Apple said its wireless charger would launch in 2018, but now it's removed all mention of it from its website. Will the AirPower ever see the light of day?
When Apple announced the wireless charging iPhone 8 and iPhone X back in September 2017, the company also revealed that it is developing its own wireless charging pad on which it will be possible to charge three Apple devices at once: an iPhone, Apple Watch and AirPods.
Apple's wireless charging mat is called AirPower and we had expected Apple to reveal when the charging mat will go on sale at its event on 12 September. However, the event came and went with no mention of AirPower a year after its first unveiling. Instead the company focused on showing off a new Apple Watch and three new iPhones, with no mention of the fact that all four new products support wireless charging.
After that event it transpired that Apple had removed all mention of the AirPower from its website. It's made no official comment, but its future is looking decidedly shaky.
If you're interested in alternatives to AirPower, we've a round up some of the best wireless chargers available now here.
AirPower release date
When Apple announced its AirPower wireless charging mat on 12 September 2017 the company confirmed that AirPower wouldn't be released until 2018: "Look for the AirPower charger next year," said Phil Schiller. However, it's now a year later and the company is yet to provide a concrete release date, which is both surprising and a little worrying.
We doubt that when Apple announced the AirPower back in 2017 it expected not to be selling it a whole year later, but it seems that it has taken more than a year for Apple to iron out issues that have been faced with the new wireless charger leading to delays. (We examine some of the reasons that have been suggested for these delays below).
Now it's been pulled from the website, we're wondering if it will ever launch. We think the AirPower has been killed off before it even got off the ground.
Wondering how much AirPower will cost? Apple has made no statements in relation to the price of AirPower, however, we can make some educated guesses.
Apple doesn't tend to sell 'cheap' products. Some people talk about the 'Apple tax' Apple adds to its products, making them more expensive than the majority of the competition. Others would suggest that you pay extra for the extensive research and development costs (we discuss the technical advances of AirPower below), and Apple's high standards. Either way, you can expect that AirPower will be priced at the upper end of the wireless charger market with a premium price tag.
There have been some predictions about the price of AirPower. Polish retailer X-Kom shows the AirPower priced at 999 Złotych – that's about £211 or $294. However, the price might not be as high as that: in November 2017 Polish blog ThinkApple, indicated that many products that cost 999 Złotych on the Polish site are priced at $199 in the US.
Those are high prices for a wireless charger, so hopefully the AirPower charger won't cost that much. In August 2018, Chinese title Chongdiantou, claimed its sources told it that the AirPower will be released this September for around 1,000 Chinese yuan, which is approximately $145/£114. That's still quite a high price – but this is Apple.
The AppleToolBox report mentioned below suggested the AirPower could cost $99/£99.
Why is AirPower delayed?
When Apple announced AirPower back in 2017 the small print of some marketing materials relating to AirPower availability used the phrase "early 2018", which would ordinarily point to April or before. In fact, two separate reports led us to expect a launch in March – an Apple Post report from February and another from DigiTimes – but nothing was announced at the event which Apple held on 27 March 2018. Nor was there a peep about AirPower at WWDC 2018 on 4 June or 12 September during the iPhone and Apple Watch event.
Apparently, the no-show at WWDC wasn't always the plan. Apple had been intending that AirPower would be ready for a June launch, but “a series of technical hurdles” and “supply-chain challenges” meant that it now won’t launch until September – at the earliest, according a Bloomberg source, but it's now looking unlikely to meet that new deadline either.
What could be the reason for the hold up?
AirPower may be delayed because Apple has encountered technical issues that are proving difficult to solve. Or it could be that Apple is awaiting approval by the Qi consortium for some aspect of the device.
According to AppleToolBox sources in April 2018, Apple has delayed the AirPower due to difficulties producing the product and concerns over AirPods support.
However, those weren't the only problems. According to the sources, Apple's biggest issues in relation to AirPower was the Apple Watch.
The Apple Watch has always included Qi charging, but changes to the design of the Apple Watch Series 3 made it incompatible with most non-Apple chargers. Apparently the lack of compatibility is down to the design of the watch – it has a convex back and chargers are usually flat. This design means that third-party chargers weren't able to create the connection required to charge – and the same problem exists for the Apple Watch 3 on the AirPower. Apparently Apple has not solved this issue, according to the sources.
That report was from April 2018, so it's possible Apple may have solved the issue.
The other issue flagged by the AppleToolBox report was the fact that charging AirPods requires an additional purchase of a $69 case. Apparently there have been disagreements at Apple as to whether people would pay for a case to enable them to charge their AirPods on an already expensive charger.
The Bloomberg report claims that the AirPower is delayed because the engineering team has encountered a number of challenges including ensuring the charger doesn’t overheat.
Another issue outlined in that report is related to the placement of sensors on the pad. The AirPower will be the first wireless charger to charge three devices at a time – the iPhone, watch and AirPods. It’s thought that it is because Apple wants users to be able to place the three devices anywhere on the pad that the design is proving difficult. Random plancement means that the mat requires multiple charging sensors – and not just multiple versions of the same sensor as each type of device requires different sized charging components, suggests Bloomberg’s source (from an Apple partner that manufacturers third-party wireless chargers.
AirPower is not the first product from Apple whose launch has been delayed. We have seen delays for HomePod and AirPods, and AirPlay 2 which become available almost a year after first being announced.
Perhaps Apple should stop making pre-announcements.
