In fact, next to the triple-lens camera system, the addition of two-way wireless charging was one of the biggest rumours about this year’s iPhone lineup — a feature that would have introduced the ability for the iPhone to act as a wireless charging source for Apple’s new AirPods, the Apple Watch, and likely other Qi-enabled devices.
The feature was largely expected to be similar to the Wireless PowerShare capability that Samsung debuted on its Galaxy S10. Even the centered Apple logo on the rear of the iPhone 11 was believed to be intended to provide customers with a “charging target” for where to place their accessories.
Although every indication suggested the feature was on track, a last-minute report on Monday from reliable sources Mark Gurman and Ming-Chi Kuo revealed that it had been scrapped, at least for the time being. Kuo’s research note, seen by MacRumors, suggested that “the charging efficiency may not meet Apple’s requirements.”
Gone But Not Forgotten
However, it looks like Apple may not have given up on the two-way wireless charging feature entirely, but simply isn’t ready to turn it on yet. According to “reliable sources” speaking with leaker and former Apple blogger Sonny Dickson, the necessary hardware is actually in all of Apple’s new 2019 iPhones, but simply hasn’t been enabled on the software side — that is to say, in iOS 13.
Dickson acknowledges that it’s not clear if the hardware may have also been pulled from the final production run of devices that will land in customers’ hands, but it seems unlikely that Apple would be able to do so at the last minute.
There’s also precedent for Apple improving wireless charging capabilities with iOS updates, so it wouldn’t be the first time we’ve seen Apple do something like this. When the iPhone X and iPhone 8 lineup first introduced wireless charging in 2017, the shipping version of iOS at the time, iOS 11, only supported standard five-watt wireless charging. It wasn’t until iOS 11.2 was released in November that all of Apple’s Qi-compatible iPhones gained support for the faster 7.5-watt wireless charging speeds — something that was done entirely via a software update.
While Apple’s reasons for delaying the higher-speed charging to a later iOS update were never made entirely clear, it seems likely that it had to do with power management issues that could presumably be solved in software.
So it’s definitely not out of the question that Apple could be doing the same thing with two-way wireless charging, planning to debut it as part of an iOS 13.2 or 13.3 update at some point in the future. After all, it’s far from the only feature we’ll be waiting for. If the question is truly just one of charging efficiency, this seems like it could also be easily solved by iOS-level power management tweaks, rather than redesigned hardware, although of course only Apple knows for sure.
In the case of the faster wireless charging in iOS 11, however, Apple promised from the beginning that improvements would be coming in a future iOS update. Apple has said no such thing about two-way wireless charging in the iPhone 11 or iOS 13, so in the very least they’re likely uncertain as to whether they can get it working properly. It’s also still entirely possible that Apple’s last-minute decision to scrap the technology was final, but that it didn’t have time to take it out of the production run, leaving dormant hardware that may never actually be activated. Either way, with the iPhone 11 set to land in people’s hands next week, it’s a safe bet that we’ll soon see teardowns of the new models to help clear up this mystery.