The next MacBook Pro could double as a giant AirPower

MacBook Pro 2020 13 inch
(Image credit: Apple)

Apple's AirPower may never come to be. But your next MacBook Pro could be able to wirelessly charge your iPhone, Apple Watch and AirPods — even when it's shut.

There's new evidence of Apple working on a reverse wireless charging feature for its laptops, discovered by Patently Apple. And it could make those Lightning cables even less relevant. 

Reverse wireless charging essentially allows a device to give its own power to a device sat on top of it, such as a phone, earbuds case or smartwatch. No Apple devices are currently capable of reverse wireless charging, but it's something we've seen on its Android smartphone competitors like 'Wireless PowerShare' on the Samsung Galaxy S20, and even on a laptop in the case of the Samsung Galaxy Book Flex.

The original version of this patent, titled "inductive charging between electronic devices",  first appeared in 2016, but there are new claims found in these two latest versions (1,2). For example, as well as the previously suggested charging points on the lower inside surface of the MacBook, the diagrams below show how there could be multiple charging points across the MacBook's outer surface, too, allowing power to be transferred to multiple devices at once.

MacBook wireless charging patent

(Image credit: Patently Apple)

This innovation would turn a MacBook Pro into an AirPower-like wireless charging pad that Apple announced in 2017. However, Apple's device never made it to market due to reported engineering difficulties and possible overheating.

Apple's iPhone 12 line comes with MagSafe charging, a wireless charging method that uses magnets for more secure charging. However, it's been shown that the phones could theoretically be capable of reverse wireless charging with a simple software update.

The next batch of MacBooks will arrive later this year, with the same M1 processor found in the latest MacBook Air or MacBook Pro, or potentially a new 12-core Apple Silicon chip named the M1X. There are reports that the next MacBook Pro will feature new mini-LED displays too, which will make images on the laptop's screen look more colorful and defined.

Of course, this is just a patent, so there is no guarantee that Apple make this feature a reality, but we may see some of Apple's other recent patents turn into real upgrades. That could be something as mundane as a black-shelled MacBook, or something wilder like a dynamic keyboard made up of multiple touch displays, or Face ID security like the iPad Pro or iPhone 12.

And while it's still uncertain if or when this advanced wireless charging feature will ever come out, it does seem, at least to one major analyst, that AirPower has been reborn.

Richard Priday
Assistant Phones Editor

Richard is based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, tablets, gaming, and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, he's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.