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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  • flgt - Monday, April 1, 2019 - link

    You rambled on there but didn’t address any of the concerns with using higher frequencies. Transmitters-Inefficient, Transfer-Inefficient, Receiver-Inefficient. There are allowable power density and interference issues. Even for small devices it seems impractical. Reply
  • tk11 - Sunday, March 31, 2019 - link

    IoT devices won't be replacing phones anytime soon. Even at point blank range RF charging is simply far too weak for any device larger than an earbud.

    Hardware development has never been something Apple is any good at. Someone else will implement an inductive solution that works and Apple will buy them out.
    Reply
  • name99 - Monday, April 1, 2019 - link

    So physics expert is followed by M&A expert?

    Ever heard of PowerByProxi?
    Look at:
    https://www.theverge.com/2017/10/24/16539604/apple...

    You may have a variety of complaints about wireless charging, but it is a fact that TODAY it works for things "larger than an earbud". To take just one example, you can buy cars today that charge iPhones by simply placing them on a charging mat situated near the driver's seat.
    If you don't want to buy a whole car, you can such a charger as an after-market add-on:
    https://mashtips.com/best-wireless-car-chargers-ip...
    Reply
  • Alexvrb - Tuesday, April 2, 2019 - link

    What does that have to do with RF charging? That's induction tech. Also, I'm pretty sure that PowerByProxi is where they got the talent pool that worked on the failed airpower. Which was also inductive, but too ambitious for them. Reply
  • tk11 - Tuesday, April 2, 2019 - link

    I have no complaints about wireless charging in general, just RF charging specifically. Electricity is both created inductively and then passes through a series of inductive stages before ever reaching a power outlet. Inductive tech is a natural fit for wireless power delivery. Reply
  • web2dot0 - Saturday, March 30, 2019 - link

    The problem is you think we can do better than what the Apple Engineers couldn't come up with. LOL.

    The design team TOLD the management that it can't be done and the management refused to believe it.

    That's always been the motto. ;)

    So enjoy your armchair quarterbacking.
    Reply
  • name99 - Saturday, March 30, 2019 - link

    I don't think it's as simple as "The design team TOLD the management that it can't be done and the management refused to believe it."
    My guess is that it actually works, not just as a lab demo but even as something manufacturable BUT there are durability issues: Something like if you bend the mat, or drop it, it breaks too easily.
    (Or even worse, doesn't obviously break, but starts performing erratically or dangerously.)

    To my mind, nothing else explains the pattern here --- announcing it, then keeping going for so long. It must have looked like "we HAVE this working! Surely we can figure out these stupid every day issues with just a little more effort?"
    I'm sure failure earlier in the pipeline (we can't even get it to work, or it's impossible to manufacture at a reasonable price) would have been caught much earlier.
    Reply
  • MarcusMo - Sunday, March 31, 2019 - link

    Likely it's heat issues stemming from interference between all those coils. Someone at engineering likely thought they would be able to figure it out. Maybe the owners of PoweredbyProxi told apple management that they could build something along the lines of the airpower mat to warrant the purchase of their company back in 2017 for a cool $100+ million. Who knows. Reply
  • flyingpants265 - Sunday, March 31, 2019 - link

    Uhh, but it's honestly very simple to solve... If you can make 3 small charging pads, you can make 1 big one, there is literally no difference so long as the heat doesn't transfer across the different pads. Overheating = just use different materials and design, and variable charging rate depending on temperature.

    I don't know if there's a standard for reading the current state of charge, but it could EASILY be done over BT, NFC, or iCloud. All you'd need is a little SoC in the pad itself.

    Seems like they're not ready to release it yet, but it's FAR from impossible.
    Reply
  • MarcusMo - Monday, April 1, 2019 - link

    Apple wasn’t using three distinct zones. They wanted the user to be able to place peripherals anywhere on the pad and not care about orientation, hence the 15+ coils. That is a much harder problem to solve than three coils with adequate spacing. Reply

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