If you were hoping for a revival of Apple’s AirPower charging mat, it’s time to blow out the candle and move on, as it looks like Apple has now shelved the project forever.
To be clear, the AirPower project has remained officially dead since Apple announced its cancellation in early 2019 after deciding that the ambitious charging pad wasn’t going to live up to its expectations. It was a rare public failure for the company, which made the mistake of announcing the new charging mat in late 2017 alongside its first wireless charging capable iPhone models, only to see it miss its 2018 deadline before finally admitting to the world that it was pulling the plug on the project.
While Apple never really spelled out why AirPower failed, most experts believe that the engineering was simply too ambitious, since Apple intended that the device would allow users to simultaneously charge an iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods simply by dropping them on the mat in any position. In order to accomplish this, many overlapping coils would have been required, posing interference and heat problems that were likely insurmountable.
While other companies do appear to have solved this problem to some degree, it’s likely Apple’s engineering challenges ran far deeper, since smaller coils would have been required to charge the Apple Watch, and Apple was also trying to create a pad that would intelligently communicate charging and power levels between all of the devices, and do it as efficiently as possible.
Gone But Not Forgotten
Despite AirPower being dead for all intents and purposes, there were indications that Apple hadn’t completely abandoned the idea — that at least a small team within Apple’s skunkworks was still trying to crack the problem — and we saw some indications of this in reports earlier this year that Apple was prototyping an A11-based AirPower device, although some of the alleged leaked photos of these prototypes turned out to be fake.
Now however, leaker Jon Prosser, who led the pack in suggesting that AirPower was still in the works, has conceded that the project is officially dead and it’s not coming back.
Despite other reports that the new AirPower had already moved into the engineering validation testing (EVT) stage, and could arrive next fall, Prosser’s information says that Apple has removed it entirely from the schedule for next year, and it’s unlikely that it will ever be picked up again.
Although it’s certainly possible that Apple could have been allowing one of its engineering teams to continue working on the AirPower project, we also know now that Apple has been preparing to move on to something else for quite some time. When we first heard about a mysterious magnetic ring in this year’s iPhone models, it quickly became apparent to us that this was part of Apple’s new wireless charging strategy, which likely had little or nothing to do with AirPower.
When Apple debuted this as MagSafe earlier this month with the iPhone 12 lineup, it was clearly the solution to the problem that AirPower was trying to solve; after all, it was never really about being able to place your iPhone anywhere on a mat, but rather making sure that the charging coils always lined up properly. MagSafe solves that problem creatively, guaranteeing maximum charging efficiency — and minimal environmental impact — in a way that’s elegant in its simplicity.
So it really shouldn’t come as a big surprise that Apple has officially given up on AirPower entirely, since it’s not really necessary anymore, and it’s also now an older technology concept that no longer has a place in the new world order of MagSafe.