Last week’s Apple keynote announcement was packed with info — provided you wanted to hear about phones and wearable tech. There were a few announcements and updates that were conspicuous in their absence, however, with the AirPower charging mat being the prime accessory we were expecting an update on, at the very least.
Announced last year, AirPower is supposed to be a charging mat based on the Qi standard used by other smartphone makers but with a typical Apple twist. AirPower is supposed to handle wireless charging of an iPhone (those models that support it), an Apple Watch, and also a set of AirPods, if said ‘Pods are placed in a special case. But we might have to face the possibility that Apple’s admittedly useful idea may never come to fruition.
Several sources, one claiming “third-hand” knowledge from multiple locations and another citing “several” internally-placed informants, have speculated that Apple is having greater issues getting their AirPower charger working than they’re letting on. Heat seems to be the main problem, with one source saying that “There are engineers who looked at AirPower’s design and said it could never work, thermally, and now those same engineers have that “told you so” smug look on their faces.” Too much heat affects the charging mat as well as the device being charged and Apple has no desire to encounter a Samsung-like recall situation.
There are also reportedly issues with Apple wanting the AirPower to be a one-stop charger for all of your Apple devices. That concept necessitates several different coils (between 21 and 24 of the buggers) inside the mat that need to be arranged in such a way that you can place any of your devices anywhere on the mat and have those devices charge without suffering any negative effects. Fitting this sort of internal design into Apple’s typically sleek-looking mat design while also managing heat effectively is proving… problematic for the company. Very problematic, if reports are to be believed.
If any company can figure out the engineering behind a wireless charging mat that can safely handle three different devices (at the same time) without exploding, it’s Apple. The question is one of how much money Apple is willing to throw at the problem and how much time they’re willing to dedicate to it before opting for a complete redesign.
The fact that most references to AirPower have disappeared from Apple’s official sites indicates that they’re not especially hopeful of a quick fix. Website Sonny Dickson said that “While it is still ‘possible’ for the AirPower, or a similar device not yet shown to the public, to debut before the end of the year, broad consensus among engineers suggests that this is highly unlikely”, adding that Apple may discard this idea entirely and use the AirPower trademark for something we haven’t seen yet.