receive electricity in a similar way to carrying sound signals over radio waves at a particular frequency. Unlike magnetic induction methods currently in use, it's suggested that magnetic resonance technology is able to send electrical currents through wood or granite walls, with as much as 80 percent of the electricity being passed onto the devices. (Source:

The big advantage of magnetic resonance is that it can operate over a wider distance, often up to 15 feet, and thus doesn't require the device to be in a specific place. Had Apple used this system, there would be no need to remember to clip the charger on.

For example, if you had a charger plugged in to an outlet in your bedroom, the watch could charge automatically overnight no matter whether you left it in your pocket or put it on a nightstand.

Different Wireless Charging Technologies Battle

At the moment, there are at least three different technology standards for magnetic wireless charging, which aren't compatible with one another. Before Apple launched the new smartwatch, it was speculated that if Apple chose to use magnetic resonance, the watch might have been enough of a high-profile product to establish one of these standards as the market leader. (Source:

If that were the case, it's suggested that more manufacturing efforts would have focused toward the magnetic resonance standard. If so, it's possible that public locations would offer such chargers, making magnetic resonance technology most prominent. In turn, virtually any electronic device could charge autonomously, and the idea of having to be tethered to a wall to recharge would no longer be an issue.

What's Your Opinion?

Would you buy a mobile device that supported wireless charging? Does the need to plug a mobile device into a power outlet or computer to recharge affect your enjoyment of the device, or even which ones you buy? Do you think Apple made a mistake opting for magnetic induction rather than magnetic resonance charging?

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stekcapofni's picture

Yes. Wireless is a misnomer. Plugless would be a more accurate term.

Boots66's picture

Forgive but some wonder why designers seem to disappear as fast as they appear.
The watch has only been out a matter of days and already there is bitching about this and that - It can't magically power itself by being near a charger - When are we going to stop being so damn lazy we can't simply do the things that really aren't a big deal - Really - worry about charging this way or that way - Apple went to the point of going to induction charging, instead of making you plug your latest toy into the wall - So is our lives so ever necessary to be so totally connected that we can't take this thing off our arm while we sleep to let it charge - It has to be attached to us 24/7? Maybe the next thing will be the microchip - embedded under the skin so we don't have to carry some of our cards to prove who we are and what our medical conditions are...But keep in mind that there is always a dark side to everything - If we eventually let this lead us to Microchipping - that is something that could prevent you getting access to a locked door as well!
Time to start doing more things ourselves