A previous FCC filing hinted at the iPhone 12’s reverse charging capability but it took months for the first chargeable product to arrive.
Apple kept at least one of the capabilities of its iPhone 12 quiet for nearly nine months, but reverse wireless charging has been revealed in an Apple support document, confirming earlier suspicions. This means not only can the iPhone 12 be charged wirelessly with a MagSafe or Qi charger, but it can also charge other devices wirelessly. So far this ability is quite limited, but might be expanded in the future. Apple does have a tendency to plan ahead and include technology in its devices, even when the related product is months or even years from release.
There were indications last year that the iPhone 12 might be able to reverse wireless charge an AirTag or future versions of AirPods. This came to light when Apple filed radio-frequency exposure documents, as required by the FCC, but this capability wasn’t mentioned when the iPhone 12 launched. This was prior to the release of the AirTag, but it had been heavily rumored to be coming soon. Putting these details together, it made sense that the new iPhone might be able to charge an AirTag. When Apple’s location beacon was announced in April of 2021, it became clear that charging wasn’t an option, since it has a user-replaceable battery.
It turns out that Apple simply hadn’t made use of the iPhone 12’s full capabilities yet. With the recent release of the MagSafe Battery Pack, Apple published a support document about this new device, discovered by 9to5 Mac. The new accessory has a Lightning port and it can be charged separately, but it’s also possible to attach it using the MagSafe connection to an iPhone 12 and both will charge at the same time. Although reverse wireless is not specifically mentioned, in this arrangement, the iPhone is plugged into a Lightning cable and draws power to replenish the internal battery while the MagSafe Battery Pack is simultaneously charged wirelessly.
Uses Of IPhone 12’S Reverse Wireless Charging
Since the MagSafe Battery Pack can be plugged in while attached to an iPhone 12 to charge both, it would initially seem like there is no need for reverse charging. Apple gave some examples to clarify the purpose. If supplying power to the iPhone 12 via CarPlay, it can be charging while playing music, giving directions, and interacting with Siri. Another example is when backing up an iPhone to a Mac. In both of these cases, when a MagSafe Battery Pack is attached, it can be charged while using the iPhone with a connected device. It seems unlikely that Apple would include this technology for use with just one compatible accessory, so there might be more products coming that can take advantage of the iPhone’s newfound skill.
Based on the FCC filing, the Phone 12 should be capable of supplying up to 5-watts of wireless power. This isn’t fast charging, but it’s the same amount of power delivered to an iPhone and AirPods when using a Qi charger. Future versions of the AirTag might come with rechargeable batteries and Apple did mention various form factors for its tracking tags in a patent document. This is speculative, but there is a real chance that the iPhone 12 and future iPhone models will have the ability to charge Apple accessories. For now, the iPhone 12 can only use reverse wireless charging when it’s connected and charging via the Lightning port, and the only device it can supply power to is the MagSafe Battery Pack.