Apple today has cancelled its AirPower wireless charging mat, citing the difficulties the company has encountered in getting the mat to meet its ‘high standards’. The company emphasized that wireless technology projects like this one might be a part of its future roadmap, but at this time it has decided to refrain from releasing the AirPower.

Apple announced its AirPower mat along with the iPhone X and iPhone 8 back in September 2017. The mat was meant to charge up to three devices at the same time. For example, a new iPhone, an Apple Watch, and Apple's AirPods (via the Wireless Charging Case) could be charged simultaneously, bringing a lot of convenience and removing at least two cables from the table. In terms of flexibility this would have been a big step up from today’s wireless chargers, which can only charge one device at a time.

The AirPower relied on a multi-inductor design, which was reportedly the source of the problems that Apple faced. Among the issues mentioned by various reports were overheating, interference issues, and difficulties in getting the mat to communicate with devices (i.e., it did not ‘know’ their charge levels). As it turns out, about 18 months after the formal announcement, Apple has apparently not managed to solve all the problems with the AirPower, leading to them pulling the plug on a Friday.

“After much effort, we’ve concluded AirPower will not achieve our high standards and we have cancelled the project,” said Dan Riccio, Apple’s senior vice president of Hardware Engineering at Apple. “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.”

It is noteworthy that the decision to cancel the project was very clearly made relatively recently, as ‘Display Only’ retail packages for the 2nd Gen AirPods still showcased the AirPower mat. Otherwise, given the challenges posed by the multi-inductor design of the ‘intelligent’ wireless charging mat, Apple clearly planned to build a very ambitious product, making this one of the rare cases where their ambitions publicly exceed their otherwise impressive engineering capabilities.

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Sources: TechCrunch, The Verge, The Verge

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  • Alexvrb - Friday, March 29, 2019 - link

    If they just made it a little bigger they could have just combined three mats into one unit and have them operate independently. They already have similar combo units on the market. They just went too fancy. Reply
  • Tegeril - Saturday, March 30, 2019 - link

    Their entire design for the product was based on the idea that it would be different than existing mats on the market that include 2-3 coils and require that you place the device accurately. Apple’s patent for their work showed 15 coils inside the mat, nothing similar is on the market. Reply
  • ksec - Monday, April 01, 2019 - link

    This, repeated multiple times and yet no news wanted to report it, and no reader wanted to know why, and every comment has been repeating the same question again and again. Reply
  • Alexvrb - Tuesday, April 02, 2019 - link

    You're right, nothing similar IS on the market, including this... because it didn't work. The article discusses some of the problems, which they couldn't work out despite the time and resources thrown at it. Reply
  • jjj - Friday, March 29, 2019 - link

    The problem is their choice to use induction, they could have gone with RF, avoid lots of complications and constraints while pushing for at a distance contactless charging longer term. Reply
  • tk11 - Friday, March 29, 2019 - link

    Probably because even at a distance of just one foot, current regulations limit power delivery to around 120mW. This makes induction a pretty easy choice. Reply
  • jjj - Saturday, March 30, 2019 - link

    You are missing the point, they would not have orientation and placement issues, no large coils, they could even put the receiver into the earbud , more hardware integration (radio), easier to charge multiple device. At a distance would be longer term The first gen AirPods for example have a 93mWh battery each and they can play music for 5h, not a lot of energy required.
    Induction is limited and provides minimal upside to the user, RF would be forward looking, a better investment.
    The future is not phones, it's glasses and IoT and other devices that are very efficient with mechanical volume a huge constraint and RF power delivery/energy harvesting would be a core asset.
    Even longer term, same radio capable of data and power simultaneously and you might have one radio in each package and no pins, at all. Wireless interconnect, wireless power and you are done.
    Reply
  • supdawgwtfd - Saturday, March 30, 2019 - link

    The physics show that RF power is a very bad idea ..

    Power levels drop off at an inverse square over distance.

    You would be wasting an absolutely huge amount of energy.

    It's not going to happen.
    Reply
  • name99 - Monday, April 01, 2019 - link

    The physics, you say?
    OK so let's LOOK at the physics.
    Point #1: when does the inverse square law kick in? In the FAR field. And the far field is what? Well, it's a few wavelengths out from the radiator.
    Near the radiator (VERY near) what counts is the reactive field which follows very different laws.

    Point #2: OK, so what IS the relevant wave length?
    Well Qi operates up to around 300kHz, so 3*10^5Hz. So the wavelength will be 3*10^8/3*10^5=1km!
    If you're trying to charge using Qi 1km (or even 1m) from the charger, well, sorry, but you're doing it wrong...

    It's good to be interested in physics.
    It's good to know that physics puts constraints on what can and can't be done.
    It's not quite so good to fancy that you're an expert in physics when you're not, and to imagine that physics is something like politics where reality can be matched to your personal opinions about which companies you do and don't like.
    Reply
  • name99 - Monday, April 01, 2019 - link

    Oops, forgot the link:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Near_and_far_field
    Reply

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