Apple has been rumored to be bringing reverse wireless charging to iPhones for a couple of years now. It's yet to officially appear, but a regulatory filing suggests the tech is actually inside the iPhone 12 – it's just not enabled.
Reverse wireless charging, as seen on some Android handsets, is where a phone can itself double up as a wireless charger – drop a pair of wireless earbuds on the back of the phone, for example, and they start charging up.
As noted by VentureBeat reporter Jeremy Horwitz on Twitter, documents registered with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the US show that the new iPhone 12 models come with the ability to wirelessly charge up other accessories.
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So why haven't we heard about it so far? One possible reason is that Apple is waiting for the next AirPods refresh, and that future versions of the wireless earbuds will be able to be charged up in this way.
Coming next year
It looks as though the new functionality is tied into the MagSafe standard that Apple has introduced with the iPhone 12 range: a wireless charging technology that makes use of magnets to ensure a stable and speedy charge.
Of course only Apple knows for sure what its plans are, but we do know the company has been exploring the idea of reverse wireless charging through the patent applications it's been filing. It's likely that something along these lines is planned.
As for when we might actually see new sets of AirPods from Apple, the rumor is that new earbuds will be landing at some point in 2021, together with another new HomePod speaker. A more compact and potentially stemless design is being talked about for the AirPods Pro 2.
One wireless charging product that apparently isn't ever going to see the light of day is the AirPower mat – inside sources suggest the charging device has now been canceled for the second time after Apple struggled to get the technology up to a satisfactory standard.
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Dave is a freelance tech journalist who has been writing about gadgets, apps and the web for more than two decades. Based out of Stockport, England, on TechRadar you'll find him covering news, features and reviews, particularly for phones, tablets and wearables. Working to ensure our breaking news coverage is the best in the business over weekends, David also has bylines at Gizmodo, T3, PopSci and a few other places besides, as well as being many years editing the likes of PC Explorer and The Hardware Handbook.