Apple’s iPhone 12 seems to have a secret reverse wireless charging feature

Technical Ticket: Apple’s iPhone 12 seems to have a secret reverse wireless charging feature

Apple’s iPhone 12 lineup has the ability to wirelessly charge an external accessory, according to a series of newly unveiled FCC filings that just went public yesterday. The documents first spotted by VentureBeat’s Jeremy Horwitz say the phone “supports a built-in inductive charging transmitter and receiver.” Apple has not officially announced any such functionality that could be used to charge future AirPods or Apple’s long rumored Tile-competitor dubbed “AirTags.”

“In addition to being able to be charged by a desktop WPT [wireless power transfer] charger (puck), 2020 iPhone models … also support WPT charging function at 360 kHz to charge accessories,” one of the documents reads. It lists a series of FCC IDs of iPhones with the new feature, which include the the iPhone 12 mini (BCG-E3539A), iPhone 12 (BCG-E3542A), iPhone 12 Pro (BCG-E3545A), and iPhone 12 Pro Max (BCG-E3548A). The maximum reverse wireless charging speed is listed as 5W, if we’re reading the documents correctly.

The iPhones 12 series supports Apple’s new MagSafe standard, which uses magnets inside the phones to help properly align compatible accessories, including a new Qi-compatible wireless charging puck. However, Apple has not announced any form of reverse wireless charging for the phones, and they don’t appear capable of charging any devices currently on the market.

It sounds like the iPhone 12’s reverse wireless charging may be limited, at least at first. The documents say that “currently the only accessory that can be charged by iPhones is an external potential apple accessory in future” and that reverse charging currently “only occurs when the phone is connected to an AC power outlet.” The FCC’s testing appears to have been conducted using only a wall charger and USB-C cable, presumably the same USB-C to Lighting cable bundled with each iPhone 12.

It sounds like the technology is meant to allow you to reduce the amount of charging clutter on a night stand by, for example, wirelessly charging a pair of AirPods magnetically attached to an iPhone that’s plugged into the wall. However, this may change in the future, as the document goes on to suggest. “Future designs and accessories may support true portable use condition, with the host-client pair able to be placed in a pocket or backpack.”

It’s unclear why Apple did not officially reveal the functionality when it announced the phones themselves, though it could be because the accessory which works with the functionality isn’t yet ready to be released. Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman speculates that it might work with the company’s upcoming AirPods revamp, whose existence was reported earlier this week.

The reverse wireless charging functionality doesn’t appear to require much in the way of new hardware, at least nothing that iFixit spotted during its teardown of the new phones.

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