Of course Apple's AirPods wireless charging case will work with any Qi charger

Posted:
in General Discussion edited August 2018
We've seen different reports recently claiming to offer new "insightful" information that the upcoming AirPods wireless charging case will work with any Qi charger. Why is this seen as a big surprise?

AirPods


The upgraded AirPods wireless charging case was announced alongside AirPower during Apple's September 2017 iPhone event in the Steve Jobs Theater. Neither product has shipped -- though they aren't technically late -- which has fueled much speculation about their abilities and price points.

Some have questioned whether or not this wireless charging case would utilize standard Qi charging and work with any wireless charger, or if it would be a proprietary subset of Qi, and only work on AirPower.

But the answer is pretty clear -- of course it will work with any Qi charger. To me, this is a pretty obvious conclusion. Let's walk through the reasons why.

Closed ecosystem

Apple has long been the target of criticism of the closed off "Apple ecosystem" where certain features only work if you use other Apple products. Think AirDrop, iMessage, or even Apple's own proprietary Lightning charging cable.

Arguably, most of these features are only limited for certain reasons. Apple opted for Lightning instead of Micro USB because non-certified third-party cables were less reliable, non-reversible, and were less secure. AirDrop is kept onto platforms they control the software on such as Macs, iPhones, and iPads so they can be sure that it works.

Something like iMessage is a big feature meant to drive sales of devices in the Apple ecosystem. Locking in a niche product such as a charging case for a pair of Apple earbuds to help drive sales of another niche product doesn't line up, especially when Apple has been promoting other wireless chargers such as those from Belkin and Mophie.

Limiting something as minor as a wireless charging AirPods case to solely work with AirPower is nonsensical. They achieve nothing other than garnering a wave of bad press.

Confusing for consumers

AirPower charging mat


Apple often prides itself on simplifying products and makes ones that they can easily described as "just work". It would cause a needless amount of confusion in the marketplace if they were to release a wireless charging case for AirPods that only works with AirPower.

In that world, you'd have iPhones that work with any charger, Apple Watch that works on the charging puck plus Apple's wireless charging pad (and a few other Qi pads), then an optional AirPod case that only works with Apple's charging mat.

Most likely scenario? iPhone works with all wireless chargers, AirPods work with all wireless chargers, and Apple Watch (eventually) could possibly work with new wireless chargers using a future Qi standard.

They of course gain certain benefits from using AirPower over others, but consumers still have options..

Qi standards

When Apple debuted AirPower, Phil Schiller stood on stage saying that they were launching AirPower because they believed they could do things that no one else would be able to do. Coming up on a year later, no one else has come close to releasing a product mirroring AirPower's capabilities (I guess that includes AirPower itself).

Looking at the current Qi standard, if solely relied on, AirPower wouldn't exist. Apple has instead built on that to develop AirPower, a Qi charging pad powered by USB-C that is able to charge three devices simultaneously. It is able to detect when a device is placed and power it with no issue.

That includes the Apple Watch (Series 3) that utilizes a special version of Qi and doesn't require the normal charging puck.

Schiller said that as a member of the Wireless Power Consortium, they will be sharing their changes with the goal of integrating their work into future Qi standards, allowing others to create similar chargers.

By that logic, why would the AirPods wireless charging case solely support AirPower? AirPower is just a forked version of Qi that Apple has been openly in support of others being able to utilize. All of AirPower's special sauce has to do with device detection, power delivery, and the Apple Watch rather than a simple Qi coil in the back of the AirPods case.

But Apple Watch uses a proprietary charger!

It is true that Apple has a history of proprietary chargers, such as the puck for the Apple Watch. Since they required Apple Watch to stick to Apple's own charger, it wouldn't be crazy to think they'd do a similar thing with AirPods.

Again though, AirPods are already a minor accessory by themselves and can easily charge via Lightning. The number of users who would opt to pay the rumored $69 to be locked into Apple's own charging pad would be pretty minimal.

Apple has also been more open when it comes to wireless charging. The iPhone 8 and iPhone X supports any Qi charger, and as I mentioned, the Series 3 Apple Watch supports a slightly tweaked input allowing it to work with AirPower, and possibly others in the future. At the moment, a few Qi chargers already are capable of charging the Series 3 Apple Watch, however unreliably.

Once Apple works to integrate their Qi specifications into the standard, we could see many more properly adopt this. Locking down AirPods wireless charging would be an odd step backwards.

Looking forward to the release

Rumored for Apple's September iPhone event is a new version of AirPods that support "Hey, Siri", as well as possibly the long-awaited release of the AirPower mat. There is still plenty unknown such as whether the new AirPods will bundle the wireless case, or if it will remain an optional add-on accessory.




When Apple debuted AirPower, the Wireless Power Consortium trumpeted the release, praising Apple for paving the way towards providing "ubiquitous access to wireless charging". AirPods working only with Apple's proprietary charger would be in direct contradiction to that.

