Charge Your iPhone with Your Headphones! Wait, What?

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Look out, your next iOS device may do away with that fussy charging cable and cradle. In its place? A pair of earbuds. Yep, I said earbuds. Those things you stick in your ears to listen to music, or maybe use to lasso a pen off your desk if you’re lazy (as well as adept at making lassos out of earphones, which probably means you’d be great in a circus, too).

Don’t ditch your charge cables yet, but Patently Apple noticed a U.S. Patent & Trademark Office patent by Apple, published just this morning, for an “Inductive Charging System” compatible with iOS devices. Since you’re probably wondering, inductive charging involves plying the electromagnetic field to move energy between two objects—basically a kind of wireless energy transfer. If you have an electric toothbrush, specifically the kind you place on a plastic nub, it’s using inductive charging to juice up.

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The trouble with inductive charging is that it can take a long time to move enough energy to power something like a smartphone or tablet (or an unwieldy charging coil). Thus inductive charging’s opposite, con-ductive charging, which involves physical contact between batteries and a charger. That’s how we charge most of our tech toys today.

According to Patently Apple, Apple’s coming at this from several angles. One involves wrapping your earphone cable around a charging tower (pictured above) that looks a trifle ho-hum, almost like a wooden paper towel dowel. Your earbuds, connected to your iOS device, would contain a conductive metal mesh to initiate charging…all of which sounds like trading one sort of cable clutter for another.

A variant idea’s less clumsy-sounding, and eliminates the charge tower. In fact it does away with connective wiring entirely. Imagine headphones designed to detect low frequency (inaudible to humans) audio, which would cause sensors in the earbuds to vibrate. Those vibrations could then be converted into electrical current by a transducer in the earbuds, in turn charging the connected iOS device. It’s called “acoustic charging,” or as someone living a hundred years ago (or you know, Steve Jobs today) might refer to it: “magical.”

But then maybe I’m just out of touch and curling earphones around dowels would be the new geek chic. Maybe you already do this. Goodness knows after running (and perspiring) in this summer’s temperatures, mine could do with some dowel-based hang-time.

MORE: The iPhone 6 May Be Completely Cord Free, Charge Wirelessly

Matt Peckham is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @mattpeckham or on Facebook. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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