When Apple debuted the iPhone X last spring, the company also announced AirPower, a wireless charging pad with special Apple magic that would let you charge three devices at once faster than traditional Qi wireless chargers. But now, nine months later, AirPower still isn’t here and it’s not clear when it will actually be available.
This is somewhat unusual for Apple, which in recent history has capitalised on product announcements for things like new iPhones by making those devices available for pre-order within a couple weeks or less. Even the pricey iPhone X, with its complicated FaceID tech, took under three months to land in peoples’ hands from announcement to availability. And despite delays, the HomePod, which was announced in June 2017, eventually went on sale earlier this year in February — a gap of eight months.
Most recently at WWDC this year, AirPower was once again a no-show. With no updates on AirPower since 2017, at this point it’s looking like the earliest AirPower might make another appearance is later this spring alongside a new batch of iPhones. So, what gives?
According to Bloomberg, it seems Apple’s big challenge is making a charging mat that can handle an iPhone, AirPods and an Apple Watch all at the same time. That’s because instead of simply sandwiching two or three regular wireless pads together, Apple is trying to make sure that there are no charging dead spots, so no matter where you place a device on the pad, it will receive all the juice it needs.
Additionally, AirPower, which is based on the the Qi charging standard, has been customised by Apple to deliver even faster speeds and reportedly uses a custom chip running a stripped down version of iOS to control both pairing and power management.
But the most interesting thing to come out of Bloomberg’s report is that Apple engineers originally considered removing wired charging from the iPhone X entirely, forcing users to go full wireless. The move didn’t end up panning out because AirPower wasn’t ready yet and Apple deemed other wireless chargers too slow to rely on, Bloomberg reports.
Given how Apple ditched the headphone jack with the iPhone 7, and following the release of AirPods in 2016, it’s not hard to see how Apple is slowly moving towards a completely wire-free future. But had Apple actually followed through and gone completely port-free on the iPhone X, I feel like there would have been riots in the streets.
Not only would it have been a huge tax and burden on users to ask them to replace all of their wired chargers and cables with expensive wireless pads, it’s also nice to have ports simply as a backup option when wireless doesn’t work.
There’s a chance AirPower could get released later this winter, but I wouldn’t bet on it. For owners of Apple products, AirPower is a lot bigger than just another way to recharge their devices.