Apple has cancelled plans to launch a much-teased, then much-delayed wireless charging mat dubbed AirPower – less than two weeks after the sixth developer beta of iOS 12.2 showed significant changes to the component responsible for wireless charging, leading many to speculate a launch was imminent.
The mat was designed to simultaneously charge an iPhone, Apple headphones and Apple’s smart watch. First announced on September 12, 2017, with a launch promised for 2018, the project ran into repeated delays over technical issues, but March 18’s developer beta had suggested the launch might finally be close.
Now, in an unusual admission, Apple has said it simply won’t be built.
“After much effort, we’ve concluded AirPower will not achieve our high standards and we have cancelled the project. 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,” Dan Riccio, Apple’s senior vice president of hardware engineering, said in a statement to Business Insider.
AirPower issues are reported to be related to heat management and/or electromagnetic interference issues; both potentially the outcome of trying to build a large pad that would charge a device placed anywhere on it. (Wireless charging currently commonly uses the Qi open interface standard, which uses inductive charging over a four centimeter-range. This is widely regarded as desperately limited, requiring highly accurate alignment between the small charging area and the device.)
Apparently creating a single mat capable of charging multiple devices at any location on it remains an ambitious challenges. iFixIt‘s “informed guess” about the abrupt cancellation suggests it couldn’t meet stringent US and EU electromagnetic interference regulations; too much interference caused by a high power output across a broad area would be both illegal and potentially have health implications.
While AirPower may be dead, rumours of another ambitious Apple project with electricity at its heart live on: the company is reported to have hired Tesla’s head of electric powertrains in effort to bring an electric car to market.