It’s not unusual for tech companies to announce products that, for one reason or another, never hit store shelves. In fact, much of what we see at CES every year becomes vaporware.
Apple, however, usually does exactly what it says it’s going to do when it says it’s going to do it. That’s why the continued absence of the AirPower — the wireless charging pad designed to simultaneously juice up an iPhone, an Apple Watch and some AirPods — is so baffling. The company announced the AirPower in September 2017 and promised to deliver in 2018, but the product hasn’t been seen since. Apple didn’t respond to CNET’s request for comment on the product’s status.
There’s been no shortage of opportunities to debut the device, however. Apple hosted four major events in 2018, two of which featured new phones and watches — products supposedly compatible with AirPower charging. This month alone, Apple has announced two new iPads, a new iMac and second-generation AirPods in addition to a new Apple TV Channels streaming service, a premium gaming service called Apple Arcade and a digital news and magazine aggregator. The company even figured out how to roll out a significant financial initiative hidden inside of a credit card.
The wireless charging pad has so far proven elusive. So much so that Apple’s extended silence about the AirPower has now generated an air of suspense rare for charging accessories.
But where there’s mystery, the Internet shall supply rumor. And so we present to you all of the latest and most interesting things we know, or think we know, about the Apple AirPower.
Confirmed: AirPower was designed to charge iPhones, the Apple Watch and AirPods simultaneously
Let’s start with the basics. Apple has said that the AirPower will charge multiple devices at the same time — and help devices communicate with each other to manage power consumption. Apple’s AirPower demo from last September shows the iPhone screen tracking the battery status of all the devices currently on the charger. It isn’t clear if this will work with non-Apple devices, or if the technology has been built into the modern iPhones as well as the AirPower pad.
Confirmed: Apple keeps releasing products that are compatible with contactless charging
There are now lots of Apple products that support wireless charging: the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X, iPhone XR, iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, the old AirPods (with the addition of an $80 wireless-compatible charging case) and the new AirPods. All of those work with any standard Qi wireless charger. The Apple Watch Series 3 and Apple Watch Series 4, meanwhile, do not work with Qi chargers, but should work with AirPowers.
And though there’s still no Apple wireless charger, there’s a growing number of compatible devices from other manufacturers that can do the job. In fact, Samsung’s Galaxy S10 can not only wirelessly charge a smartwatch or set of earbuds, it can charge another phone — including an iPhone.
Still, as recently as January of this year, Apple was still dropping AirPower references into its listings and manuals. When the iPhone XS Smart Battery Case went live on the company’s site, it included a caption: ‘The Smart Battery Case is compatible with AirPower Wireless Charging Mat and other Qi‑certified chargers.’ That sentence soon after disappeared from the site.
Mentions of the AirPower appeared briefly on the Apple site in September 2018 and it was also cited in the manuals for the iPhone XS and XS Max. All of these products were confirmed to be compatible with the wireless charging pad.
Rumor: Apple has abandoned the AirPower project
A handful of reports suggest that Apple has run into major difficulties making the AirPower actually work as planned. One reported reason is that the multicoil charging design causes the device to get too hot to function. Another report says that the AirPower chip currently has trouble communicating with the Apple products it’s supposed to charge, preventing it from working the way it’s supposed to.
These issues may have been severe enough to force Apple to scrap the project altogether. Apple initially said that its wireless charger would be released in 2018. Then, in September of that year, instead of debuting it alongside of the iPhone X and iPhone 8 as we expected, the company scrubbed its website of nearly all references to the device.
You used to be able to find out more about the AirPower on Apple’s product pages for the iPhone X and iPhone 8. But since then, Apple has removed its iPhone 8 product page and discontinued the iPhone X, removing all of those references. And noted Apple pundit John Gruber has written that he wouldn’t be surprised if Apple has scrapped the project.
Rumor: AirPower is coming in 2019
But maybe Apple just went back to the drawing board and is slow-walking this product to production. Consider:
- As of mid-January, rumors have again begun to circulate that the AirPower is actually in production.
- Just last week, The Wall Street Journal reported that Apple had ‘approved production’ of the device.
- A recent image of an AirPower was reportedly buried inside Apple’s Australian website.
- References in Apple’s iOS 12.2 update, released today, suggest that Apple still intends to debut AirPower, according to MacRumors.
- And DigiTimes has reported that Apple will debut the AirPower in March, though — with the clock ticking on the month — that’s looking increasingly unlikely.