Apple has been due to launch its own charging mat called AirPower for over a year now and, while we know quite a bit about it, we don't know for sure why it hasn't been launched yet.
We thought we might get it in early 2018 and then at the September iPhone XS launch, but it never happened. There was also nothing about it at the October launch of the iPad Pro, Mac Mini and MacBook Air.
Here we'll explain what AirPower is and why the significant delay might have come about.
What is the Apple AirPower mat?
- As well as compatible iPhones, AirPower will also charge Apple Watch and AirPods (with wireless charging case)
- Will presumably charge any Qi-compatible devices
Apple's AirPower is a wireless charging mat. It 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 extra benefit of having the AirPower mat over the alternatives is that it will work with Apple Watch in addition to the iPhone and the rumoured new AirPods. It's big enough for you to charge all three at the same time - your iPhone, Watch and AirPods.
Apple AirPower price and release date
- Expect a price point around £150/$150
- Has been significantly delayed
AirPower was originally announced at the iPhone X event in September 2017 by Apple and, like the HomePod, it has taken an uncharacteristically long period of time to surface. Apple doesn't talk about stuff unless it will definitely happen yet
We've heard that the AirPower release will be alongside new AirPods that will be compatible with the AirPower mat for wireless charging. Or, at least, the existing AirPods can have a wireless charging case added to them. We're hoping we get second-gen buds though - preferably water and sweatproof!
Indeed, the only mention of AirPower on Apple's own site is on the AirPods page where there is mention of a forthcoming wireless charging case for the AirPods. All other references have been removed from Apple.com.
Chinese blog Chongdiantou believes that AirPower will cost around $150 USD - so expect around £150 GBP.
Why has AirPower been delayed?
- Huge number of charging coils causing heat issues
- Software and interference problems reported
According to the Chongdiantou, the mat will incorporate a whopping 22 charging coils (this number is disputed, but it's a lot). That's why it has been so expensive and, it appears, also why there has been such a significant delay.
According to a report from Bloomberg, that mat has faced several issues including technicalities with the internal circuitry.
Why so many coils? The idea is that it will 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 are different sizes of coils which overlap. And that's lead to heat and interference issues.
Renowned Apple blogger John Gruber of Daring Fireball says that AirPower's delay is indeed down to the "multi-coil design getting too hot — way too hot".
Sonny Dickson adds 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. I think they’ve either had to go completely back to the drawing board and start over with an entirely different design, or they’ve decided to give up and they just don’t want to say so."
According to Dickson, there are 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).
What devices will work with the AirPower mat?
- 2017 and 2018 iPhones
- Apple Watches and new AirPods
The mat will charge 2017 iPhones - iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X - as well as the new 2018 iPhones, the iPhone XR, iPhone XS and XS Plus. Each of those handsets will have Qi charging capabilities so can be charged on conventional Qi charging mats too.
Because it is standards compliant, AirPower should also charge other Qi-compatible smartphones, too.
The mat will also charge Apple Watch. We know from what Apple has said that it will definitely be compatible with Apple Watch Series 3 and so should be compatible with all Apple Watches - the the same charging base has been used for each generation of Apple Watch.
It will also charge AirPods but as we mentioned this will only work if they are inside a wireless charging case. This will either use a separately available add-on charging case or with a second-generation version of the AirPods.