With AirPower dead, what does the future hold for Apple's wireless charging tech?

Posted:
in iPhone edited April 17
AirPower is dead. While that particular accessory will never see the light of day, there are technologies that were going to be shown off in the AirPower that can still be scavenged from the corpse -- and some limitations that Apple is now unshackled from, now that the AirPower is gone.

AirPower wireless charging mat -- RIP
AirPower wireless charging mat -- RIP


The demise of AirPower seems to have been a shock to everyone -- even those within Apple. In the days leading up to its cancellation, we saw new images found on Apple's website updated with the iPhone XS. Even the new AirPods wireless charging case included imagery of AirPower plastered on the back of the box.

There are several interesting facets that made AirPower so enticing to users. AirPower is gone, but it doesn't mean that Apple can't continue to develop some of these other interesting wireless charging features and eventually release them through new hardware or even software updates. Let's take a look at some of the most drool-worthy.

Faster speed

AirPower was originally announced with the iPhone X, iPhone 8, and the iPhone 8 Plus. These were the first Apple handsets to adopt wireless charging. It was exciting but limited. Apple only was going to support 7.5W of power -- 5W at the start.

We've already gone in depth with the problems that Apple faced bringing AirPower to market, but the short version is the speculation that Apple wasn't able to overcome the heat limitations from so many charging coils. One theory we have is that Apple limited the charging of the iPhone X, 8, and 8 Plus as well as the subsequent iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR line was partially due to AirPower.

More power, more heat. Simple as that. While Apple intended to bring AirPower to the masses, they needed to limit the iPhone's wireless charging speed to eventually support AirPower. It may not have been the iPhone that couldn't handle faster charging, but possibly AirPower.

Now that AirPower is DOA, we could see Apple finally embrace faster wireless speeds. Samsung and others are already reaching 12 to 15W wirelessly so Apple is far behind as is.

Slick animations

Another feature we saw demoed with AirPower was the slick animation that displayed whenever a device was placed down to charge. When your iPhone is set on AirPower an animation of a miniature iPhone -- complete with your own lock screen image -- would rotate around and display the current charge.

You'd get a similar effect when your Apple Watch or your AirPods were placed down as well.

This feature is entirely software based and is entirely plausible that Apple release this nice animation to support other chargers. Nothing about AirPower made this work. The devices are already connected via Bluetooth and share their battery status, so all Apple has to do is enable this animation to trigger whenever each device is set on a charging mat.

AirPods and AirPods second generation
AirPods and AirPods second generation


AirPods now support wireless charging, so there is limited hangup for Apple to follow through with this feature.

Apple Watch

One of the aspects I was most excited about with AirPower was the Apple Watch charging. It no longer needed placed on a wireless charging puck, and instead would work anywhere on the AirPower mat.

Phil Schiller announcing AirPower at the iPhone X event
Phil Schiller announcing AirPower at the iPhone X event


That begs the question of whether Apple Watch will ever support anything other than the charging puck. Could Apple release a new spec for third-parties to create charging pads that support Apple Watch as well as iPhone or will they just release a version of their own?

An Apple charger

Apple has its own Apple Watch charging dock, iPhone docks, and other charging accessories. But other than AirPower, wireless charging has always been relegated to third-parties. That brings us to the last feature we want to see -- an Apple-branded wireless charger that isn't the AirPower. If you're reading this, you already know the AirPower wasn't going to be cheap.

AirPower mat
AirPower mat


AppleInsider has featured countless wireless chargers, many of them excellent. But Apple often has a unique way of approaching accessories -- of which we saw a glimpse of with AirPower.

Even though AirPower's multi-coil setup didn't pan out, we'd still be interested in a less ambitious model -- with a less ambitious price -- that features many of the features we've laid out above with a stylish Apple design.

What the future holds

We've no clues thus far of what Apple has specifically planned for down the line, but everything we've talked about here Apple holds a patent on. It would be a complete shame if not only did AirPower disappear but all of the other features that could easily be transplanted to other products and make it into customer's hands.