When it comes down to it, if Apple didn't limit the iPhone to AirPower or authorized "Made For i" wireless chargers, why would they do the same to AirPods?
watto_cobra

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 17
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 10,315member

    Closed ecosystem
    Apple has long been the target of criticism of the closed off “Apple ecosystem" where certain features only work if you use other Apple products.
    As far as I’m concerned if Apple’s proprietary solutions work better and offer a superior user experience then I WANT them to use those solutions, not go the “good enough” route that everyone else uses. I don’t want Apple to be like every other swinging dick on the store shelves. Leave that crap to the Android OEMs. I hope that Apple chose to use QI because it was the best solution and not because it is a de facto standard. Apple chose and promoted USB when all the other PCs were still on the fence and using RS-232 ports. In the last few years the calls for Apple to become just another OEM using standardized components and software have become more strident. The caterwauling about going cheap is dragged out at every opportunity and I’m sick of it.
    StrangeDaysdamn_its_hotRayz2016watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 17
    Seems more like a list of reasons why people WOULD be skeptical. History of closed ecosystems and custom chargers, Apple Watch doesn't work with Qi, etc. Fine story but maybe needs a new headline :)
    elijahg[Deleted User]
  • Reply 3 of 17
    Andrew_OSUAndrew_OSU Posts: 558member, editor
    cbalfe said:
    Seems more like a list of reasons why people WOULD be skeptical. History of closed ecosystems and custom chargers, Apple Watch doesn't work with Qi, etc. Fine story but maybe needs a new headline :)
    Best way to debate is to anticipate the opponents arguments and counter them. That’s what I’m going with here. There are a few reasons people expected it to work solely with AirPower, but in my opinion none of those arguments make sense.

    Apple Watch now does support (a new) version of Qi in the Series 3, they’ve opened up their custom chargers with iPhone’s wireless charging and the MacBook’s USB-C Charger, and their closed ecosystem only applies to certain things - latest chargers, Apple Music, and more are much more open than in the past. These arguments don’t hold much water.
    watto_cobrabshank
  • Reply 4 of 17
    My guess is AirPower is to Qi as the W1 is to Bluetooth. AirPower mats will work with Q1 compatible devices (like AirPods work with bluetooth) but AirPower mats will somehow work better with Apple devices than non-Apple devices. But I'm not quite sure how much room for differentiation there is in wireless charging (unlike Bluetooth which had multiple dimensions for improvement: range, battery life, ease of pairing, dropouts, etc.).
    Rayz2016watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 17
    What is the reason to write this article? The first paragraph basically says it all.
  • Reply 6 of 17
    Andrew_OSUAndrew_OSU Posts: 558member, editor
    What is the reason to write this article? The first paragraph basically says it all.
    I wanted to write it. I literally hear this stuff all the time, and I hear the same arguments around it. I wanted to put it to bed. Tired of hearing people debate it and spreading “news” just saying the same stuff. 
    watto_cobrabshank
  • Reply 7 of 17
    nunzynunzy Posts: 662member
    It would be better if Apple had an exclusive charging system. That way, they could get licensing fees and curate who gets to make chargers for Apple's products.

    Consumers could simply buy chargers that have an Apple logo on them, and be confident of the quality.
  • Reply 8 of 17
    ZelderZelder Posts: 1unconfirmed, member
    I find this article strange. Apple Watch 3 does support the Qi standard - at least in theory. Hardwarewise it does, but why has Apple blocked regular chargers? I got my Samsung Qi charger to work for a few seconds when I used a magnet to trick the watch, but after 10 seconds or so the charging stops.

    No good reason that AW3 shouldn’t work with all qi chargers, unless Apple wanted it that way. Noe they want to profit by launching a superior charging mat. It will be better. Apple likes to do it this way. Not a surprise.

    I can’t get my head around this article.
    [Deleted User]
  • Reply 9 of 17
    robjnrobjn Posts: 266member
    Apple Watch Series 3 does not support Qi but will work with AirPower. Is this a hardware or software limitation? I expect it’s a hardware one otherwise Apple would have enabled it by now.

    There would be no benefit to users in holding Qi support back. Therefore the hardware simply does not support it. To argue otherwise would be to rest your argument on nothing but a cynical conspiracy theory of Apple holding back a useful feature to maximize profits from their upcoming mat.

    No one knows for sure how AirPower even works.

    If Apple Watch Series 3 has AirPower hardware but not Qi capable hardware - why would we expect the wireless AirPods case to be any different?
    edited August 2018
  • Reply 10 of 17
    roakeroake Posts: 790member
    My guess is AirPower is to Qi as the W1 is to Bluetooth. AirPower mats will work with Q1 compatible devices (like AirPods work with bluetooth) but AirPower mats will somehow work better with Apple devices than non-Apple devices. But I'm not quite sure how much room for differentiation there is in wireless charging (unlike Bluetooth which had multiple dimensions for improvement: range, battery life, ease of pairing, dropouts, etc.).
    It goes to 11!  11 watt wireless charging via AirPower.

