AirPower (charging mat)
|Type||Wireless charging mat|
|Release date||Announced for late 2017, cancelled in 2019|
AirPower is an unreleased wireless charging mat developed by Apple Inc. It was designed to charge up to three devices simultaneously, supporting two Qi devices, such as an iPhone and AirPods, and an Apple Watch. It was announced on September 12, 2017. Formerly scheduled to be released in early 2018, AirPower failed to materialize, leading to wide speculation over the product's future, until Apple announced on March 29, 2019 it had cancelled the release.
AirPower was announced on September 12, 2017 at a media event held at Apple's Steve Jobs Theater, in conjunction with the announcement of the iPhone 8, iPhone X, and Wireless Charging Case for AirPods. Following the event, prototype models were available to attendees for hands-on testing.
Immediately after another media event held the following September, Apple removed almost all mentions of AirPower from its website. There were reportedly several development issues that led to this decision, with heat management, inter-device communication and speed, as well as mechanical and interference issues all being rumored. Reportedly, the main engineering issue came from including coils for two charging standards, as the Apple Watch uses a proprietary non-Qi standard. Blogger John Gruber, known for his close connections with Apple, wrote that he had heard of issues with the device’s design: "Something about the multi-coil design getting too hot — way too hot. There are engineers who looked at AirPower’s design and said it could never work thermally."
AirPower was still mentioned in the packaging of several Apple products, including iPhone XS and iPhone XR, and in January 2019 media outlets reported that AirPower may have entered production. On March 25, 2019, Apple released iOS 12.2 with support for AirPower. On March 26, 2019, Apple shipped the Wireless Charging Case for AirPods featuring AirPower on the packaging. Also in late March, Apple secured a trademark on the AirPower name.
However, on March 29, 2019, Dan Riccio, Apple’s senior vice president of Hardware Engineering, said in a statement emailed to TechCrunch: "After much effort, we’ve concluded AirPower will not achieve our high standards and we have cancelled the project." The move was unprecedented for Apple as it had never previously cancelled an announced hardware product.
In 2020, interest in the product was renewed, when new rumors surfaced that the project was restarted, and prototyping was underway. The prototypes reportedly use an Apple A11 SoC to help with heat management. However, no other information has been revealed.
Third party accessory makers mimicked AirPower's design and functionality but were unable to fully replicate Apple's planned features, such as freely placing devices. Apple later sold three-device chargers designed by Mophie and Belkin with the ability to simultaneously charge two Qi devices and an Apple Watch, albeit with a separate receptacle for Apple Watch's inductive charger. Apple released its first Qi chargers in 2020 using the proprietary MagSafe standard.
The AirPower concept was based on the Qi standard. Apple had intended for it to be capable of charging multiple devices simultaneously, a feature not supported by the Qi standard, though Apple was working towards incorporating it. Apple's intention was that an iPhone being charged would display on its lock screen the charging percentage of other devices being charged, such as AirPods and their charging case which do not have a display.
Devices would not need to be carefully aligned on the charging mat due to the presence of over twenty charging coils, which could charge a device regardless of exact position. However, these charging coils in close proximity ran too hot, requiring the charging mat to require power management. The overheating has been one of the reasons attributed to the product's development issues and eventual cancellation.
- iPhones released in 2017 and later (iPhone 8, iPhone X and newer)
- Apple Watch Series 3 and newer
- AirPods Wireless Charging Case
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