Apple's year is already giant, and we're expecting more. Wed' like to see some of Apple's wireless tech surface in one form or another.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 9
    airnerdairnerd Posts: 664member
    Forget AirPower, that functionality should be added to a line of iPads.  Similar to the S10 shared-power gimmick, make one of the iPad lines able to share its power with multiple devices.  It can be the full time charging pad and could be done to not restrict where the coils go.  Sure it would add some bulk to the iPad, but if it is just one of the lines (not the Pro I would assume) then it could work.  This allows:
    - larger iPad battery, so if not sharing it would just last for freaking ever
    - built in display that you could add cool widgets like charge rate when a device is charged on it
    - carry one charger (a larger one, not 5w) for your ipad and all your new Apple devices can charge on it


    I'd gladly deal with a slightly thicker and heavier iPad if it was for charging and larger battery.  
  • Reply 2 of 9
    gutengelgutengel Posts: 290member
    Some sort of AirPower will come to the market soon or later if not by Apple, by other company. It's just the natural evolution of the technology, before we see longer range or higher power wireless charging.
    tstump
  • Reply 3 of 9
    hmurchisonhmurchison Posts: 12,271member
    Charging is simply not a pain point. for the average consumer.   AirPower was a device for and hyped up by Apple Sheep.  Let's be real the rank and file consumer wasn't going to walk into a store and spend 200 dollars for a charging mat. 


    chemengin
  • Reply 4 of 9
    gutengelgutengel Posts: 290member
    Charging is simply not a pain point. for the average consumer.   AirPower was a device for and hyped up by Apple Sheep.  Let's be real the rank and file consumer wasn't going to walk into a store and spend 200 dollars for a charging mat. 


    It's not about "Apple Sheep" buying a $200 mat, is about bringing new tech to the mainstream and seeing it become more affordable over time.
    uraharaStrangeDays
  • Reply 5 of 9
    matrix077matrix077 Posts: 719member
    Charging is simply not a pain point. for the average consumer.   AirPower was a device for and hyped up by Apple Sheep.  Let's be real the rank and file consumer wasn't going to walk into a store and spend 200 dollars for a charging mat. 


    So when someone has more money than you they are “sheep”? It’s their fault their lives are better than yours?
    edited April 17 uraharaStrangeDays
  • Reply 6 of 9
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 8,000member
    Charging is simply not a pain point. for the average consumer.   AirPower was a device for and hyped up by Apple Sheep.  Let's be real the rank and file consumer wasn't going to walk into a store and spend 200 dollars for a charging mat. 
    Ah the “But but but Apple customers are sheep!” troll trope. Nonsense. A single, slim charging pad with a single Lightning cable that could charge phone, watch, and headphones next to the bed would be a godsend for travelers. And nice to have in the kitchen when home. 

    Just because you don’t see value in a thing doesn’t make everyone else who does an idiot. That notion itself is idiotic. 
    urahara
  • Reply 7 of 9
    hmurchisonhmurchison Posts: 12,271member
    Guys don't put words in my mouth.   You are not an idiot if you wanted AirPower nor are you Sheep in a bad way.   I'm Apple Sheep ...wear it proudly.   I think AirPower was exciting when it was launched but after subsequent delays and competition catching up it just didn't have as much allure as it did last year. 
  • Reply 8 of 9
    tstumptstump Posts: 3member
     I am always extremely grateful when Apple waits to perfect the technology before releasing a product.

    With inductive charging, I’m still a bit cynical on the physics.  An electrical circuit going through a single coil releases energy in a toroidal ring of electromagnetic flux which dissipates over distance and the only part of that that is getting transferred into the phone or other product is where there too areas   Overlap. The radiation going out another directions is wasted and the transfer of one kind of energy into another is always a cost efficiency as well. In other words a 20 W source of power resulting for less then something directly connected now. Is that convenience worth it? Is all of the radiant EM energy so many different sources   Being generated all over and interfering with each other even to some degree a good thing?
    Multiple coils and the fields from them can actually have cumulative interference patterns that have  Less predictable interference results
       In other words rings that are not coherent will cause interference in each other that increase other properties like heat instead. I would like to understand this better if anyone’s an expert in this physics?  
    T interference is it a problem over distance as the inverse rule applies to the energy dissipating over distance from the source but that also means the receiving device Hass to be is absolutely closest possible to the emanating coils for the most efficiency and increasing that distance by just even a sponsor them out greatly reduces the efficiency. 
  • Reply 9 of 9
    A rather surprising disaster from a company that won't even discuss eggs never mind chicks. Maybe Apple just got stuck on the idea of a charging pad and could not let it go for a better think outside the box solution. 
    edited April 18
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