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Apple Exploring Solar and Wireless Charging for Its iWatch, Sources Say

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Analysts and consumers see these experiments as long overdue in an era when mobile devices can't last a day on a full charge.

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Speaking strictly of software, it's hard to go wrong when choosing between mobile devices offered by Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) or Google (NASDAQ:GOOG). Both platforms have their quirks and attributes, but the mobile industry has progressed to where either operating system provides better-than-satisfactory results for daily usage.

But as developers and manufacturers continue to push the limits of what our mobile devices are capable of doing software-wise, users are lucky if they finish out a day with a smartphone that still has some juice left. In the pursuit of creating the ultimate mobile OS, phone makers have sacrificed battery life for power-hungry apps and connection speeds.

As such, manufacturers have to get creative with how their mobile devices are powered and how to increase the time between charges. Typically that means larger batteries and smarter power consumption, but Apple is reportedly tinkering with different ways of replenishing the battery of its rumored iWatch device.

According to the New York Times, Cupertino is experimenting with solar charging for its wearable gadget. Allegedly outfitted with a curved glass screen, the watch may come equipped with a solar-charging layer that could boost or simply prolong battery life in direct sunlight.

While most of us will recall solar power proving to be an effective system for our scientific calculators back in high school, the method could prove to be impractical for modern, power-hungry devices that are kept in pockets -- or in this case, under shirt sleeves -- for most of the day.

But Apple isn't stopping with sunlight. The company is also rumored to be looking into kinetic energy as a battery-charging method. As found in some modern wristwatches, the simple swinging of people's arms as they walk could generate enough energy to boost battery power. Such technology would fall in line with a patent that the company filed in 2009, but it's not yet known if the iWatch device would be large enough to feature a generator and storage system required for the system.

However, the likeliest of methods Apple is said to be experimenting with is wireless charging. Built into existing devices like Nokia's (NYSE:NOK) Lumia 920 and the latest two Nexus devices for Android, wireless charging would allow the user to place the wristwatch onto a charging plate or station that generates an electrical current via a magnetic field. Rather than directly plugging the iWatch into the wall with a cable, the unit could be rested on a station that's already plugged in. Fast, simple, and convenient.

Although both analysts and consumers see these experiments as long overdue, Nest CEO and former Apple exec Tony Fadell claims battery technology is a boat anchor in mobile development.

"Hoping and betting on new battery technology to me is a fool's errand, Fadell told the Times. "Don't wait for the battery technology to get there, because it's incredibly slow to move." He believes that small steps are the key to improve battery life rather than a complete overhaul of how our devices are powered. And if anyone should know about that, it's Tony "Father of the iPod" Fadell.

Meredith Perry, founder of the wireless charging company uBeam, agrees. "Battery technology advancements are lagging far behind advancements in mobile tech, while power consumption rate is increasing as consumers demand more from their devices," she said.

But Perry considers wireless charging to be an effective and fruitful avenue for prolonging battery life. "When wireless power is everywhere, battery life and charging rates will no longer be critical factors in mobile devices as our devices will always be charging."

Sounds like a future Apple would be keen on invoking.

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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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