Despite publicised difficulties, Apple wants a smartwatch you don’t have to charge, using solar or kinetic energy
Apple is reportedly looking at making its rumoured upcoming smartwatch, entirely powered by solar or kinetic power, so it never needs to be plugged in.
According to a report in the New York Times, Apple engineers have been trying to build a smarter battery by adding solar charging to iPhones and iPods for many years. The report quotes Tony Fadell, a former Apple vice president who spearheaded development of both the iPod and iPhone, who says, “Hoping and betting on new battery technology to me is a fool’s errand. Don’t wait for the battery technology to get there, because it’s incredibly slow to move.”
Mr. Fadell, who is now the chief executive of Nest, the home thermostat maker bought by Google for $2 billion last month, said that Apple tried for many years to build a smarter battery by adding solar charging to iPhones and iPods. But the method never proved practical, he said, because mobile devices often stay inside pockets when people are outdoors, and indoor artificial light generates only a tiny amount of energy.
Solar powered watches have been available for some time to steampunk enthusiasts, of course, in the shape of devices which combine a compass with a sundial (as shown in our illustration,found on a South African commerce site for 399 Rand or roughly £22. Similar devices are available cheaper on eBay in the UK). When sunlight is available, it shows a reasonable approximation of the time.
Apple’s reported moves are more serious. With development on the ‘iWatch’ apparently making major headway, the issue of how to power the device has continued to be a source of much debate.
A person briefed on the product told the New York Times that Apple has been testing a method to charge the battery wirelessly with magnetic induction, whereby an electrical current creates a magnetic field, which creates voltage that powers the phone.
There have also been discussions of powering the device using kinetic energy as Apple seeks to gain a part of the lucrative mobile health sector. A smartwatch could be powered by the kinetic energy generated by a user swinging their arms, or by the vibration created when a user walks on a solid surface, both of which could also provide useful data for health tracking applications.
Apple does have previous experience with solar charging technology, announcing last year that a 137-acre solar farm would provide 100 percent of the power for its data centre in Reno, Nevada. The company also posted a job vacancy looking for someone with solar expertise last September, having already hired experts on battery life from both Toyota and Tesla.
Apple has been slowly building up its wearable technology team over the last few months as the company looks to expand its existing product lines. CEO Tim Cook said last year that the company will continue to innovate, and hinted that a smartwatch would soon be appearing, commenting that “the wrist is natural”, although no release date has yet been announced.
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