Apple has been due to launch its own charging mat called AirPower for over a year now - but it finally looks like we'll get it in the coming weeks.
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 in more detail 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.
AirPower is very similar to those existing products but it will also charge Apple Watch in addition to the iPhone and the also-forthcoming new AirPods. It will be 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
Apple's 2018 iPhone event and October iPad Pro event have both come and gone and no, there has been no talk of an AirPower release date. But it looks like AirPower will finally be launched in the coming weeks alongside the new aforementioned AirPods. "Spring" has been mentioned, while we've also heard about "late March", which would tie-in with when Apple normally holds a Spring launch event.
ChargerLAB claims it has spoken to someone within Apple's suppliers who is saying that production of AirPower has started. The source cites Luxshare Precision as the manufacturer, saying the company is the maker of AirPods as well. in January 2019 it has also been reported that the Lite-On Semiconductor is manufacturing hardware for AirPower.
AirPower was originally announced at the iPhone X event in September 2017 by Apple and it has taken an uncharacteristically long period of time to surface. Apple usually doesn't talk about stuff unless it will definitely happen.
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. This price point has now been backed up by MySmartPrice. That same source also suggests that Apple is currently filming TV advertisements for the new mat meaning that launch is imminent.
Why has AirPower been delayed?
- Huge number of charging coils causing heat issues
- Software and interference problems reported
With weeks to go until the launch, MySmartPrice quotes a source as saying the problems have meant that the AirPower mat will be slightly thicker than the original concept. Apple is also reported to be working on some extra software-enabled bits for AirPower that will be enabled in September's iOS 13.
According to Bloomberg in late 2018, the mat has faced several issues including technicalities with the internal circuitry. According to 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 (other rumours are now pointing towards an 8-7-7 coil arrangement).
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."
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). We wonder if it's this stuff which might wait until iOS 13.
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 Qi is a standard, AirPower should theoretically also charge other Qi-compatible smartphones, too.
We know from when Apple originally showed AirPower that it will definitely be compatible with Apple Watch Series 3 and so should be compatible with all Apple Watches - the same charging base has been used for each generation of Apple Watch. Apple Watch is not Qi compliant.
It will also charge AirPods but as we mentioned this will only work if they are inside a wireless charging case. This will be introduced with the second-generation version of the AirPods. We don't know whether the AirPods case will be Qi-compliant or not (we suspect not).