Apple has filed for a new patent that would allow it to charge devices on store shelves as well as push out firmware updates before an item is sold.
The moment you get a new device home after purchasing it in the store, you’re excited to tear it open and start using it. The problem is that, depending on how long it has been on the shelf, you might find that it has next to no power, or a new firmware update has come out that you must install before using it. Apple has filed for a new patent that would eliminate that soul-crushing moment of realization.
A new patent listed on FreePatentsOnline (pdf link) has the rather un-sexy name of “Active Electronic Media Device Packaging,” but in reality it could revolutionize the way electronics are sold in stores. The system calls for an RF receiver to be placed in each package that would keep the devices charged up while on the store shelves. This system would also allow for new media and firmware updates to be sent to the devices so that they would also be up-to-date with the newest materials.
While this would be a benefit to the consumer who takes the product home, Apple is also looking at the idea as a way that would allow devices to sell themselves. As opposed to just puting labels on the package that would describe what the product does, the continuously powered-up devices would also be in packaging that would allow potential customers to interact with the device. As you can see in the diagram at the top of this post, which comes from the patent filing, the packaging would have a cut-out area where prospective customers would be able to try out the products. Of course, the first concern that pops into my head is who really wants to take home a product that an unknown number of people have touched?
A second concern, although a minor one, is rechargeable batteries begin to degrade over time with the number of charging cycles they go through. Lets say an iPad sits on a store shelf for a month, one would have to wonder how many charging cycles you will have lost if it is constantly charged via this system. While the number would more than likely be fairly small, it could still be a concern.
As with all patents, one never knows if it will actually come to be a reality. This particular one was filed in December of last year, but was made public this week.