In early 2019 Apple admitted what a lot of people had suspected for a while: AirPower, its long-awaiting charging mat, was dead.
But according to a couple of sources, the mat could launch in 2020 - a mere three years after it was first announced. It could cost as much as $250 (eeek) and be out at the end of 2020.
What is the Apple AirPower mat?
- As well as compatible iPhones, AirPower would also have charged Apple Watch and the AirPods 2 with wireless charging case plus AirPods Pro
- 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 plus iPhone 11 series and iPhone SE (2020) all feature wireless charging and work with hundreds of existing Qi charging mats and accessories.
AirPower will also charge Apple Watch in addition to the iPhone and AirPods 2 with wireless charging case and AirPods Pro. It would have been big enough for you to charge all three at the same time - your iPhone, Watch and AirPods.
So why do we think AirPower is happening in 2020?
- Reports from reliable analysts
- But current prototypes don't support Apple Watch
Tech analyst Jon Prosser has had sources confirm to him that the project is still very much underway, and that Apple isn't giving up on its wireless charging dream.
AirPower isn’t dead— Jon Prosser (@jon_prosser) March 22, 2020
The project is back on, internally. No guarantee that they’ll finalize and release it, but they haven’t given up yet and they’re trying to re-engineer the coils to displace heat more effectively. Prototyping is underway.
Prosser says that prototyping is underway but that none of the current iterations support Apple Watch and that Apple won't release a version without Apple Watch compatibility - understandable since that's pretty much AirPower's raison d'etre.
A later mockup by Prosser says the mat is codenamed C68 and will cost a not-insignificant $250 with a probable launch date late in 2020 - presumably, it would be announced at Apple's September event (again). There will apparently be bn Apple A11 chip inside to manage heat and regulate the charging voltage.
Here’s my concept of “C68”— Jon Prosser (@jon_prosser) April 13, 2020
Apple’s most current internal prototype.
- Fewer coils, with less overlap
- A11 chip inside to manage heat
- Lightning cable on right side
(Though I’d expect that to change on the retail models)
If they pull it off — expected Q4 2020 / Q1 2021
~ $250 pic.twitter.com/sjViqjn0As
What happened to AirPower version 1?
- Mentioned on newly-released AirPods 2 packaging
- Several rumours that it was in production
The charging mat was originally announced in 2017 and we subsequently thought we might see it launched at various points afterwards. It never happened.
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.
Another version of the box - which we believe might be a 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 were the problems with AirPower?
- Too hot, too many coils
- Not up to Apple's "high standards"
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." 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).
Apple AirPower: What are the latest news and rumours surrounding the mat?
Here's a history of the rumours and leaks surrounding AirPower.
13 April 2020 - We now have a rumoured AirPower price and release date
Prosser now says the mat is codenamed C68 and will cost a not-insignificant $250 with a probable launch date late in 2020. There will apparently be bn Apple A11 chip inside to manage heat and regulate the charging voltage while the Lightning cable currently plugs into the side; this might not be
23 March 2020 - Apple might resurrect its AirPower wireless charger
Tech analyst Jon Prosser has sources who have confirmed the project is still underway. The main coil design would appear to have been completed with prototyping taking place. However, Prosser says that a key problem is the lack of Apple Watch support in the prototype.