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AirPower

AirPower

Last updated: 3 days ago

AirPower was announced in 2017 as Apple’s proprietary wireless charger. It was finally canceled in March 2019 after two years of near-silence about the product. Rumors began circulating in early 2020 to suggest an Apple-branded wireless charger may still come, but it seems MagSafe has taken its role.

● Charge three devices at once
● iOS shows all devices charging on lock screen when on the mat
● Special animation on devices when placed
● All-white minimalist design
● Charge iPhone, Apple Watch, and Airpods at the same time
● Cancelled March 2019


AirPower may truly be dead as MagSafe takes its place in the Apple ecosystem. Learn about the defunct charging solution below, but know that it may never see the light of day.

In a rare move from Apple, Phil Schiller announced the AirPower charging mat months before its release. This has only occurred a few times before, like with the original iPhone and Apple Watch. Thermal limitations, charging wattage limits, fire hazards, and general usability issues are all attributed to the product's eventual cancellation.

The product would show its face again and again in device packaging, booklets, and software betas. This left consumers hopeful for an imminent release. Apple themselves remained strangely quiet on the product, then suddenly removed all mention of AirPower from the website in September 2018.

After 19 months of silence, Apple made an announcement:

"After much effort, we've concluded AirPower will not achieve our high standards and we have canceled the project," Senior Vice President Dan Riccio said in the statement. "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."

How AirPower works

When placing a device on the Apple charging mat, if it is an iPhone or Apple Watch, it will display a special animation on-screen showing it began charging. The iPhone will display the charging levels of the other devices on its lock screen while charging.

Animations for placing devices never released Animations for placing devices were exclusive to AirPower

It was assumed that Apple would utilize multiple co-operative flux generators to allow devices to be placed anywhere and in any order as demonstrated. Other wireless chargers using the Qi standard usually use standard coils to create an inductive charging surface, but requires more precise placement and generates a lot of heat.

One major complication with AirPower is its promise to deliver charging information to the iPhone while sharing the mat with multiple devices. Normally all a Qi charger needs to do is charge a battery, and the addition of data handling likely was one aspiration too many.

Third-party options

As with many Apple products and accessories, third parties were quick to attempt cloning Apple's AirPower charging mat. The issue with this is Apple Watch as it requires Apple's proprietary charging puck to charge.

Initial attempts forgo the Apple Watch altogether, offering only to charge multiple phones or AirPods cases at once, and others just stuck a puck to the side or in the middle of the mat itself. Both approaches falling short of Apple's vision.

Zagg, owner of the Mophie brand, showed off a new device similar to AirPower, but little is known about the product. Their mat is unlikely to support Apple Watch at all.

Nomad has been in the business of sleek charging mats for a few years now. Their Base Station product initially released as a regular Qi pad with two coils and an Apple Watch puck, which required precise placement, but allowed charging all of an individual's portable Apple products at once.

Their more recent Base Station Pro allows for placing devices anywhere, and will eventually ship with an Apple Watch edition that adds a puck.

Satechi took an approach that embraces the need for exact placement by utilizing it in the mat design. The Satechi Trio charger, revealed at CES, has a puck that can stand up, similar to Apple's own Apple Watch charging stand, a central divot shaped just like the AirPods Pro, and a ring designed for a phone to be placed on.

While all of these devices emulate the concept, they never quite capture the magic promised by Apple and AirPower. The software features of AirPower never made their way to iOS and do not work with any other charger.

Is AirPower truly gone?

Apple announced the new MagSafe magnetic charging and mounting system alongside the iPhone 12. The new charging system allows the iPhone 12 series to magnetically snap onto Apple and third-party chargers, cases, and sleeves. Apple is releasing two in-house cases: the MagSafe charger (a small puck-shaped charger that snaps onto the back of an iPhone) and the MagSafe Duo (a larger charger that supports an iPhone and an Apple Watch).

While AirPower may never arrive, Apple launched its MagSafe charging system with the iPhone 12 While AirPower may never arrive, Apple launched its MagSafe charging system with the iPhone 12

It isn't clear whether Apple continues to work on AirPower alongside MagSafe, but some analysts and leakers suggested earlier in 2020 that development was back on.

Seasoned analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicted a new wireless charger from Apple set to release in the first half of 2020. No details about this mat existed except being referred to as a "smaller wireless charging mat." In hindsight, he may have been referring to the MagSafe Duo.

On March 23, sources of Jon Prosser claim the "project is back on, internally." Apple is said to be trying to "re-engineer the coils to displace heat more effectively," and prototyping is "underway," though there is "no guarantee" that Apple will actually finalize and release the revised AirPower anytime soon.

Leaked image from Jon Prosser Leaked AirPower image from Jon Prosser

A new set of leaked images supposedly show that AirPower, or "C68," now works with Apple Watch. If true, this would be the final hurdle to overcome before a consumer release.

 

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