The company made the announcement as it released iOS 16, the new major operating system upgrade for its phones.
It buried the reveal of the new feature at the bottom of a press release announcing that new software, and gave little information on what exactly it might mean. But it suggests that the new phone will be able to intelligently decide when it charges, to decrease its carbon footprint.
“Clean Energy Charging aims to decrease the carbon footprint of the iPhone by optimizing charging times for when the grid is using cleaner energy sources,” the press release reads.
The feature adds a new process to the iPhone that runs in the background and gathers information from the power grid about carbon emissions, according to data found in the code by blog 9to5mac. That allows the phone to know when the electricity grid is running at the cleanest times.
The new feature will be able to wait until the power grid is using less energy, and is therefore running on more clean energy, before it starts charging. That could presumably allow iPhones to limit the load on the power grid, as well as charge using more clean sources, which could be useful in situations where power is limited.
The system works similar to those already in the phone to optimise the lifespan of the battery. Those work by monitoring when people tend to use their phone and keeping the battery below its maximum charge until it is needed – thereby lowering the strain on the battery.
Apple did not give any indication of when the feature will arrive. It said that it will come in a future version of iOS 16, alongside other features that have been announced but were not yet ready, such as new ways of sharing photos with family and “Live Activities” that will show ongoing information on the lock screen.
It also gave no indication of whether the feature will come to other Apple products. But it did specifically say that the feature will be limited to the US, presumably because of the need to have local information from the power grid.