Here’s everything we know about Apple’s AirPower wireless charging mat

Overheating problems may force Apple to extinguish the AirPower charger

Apple AirPower wireless charging mat
Apple
Apple

When Apple unveiled the iPhone X in 2017, the company finally dipped its toes into the world of wireless charging by announcing support for the wireless standard Qi. To complement the iPhone’s new capabilities, Apple also unveiled its own AirPower wireless charging mat. But since announcing it in September of last year, the company has yet to discuss it again publicly.

Here’s everything we know so far about the AirPower wireless charging pad.

Where is the AirPower?

As mentioned, Apple hasn’t discussed the AirPower charger since it first announced the product alongside the iPhone X in September 2017. Almost a year later, the company completely removed almost all mention of the AirPower charger from its website. This is unlikely to be good news for anyone waiting for the charging mat.

Reports are gathering that the project may have been a little too ambitious even for Apple. The problem is apparently overheating, which according to insiders speaking to Daring Fireball’s John Gruber, may have prompted the company to retire the current design and try something new. It’s also possible the AirPower may have been canceled entirely.

Comments about heat management problems for the AirPower are echoed by Apple watcher Sonny Dickson, who adds that in addition to this, the AirPower was unable to communicate properly with devices it was charging. The company has also struggled to find a way to integrate the three different charging coils required by Apple’s wirelessly charged devices into the product without generating interference.

Aside from hardware problems, the software may also have issues. Since the device includes a custom Apple chip that runs a more basic version of iOS, engineers are reportedly working to squash bugs in relation to the onboard firmware.

Before this, there was talk of AirPower being ready for release, with sources telling Japanese blog MacOtakara it would be out in February, while others said it was supposed to ship in March. Still others said it would be released either in August or September. It’s now becoming clear AirPower is a much bigger project that could take years to develop, not months or quarters.

Apple never officially provided a price for the AirPower. Chinese tech site Chongdiantou said the AirPower will come in at $150, about $50 less than an earlier rumor from VentureBeat.

What is it supposed to do?

The main benefit of Apple’s AirPower is to wirelessly charge multiple devices at one time — meaning  a 2017 or newer iPhone, an Apple Watch, and even AirPods, provided they’re stored in an equally missing-in-action wireless charging case. Powering several devices at once seems like a simple matter, but it’s not. Different devices require different amounts of power, and the pad needs a method to detect which device is where — and then supply the correct amount of power only to devices sitting in that specific location.

What’s even more complicated is that Apple has used different wireless charging systems for the iPhone and the Apple Watch, plus whatever is needed for the AirPods. This means multiple chargers living together inside the AirPower, which have to understand which device needs charging and by how much.

How will this all work? A rumor from LoveiOS, says Apple will place 22 wireless charging coils in the AirPower, making it easy to charge an item anywhere on the device’s surface. And if a rumor from MacOtakara is to be believed, the Airpower will use a special radio signal to detect where each device sits.

Devices supporting Apple products have existed since the September 2017 release of the iPhone X; we tested three popular models from Mophie, Belkin, and RavPower in late October (spoiler alert: the RavPower Alpha Series Fast Charger blew away the competition). But Apple’s AirPower promises unique features unavailable in other products, thanks to a proprietary specification built around the Wireless Power Consortium’s (WPC) Qi specification. Curious about how wireless charging works? Here’s everything you need to know.

Oh, and those AirPods? We assume a special case will enable any existing AirPods to charge, but that remains to be seen. According to a footnote on Apple’s iPhone X page, it may not be the case: “AirPods with wireless charging capabilities coming in 2018.” Does that mean wireless capabilities are coming, or new AirPods are coming? Like the AirPower’s fate itself, it’s all speculation for now.

Updated on September 18, 2018: Rumors of overheating and functionality problems may have halted AirPower development

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