Apple has finally admitted what a lot of people had suspected for a while: AirPower is dead.
The charging mat was originally announced in 2017 and we subsequently thought we might see it launched at various points including the September iPhone XS launch. It never happened.
There was also nothing about it at the October launch of the iPad Pro, Mac Mini and MacBook Air, and there's been nothing about it during the Spring when we've had the iPad mini, iPad Air and the new AirPods 2 announced.
We were genuinely thinking AirPower would finally debut last week alongside the other launches.
Why were we still expecting AirPower?
- Mentioned on newly-released AirPods 2 packaging
- Several rumours that it was in production
Apple's charging mat has clearly been cancelled quite late - just last week it was spotted again on Apple's web server, while the new AirPods box we received THIS WEEK mentions AirPower by name as you can see below.
Another version of the box - which we believe might be an early pre-release version - showed a diagram of AirPower on the back.
What's more, we thought it had gone into production. ChargerLAB spoke to someone within Apple's supply chain late last year who said that production of AirPower had started.
The source cited Luxshare Precision as the manufacturer, saying the company is the maker of AirPods as well. In January it was also reported that the Lite-On Semiconductor was manufacturing hardware for AirPower.
What was the Apple AirPower mat?
- As well as compatible iPhones, AirPower would also have charged Apple Watch and the new AirPods 2 with wireless charging case
- Would have charged any Qi-compatible devices
Apple's AirPower was a wireless charging mat that, like others, plugs into the wall but transfers electrical charge into compatible devices through contact alone. You just place your devices on it and they will charge without a wire and with minimal fuss.
The iPhone X, iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, iPhone XS, XS Max and XR all feature wireless charging and work with hundreds of existing Qi charging mats and accessories - the new AirPods case is also Qi-compatible.
AirPower was very similar to those existing products but it will also charge Apple Watch in addition to the iPhone and the new AirPods. It would have been big enough for you to charge all three at the same time - your iPhone, Watch and AirPods.
What happened to AirPower?
- Too hot, too many coils
- Not up to Apple's "high standards"
Apple said in an emailed statement that AirPower just didn't meet its high standards:
"After much effort, we’ve concluded AirPower will not achieve our high standards and we have cancelled the project. We apologize to those customers who were looking forward to this launch. We continue to believe that the future is wireless and are committed to push the wireless experience forward,” said Dan Riccio, Apple's senior vice president of hardware engineering, in a statement.
This isn't a huge surprise as we knew there were big issues with the mat, which we'll explain shortly. But as we said above, we did think Apple had overcome the problems and was about to launch the mat.
According to Bloomberg in late 2018, the mat faced several issues including technicalities with the internal circuitry. According to Chongdiantou, the mat would have incorporated a whopping 22 charging coils (this number was disputed, but it's a lot).
Why so many coils? The idea was that it would charge your device wherever you put it on the mat. You don't need to be precise with your placement of, say, an Apple Watch. And, apparently, there were different sizes of coils which overlapped. And that caused heat and interference issues.
Renowned Apple blogger John Gruber of Daring Fireball said last year that AirPower's delay was indeed down to the "multi-coil design getting too hot — way too hot".
Sonny Dickson added that "the mechanism being used for multi-device charging... is proving extremely difficult to build or refine, and has been resulting in a significant amount of interference...which reduces the efficiency of the charging mat, and contributes to the heat issues that engineers are facing."
Back to Gruber: "Last year Apple was apparently swayed by arguments that they could figure out a way to make it not get hot. They were, clearly, wrong." Interestingly, Gruber originally said that the new AirPods 2 charging case wasn't going to be Qi-compliant with any Qi-compatible charging mat just like the Apple Watch.
However, AirPods 2 eventually launched with a Qi-compatible case. Should that have given the game away about AirPower? And will Apple Watch now become fully Qi-compliant now that AirPower is dead?
According to Dickson, there were also software issues, with the mat failing to feedback AirPod and Apple Watch charging data to iPhone - Apple's original concept showed real-time charge levels shown on your iPhone (just as you get for AirPod or Apple Watch now in the iOS battery widget).
Another reason for it being axed could have been price - would it have been completely uncompetitively priced? When many wireless chargers are on the market for less than $50, Chinese blog Chongdiantou believed that AirPower would cost around $150 USD. That price point was backed up by MySmartPrice. And that was just too much money.