Apple infamously unveiled AirPower alongside the iPhone X and Apple Watch Series 3 in September 2017 with a vague ‘2018’ availability promise. In June, the product was still nowhere to be seen and Bloomberg reported on the major issues delaying the AirPower release, saying that the project had been pushed back to fall. With the September 2018 event now over, and even fewer mentions of AirPower on the Apple website, the prospects of the product being released in the last few months of 2018 are certainly bleak.
Sonny Dickson has published a report, citing Apple sources, that details three separate classes of problems that the company faced in bringing AirPower to market …
Dickson’s article echoes the overheating rumors that have been flying around. It says the mat produces far too much heat, which affects the charging rates of the devices laid on it. In addition, the heat is overloading the onboard silicon, a custom Apple charging chip that runs a stripped down version of iOS.
The report also says that the device communication software is also buggy. Data transfer about charging activation and charge levels is apparently buggy. Part of the appeal of AirPower is the flashy animated iPhone lock screen that reports the battery status of each device on the mat, so communication issues represent a significant issue.
The promise of AirPower is that there is no ‘sweet spot’, and you can charge up to three devices at a time. This is something that no other Qi charging mat on the market offers. Dickson says beneath the white surface of the charging mats sits between 21 and 24 different power coils of various sizes. This is the mechanism which enables a user to place a phone, watch or AirPods, on the mat in any location.
However, the article notes that the tightly packed nature of this arrangement has led to interference issues between coils, reducing charging efficiency and causing excess heat. Dickson notes that the need for the coils to overlap is a particularly complex challenge. Several filed patents have shown glimpses of this internal structure before.
The Dickson report does not mention whether the project has been scrapped entirely. John Gruber has said that Apple has either gone back to the drawing board and started from scratch, or given up. Dickson suggests that Apple may use the AirPower trademark on a significantly different wireless charging product than what was originally envisioned and presented, perhaps due in Spring 2019 at the earliest.
Apple has so far refused to make comments to the press on the matter. We are impatiently awaiting a press release or some acknowledgement of the status of AirPower. Apple is widely expected to host an October event featuring new iPad Pros and MacBook updates, this is probably the last pole to cling on to if you are hoping for an AirPower launch before the end of the year. Apple promised a 2018 release, so technically it has three months left before it has to share the bad news.