Along with a larger screen and redesigned dock connector, one of the most persistent rumours regarding the iPhone 5 that has appeared during the last few months is that it will come with some form of wireless charging. This rumour is now gaining further weight as Apple has been granted a patent for wireless charging by the US Patent and Trademark Office.

The patent was among 27 recently granted to Apple, and was originally filed for in the start of 2008. With the patent application being so old, and four iPhone releases taking place in the intervening years, is the granting of this patent any indication that Apple will feature wireless charging on its next iPhone?

Even though Apple already possessed the technology back in 2008 they have not been in any rush to implement it in their phones. This may all change with the recent launch of the Samsung Galaxy S3, which is due to have a wireless charging accessory released within the next few months. Samsung is currently Apple’s arch nemesis in the smartphone market and Apple will be keen to compete against any new feature that Samsung seeks to introduce.

While wireless charging may not have appeared in the iPhone 3G, 3GS, 4 or 4S, leaked images of the next iPhone’s dock connector may indicate that a major change is in the pipeline. Ever since the third generation iPod was launched, Apple has used the same 30 pin dock connector for all of its iOS devices. Images of what is claimed to be the iPhone 5 show a new, much smaller, 19 pin dock connector.

While this new dock connector does not guarantee that Apple will introduce wireless charging for its phones in the autumn, it does at least suggest that Apple is planning to overhaul the way that its iOS devices connect to other accessories, including charging units.

Apple has the technology, and with the Samsung’s Galaxy S3, the competitive motivation, needed to introduce such a new feature. But what would wireless charging be like on the iPhone 5?

Like Samsung’s phone, Apple’s proposed wireless charging would not be able to charge an iPhone from a large distance – physical contact would still be required with a charging unit. If the recently granted Apple patent design is anything to go by, this would simply be a matter of slotting the iPhone into a docking port in a similar way that phones can be connected to speaker docks.

On a side note, a completely redesigned dock connector will make existing iPhone accessories useless for those looking to upgrade to the iPhone 5. The new 19 pin design will not be compatible with the current 30 pin design, and the prospect of having to replace years’ worth of iPhone accessories may actually be a big turn-off for current iPhone users when they come to replace their current handset. An adapter may become available at some point, either from Apple or a third party accessory manufacturer, but it would still remain a laborious task to use an adapter for each and every accessory that is owned.

Apple files for a huge number of patents on a regular basis, and the recent wireless charging patent granted by UPSTO is no guarantee that Apple has plans to introduce this feature on its next iPhone, or any iPhone for that matter. The fact that Apple’s biggest smartphone rival has already introduced the feature may be enough of a reason for them to seriously consider it, and the leaked images of the new dock connector at least indicate that some sort of change is on the horizon when it comes to charging an iPhone’s battery.