AirPower was announced in 2017 as Appleâ€™s wireless charger. It was finally cancelled in March 2019 after two years of near silence about the product. Rumors began circulating in early 2020 to suggest a wireless charger may still come.
● 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
In a rare move from Apple, Phil Schiller announced the now-defunct 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.
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.
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 in order 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, has shown 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 divet shaped just like the AirPods Pro, and a ring designed for a phone to be placed on.
While all of these device 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?
Seasoned analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has predicted a new wireless charger from Apple set to release in the first half of 2020. No details about this mat exist except being referred to as a "smaller wireless charging mat."
It is doubtful that the new mat will utilize some if any of the AirPower technology, and being smaller, it may be only able to charge one or two devices at once. The premium Apple Watch Magnetic Charging Dock has the all-white Apple design language and might be a good starting point for those trying to figure out what the new mat may be like.
At a minimum, we may see the software for showing nearby charging devices and animations ship for the proprietary Apple charging mat.
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.