Apple developing magnetic battery pack attachment for iPhones

LAUNCH: A customer wearing a protective mask tries out an Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max at the Apple flagship store during a product launch event in Sydney on Nov. 13, 2020. Brendon Thorne/Bloomberg

Apple is working on a magnetically attached battery pack for the newest iPhones, an accessory that would wirelessly charge the handset and provide the company with another potentially lucrative add-on product.

Apple has been developing the attachment for at least a year and it has been scheduled to launch in the months following the release of the iPhone 12 line, according to people with knowledge of the product. The iPhone 12 models were introduced in October.

The battery pack would attach to the back of an iPhone 12 using the MagSafe system, which all the new phones use for charging and pairing other accessories like cases and wallets. Some prototypes of the battery pack have a white rubber exterior, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the product isn't yet public. The new accessory would differ from Apple battery add-ons for previous iPhones in that it only provides additional battery life and doesn't serve as a full protective case.

In internal testing, the magnetic attachment system has proved strong enough for the charging unit to stay in place, but the accessory's development has been slowed by software issues such as the iPhone erroneously indicating that the pack is overheating. Apple also has been working to mend issues related to a customer switching between using the device on an iPhone sometimes with and without a case.

Given the new accessory's development challenges, it could ultimately be delayed or scrapped, the people said. An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment.

Apple's hardware engineering department is careful about launching accessories related to charging. In 2017, the company announced an AirPower mat that would charge an Apple Watch, iPhone and AirPods earphones at the same time. It was ultimately never released and canceled deep into its development in 2019 due to issues related to overheating.

Accessories and wearables have become an increasing source of revenue for Apple, with cases, AirPods, Apple Watches, home speakers and related products generating almost $13 billion, or 12% of total company sales, last quarter.

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