Some might think that Apple was wrong to announce AirPower so early, but in these areas, where it is necessary to get FFC ratification the company often does reveal it's plans early (as it did with the original iPhone).
With regard to the FCC, that could be one reason for the 'delay' if the product is indeed delayed. Although claims on a Reddit post that AirPower hadn't been approved by the FCC – based on a post on Apple's website suggesting that it hasn't been approved – doesn't prove that it hasn't yet been approved, just that Apple hasn't updated any mentions online.
More likely, Apple is working hard to provide a wireless charger that "moves the industry forwards". When Apple announced AirPower it said it was looking for ways to improve Qi charging so that multiple devices can be powered at once intelligently and efficiently. One of the key abilities will be being able to see the battery status of each charging device on the iPhone. Announcing the plans back in 2017 Apple's Phil Schiller said Apple is hoping to "help move the entire industry forward".
If AirPower is to "move the industry forwards" you can expect to eventually find the technology in other, non-Apple, charging products, not just Apple.
AirPower design and build
In terms of design, Apple's AirPower wireless charger doesn't look that different to the plethora of wireless chargers already available.
Based on the video showcase at Apple's September 2017 keynote, we know that the AirPower is a white mat large enough to accompany three devices (iPhone, Apple Watch and AirPods) at the same time, with a single power lead connected to the wireless charger.
While wireless charging is provided, the wireless charger itself still needs to be plugged in – something that may sound obvious to some, but it's worth pointing out for those new to the world of wireless charging.
AirPower features and spec
So, what makes Apple's AirPower wireless charger better than anything else on the market? First up it's built on the Qi wireless charging standard, although we're not sure at this time whether the AirPower will be compatible with any Qi-enabled device.
Apple has filed a patent for a wireless charging device that could give us an insight to some other features it could offer, via AppleWorldToday (January 2018). The patent suggests that the device could also transmit wireless power signals to a wireless power receiving electronic device, which could pave the way for true wireless charging – as in charging over the air, rather than via conduction when placed on a mat.
However, this technology may be a little further down the road. For now it seems that the AirPower will be the first wireless charger capable of charging three device at once, and it doesn't matter where on the surface each device is laid – it should still receive the charge.
AirPower is expected to have the ability to intelligently manage the charging system by allowing all compatible devices to 'communicate' between each other.
This Bloomberg report (June 2018) claims that AirPower will include a custom Apple chip running iOS that will conduct on-device power management and pairing with devices.
"The system has a great interface. They intelligently work together and communicate with each other to manage the charging through one more efficient charging system. This is not possible with current standards but our team knows how to do this," Tim Cook said on stage at the event.
That means that if you're charging both your AirPods and iPhone 8 on the AirPower, the devices should communicate with each other and 'decide' how much power each device requires.
The current charge of all devices on the AirPower mat will also be displayed on the iPhone 8/X if it's also on charge, another feature not offered by other wireless chargers.
Another way that Apple may be solving the issue of being able to place a device anywhere on the mat, is by embedding a lot of coils on the inside. According to Chongdiantou's sources, AirPower will feature 22 wireless charging coils, each of these will supply power independently.
AirPower device compatibility
Will existing iOS device be compatible with AirPower? Unless you've got yourself an iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus or iPhone X (or newer) you won't be able to charge your iPhone using AirPower.
It's a similar story with the AirPods – despite Apple showcasing wireless charging on AirPods at the announcement, existing AirPod cases aren't Qi-enabled. The Qi-enabled AirPods case is expected to be made available alongside the release of AirPower, in September, read about the new AirPods here.
We're not so sure about the Apple Watch, though. AirPower is confirmed as being compatible with the Apple Watch Series 3, but whether previous generations are compatible is yet to be seen.
A report has appeared in Japanese website Macotakara suggesting that AirPower will detect the Apple Watch Series 3 by "special radio waves" a function "available only to Apple". This is the only way it's possible to charge the Watch Series 3, because of its Apple Watch Magnetic Charging Cable, according to the Japanese site.
Older Watches use wireless charging based on the Qi standard, but require MFi-based authentication. It's possible that Apple will offer this in its own wireless charging mat, but only time will tell.
Don't be disheartened, though – there are ways of getting wireless charging on older iPhones, it just isn't built in.
However, while AirPower is 'delayed' (if indeed it is) other companies are getting in on the action.
A Chinese company has already started selling an AirPower knockoff: there was a brief moment when it looked like the AirPower had arrived, but it turned out to be a fake.
That 'AirPower' was spotted at an outlet at Vienna airport where it was being sold for $200. This Chinese AirPower knock off has also been seen on eBay and Aliexpress, according to Apple Insider.
Apple AirPower available in the Vienna Airport arrival hall. They however charge 200 bucks! pic.twitter.com/9ZqYXqKpf4
— Peter Allan (@ThePeterAllan) April 27, 2018
When the AirPower launches it is likely that it will only be available in Apple Stores, at Apple's online store, and at registered Apple resellers such as John Lewis, Currys PC World, and Argos (see more Apple resellers here). Not at airport kiosks.
This wasn't the first example of a Chinese company using the AirPower name. Back in January 2018, a video appeared on YouTube showing how a Chinese company had started producing an AirPower mini. Like Apple's AirPower, this AirPower can charge an Apple watch and iPhone X simultaneously. It will cost $15. It is likely that Apple will not be happy about the use of the AirPower brand, and it's very unlikely that the charger will be accredited as MFi (Made for iPhone) by Apple.