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Monday, September 20, 2021

Is Apple about to surprise us by releasing a device it canceled years ago?

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Apple’s AirPower, the company’s somewhat mythical wireless charging mat, occupies a unique place in Apple history. While Apple typically announces a new product when it’s ready to ship, AirPower is a glaring exception.

Apple first announced AirPower when it unveiled the iPhone X at a special media event in 2017. Apple at the time said it would ship later in the year. However, several technical roadblocks kept pushing the release date back. Ultimately, Apple ended up cancelling the product altogether in 2019. It was a rare miss for Apple.

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Why Apple canceled AirPower

According to reports, the charging mat was prone to overheating when charging multiple devices simultaneously. Notably, the key feature of AirPower was its ability to charge multiple devices at once. Other reports pointed to interference issues involving the coils which impacted charging efficiency.

“After much effort, we’ve concluded AirPower will not achieve our high standards and we have canceled the project,” Apple senior VP of Hardware Engineering Dan Riccio said two years ago. “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 pushing the wireless experience forward.”

Is Apple’s charging mat making a comeback?

Interestingly, there are rumblings that AirPower might actually see the light of day. Nothing is certain, but Bloomberg recently said that Apple is working on a new wireless charging product similar in nature to AirPower.

The Cupertino company is still exploring a future wireless charger that works similarly to its failed AirPower, a charging mat designed to simultaneously power up an iPhone, Apple Watch and AirPods, the people said. It is also internally investigating alternative wireless charging methods that can work over greater distances than an inductive connection.

Additionally, Apple has several patent filings about this type of technology. Some were made in 2019 and 2020 after the product was canceled. It is, however, possible that the technology described in the patents will be incorporated into something like MagSafe. Still, Bloomberg’s record with respect to Apple rumors is quite strong.

That notwithstanding, Bloomberg notes that it may be several years before Apple’s ongoing work with wireless charging yields a new charging mat similar in function to AirPower. In short, it remains unclear if AirPower will ever see the light of day. Still, there’s reason to believe that Apple engineers haven’t given up on the idea just yet. In the meantime, there are already compelling charging mats on the market from the likes of companies like Mophie. It’s possible that by the time AirPower is ready, it will be far less appealing to the masses.

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