    Okay, fine.  I’ll leave now.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 17
    robjnrobjn Posts: 266member
    Zelder said:
    I find this article strange. Apple Watch 3 does support the Qi standard - at least in theory. Hardwarewise it does, but why has Apple blocked regular chargers? I got my Samsung Qi charger to work for a few seconds when I used a magnet to trick the watch, but after 10 seconds or so the charging stops.

    No good reason that AW3 shouldn’t work with all qi chargers, unless Apple wanted it that way. Noe they want to profit by launching a superior charging mat. It will be better. Apple likes to do it this way. Not a surprise.

    I can’t get my head around this article.
    You might be able to trick the watch into ‘thinking’ it’s on it’s charger for a few seconds before it realizes it is not - that does not prove it was actually charging or that it has hardware support for Qi.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 17
    My guess... ...But I'm not quite sure... ...etc.


    I think my editing, of your stmt, sums up the lack of anything clarifying in your comment. Your (lack of valid) comparisons (e.g., Bluetooth and W1) don't make any sense -- why not compare/contrast things that serve a similar purpose?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 17
    nunzy said:
    It would be better if Apple had an exclusive charging system. That way, they could get licensing fees and curate who gets to make chargers for Apple's products.

    Consumers could simply buy chargers that have an Apple logo on them, and be confident of the quality.


    Unfortunately manufacturers shy away from producing something that is Apple exclusive. Remember with PC/Android products the approach seems to be for OEMs to supply consumers with really cheaply constructed cables. I have got to believe that users oft times just don't get it when connecting peripherals to the primary device (Mac, iPad/iPhone, etc.).

    Those motivated strictly by price tend to be on the non-Apple product side where they get cables they need for $2-$3 each but perform like small gauge zip wire whereas Apples cables are often smart/reversible/shielded/twisted pair wiring with precious metal tip or a TOC without flash hanging off the sides or strain relief.

    I have complained enough. The bottom line is that if they don't open up a std. that allows others to use both on Apple but as important (or maybe more so) to make them available on PC/Android & other platforms to get high quality cables & connectors that can support higher speeds, reversibility, cleaner signal, etc. Cost of the cables designed/spec'd by Apple are typically gonna be more than what they pay for the POS cables used now for a more durable, better performing product. It also drives the price of the products down (that have become capable of working with other platforms).
    nunzy
  • Reply 14 of 17
    mavemufcmavemufc Posts: 326member
    Be as well waiting for the next generation of AirPods now anyway, especially with how long Apple are taking with the charging case and the AirPower as well 


  • Reply 15 of 17
    Andrew_OSUAndrew_OSU Posts: 558member, editor
    Zelder said:
    I find this article strange. Apple Watch 3 does support the Qi standard - at least in theory. Hardwarewise it does, but why has Apple blocked regular chargers? I got my Samsung Qi charger to work for a few seconds when I used a magnet to trick the watch, but after 10 seconds or so the charging stops.

    No good reason that AW3 shouldn’t work with all qi chargers, unless Apple wanted it that way. Noe they want to profit by launching a superior charging mat. It will be better. Apple likes to do it this way. Not a surprise.

    I can’t get my head around this article.
    I literally address this right in the article. Apple Watch is using a forked version of the Qi standard. That is why only some random Qi chargers happen to support it. Likely, once Apple shares their progress for including into the official Qi standard, other chargers will support the Apple Watch.
  • Reply 16 of 17
    Andrew_OSUAndrew_OSU Posts: 558member, editor

    robjn said:
    Zelder said:
    I find this article strange. Apple Watch 3 does support the Qi standard - at least in theory. Hardwarewise it does, but why has Apple blocked regular chargers? I got my Samsung Qi charger to work for a few seconds when I used a magnet to trick the watch, but after 10 seconds or so the charging stops.

    No good reason that AW3 shouldn’t work with all qi chargers, unless Apple wanted it that way. Noe they want to profit by launching a superior charging mat. It will be better. Apple likes to do it this way. Not a surprise.

    I can’t get my head around this article.
    You might be able to trick the watch into ‘thinking’ it’s on it’s charger for a few seconds before it realizes it is not - that does not prove it was actually charging or that it has hardware support for Qi.
    The Apple Watch charging puck is actually based on Qi. On top of that, the AirPower mat is all Qi based, though Apple built on the standard to do more than it can do today. Apple Watch Series 3 really does include a different version of Qi that will possibly support third-party wireless chargers in the future if Apple is successful in getting their Qi changes adopted into the standard.
    bshank
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