When Apple announced the iPhone 8 and iPhone X back in September 2017, the company also previewed AirPower, a wireless pad which can charge an iPhone, Apple Watch and pair of AirPods all at the same time.
At the time, Apple said we should expect AirPower to launch in 2018. But towards the end of the year the company removed all mention of the product from its website, and fans began to fear it might never see the light of day. Until now...
In this article we round up the rumours about AirPower's release date, price, specs and features. We also assess the reasons why the AirPower has been delayed, and what those difficulties might mean for the final design of Apple's wireless charger - for example, one report claims the AirPower will be much thicker than Apple's prototype was.
For those who are interested in alternatives that are available right now, however, we've rounded up the best wireless iPhone chargers.
AirPower release date
"Look for the AirPower charger next year," said Phil Schiller, when announcing AirPower in Sept 2017. But we are now well into 2019 and the company still hasn't announced a concrete release date, with delays being blamed on practical issues.
In autumn 2018 things seemed to be at their bleakest. Eagle-eyed fans noticed that AirPower was namechecked on (printed) iPhone XR and XS marketing materials, but all mention of the product was pulled from the Apple website when those phones launched. It felt like the charger's very existence was up in the air.
But now there is cause for optimism. At the end of December iOS developer Steve Troughton-Smith tweeted that he had heard Apple had "finally fixed it", and that AirPower could launch "whenever Apple wants".
And now we hear that AirPower has entered production. DigiTimes' supplier sources say a firm named Lite-On Semiconductor "has been shipping GPP [glass passivated package] bridge rectifiers for use in AirPower for over a year", and expect shipments to rise when the charger launches "later in 2019".
A "credible source" has told Hong Kong's ChargerLAB, meanwhile, that Luxshare Precision has started to make the charging pad for Apple and that it will be released soon, and another source says Pegatron has begun production too.
Breaking: AirPower is finally coming. We just learned from credible source in supply chain that the manufacture Luxshare Precision has already started producing Apple AirPower wireless charging pad. Luxshare Precision is also the maker of Apple AirPods and USB-C cables. pic.twitter.com/UqgWIAh3sx— ChargerLAB (@chargerlab) 12 January 2019
One last cause for hope: an imminent AirPods update is expected to include a wireless charging case. We think AirPower is likely to launch alongside the new AirPods, and our best bet for that is March 2019. Read all about the next Apple event here.
Wondering how much AirPower will cost (if and when it does launch)? Apple has made no statements about AirPower's price, but we can make an educated guess.
Apple doesn't tend to sell 'cheap' products. Some people talk about the 'Apple tax' it adds to its products, but others would suggest you pay extra for the extensive research and development costs (we discuss the technical advances of AirPower below), and Apple's high standards. Either way, you can expect a premium price tag.
There have been some predictions. Polish retailer X-Kom shows the AirPower priced at 999 Złotych - that's about £211 or $294. However, the price might not be as high as that: in November 2017 Polish blog ThinkApple indicated that many products that cost 999 Złotych on the Polish site are priced at $199 in the US.
Those are high prices for a wireless charger, and hopefully AirPower won't cost that much. In August 2018, Chinese title Chongdiantou claimed its sources told it that the AirPower would be released this September for around 1,000 Chinese yuan, which is approximately $145/£114. That's still quite a high price - but this is Apple. And of course they got the launch date wrong, which puts a cloud over the other prediction.
The AppleToolBox report mentioned below suggested the AirPower could cost $99/£99.
In February 2019 a MySmartPrice report claimed that its sources said the AirPower will cost $149.
When Apple announced AirPower back in 2017 the small print of some marketing materials relating to AirPower availability used the phrase "early 2018", but nothing was announced at the event on 27 March 2018. Nor was there a peep about AirPower at WWDC 2018 on 4 June, or on 12 September during the iPhone and Apple Watch event.
It's been a series of disappointments. Apparently Apple planned a June launch, but this was stymied by "a series of technical hurdles" and "supply-chain challenges", according to a Bloomberg source.
According to AppleToolBox sources in April 2018, Apple has delayed the AirPower due to difficulties producing the product and concerns over AirPods support. But Apple's biggest issue, they said, was the Apple Watch.
This has always included Qi charging, but changes to the design of the Series 3 made it incompatible with most non-Apple chargers: it has a convex back and chargers are usually flat. This design means third-party chargers weren't able to create the connection required to charge - and the same problem exists for the Apple Watch 3 on the AirPower. Apparently Apple had not solved this problem as of April 2018, and for all we know may still not have managed to do so.
The other issue flagged by AppleToolBox was the fact that charging AirPods requires an additional purchase of a $69 case. Apparently there have been disagreements at Apple as to whether people would pay for a case to enable them to charge their AirPods on an already expensive charger.
The Bloomberg report claims AirPower is delayed because the engineering team has encountered a number of challenges including ensuring the charger doesn't overheat.
Another issue outlined in that report is related to the placement of sensors on the pad. The AirPower will be the first wireless charger to charge three devices at a time. It's thought that it is because Apple wants users to be able to place the three devices anywhere on the pad that the design is proving difficult.
Random placement means that the mat requires multiple charging sensors - and not just multiple versions of the same sensor as each type of device requires different sized charging components, suggests Bloomberg's source (from an Apple partner that manufacturers third-party wireless chargers).
AirPower is not the first product from Apple whose launch has been delayed. We have seen delays for HomePod and AirPods, and AirPlay 2 which become available almost a year after first being announced.
Some might think that Apple was wrong to announce AirPower so early, but in these areas, where it is necessary to get FCC ratification the company often does reveal its plans early (as it did with the original iPhone). One Reddit post claims that AirPower hasn't been approved by the FCC.
AirPower design and build
In terms of design, Apple's AirPower wireless charger doesn't look that different to the plethora of wireless chargers already available.
Based on the video showcase at Apple's September 2017 keynote, we know that the AirPower is a white mat large enough to accompany three devices (iPhone, Apple Watch and AirPods) at the same time, with a single power lead connected to the wireless charger.
While wireless charging is provided, the wireless charger itself still needs to be plugged in - something that may sound obvious to some, but it's worth pointing out for those new to the world of wireless charging.
The MySmartPrice report mentioned above suggests that due to the 8-7-7 coil configuration required for the wireless charger the AirPower will be thicker than the prototype Apple showed off back in June 2017.
AirPower features and spec
So, what makes Apple's AirPower wireless charger better than anything else on the market? First up it's built on the Qi wireless charging standard, although we're not sure at this time whether the AirPower will be compatible with any Qi-enabled device.
Apple has filed a patent for a wireless charging device that could give us an insight to some other features it could offer, via AppleWorldToday (January 2018). The patent suggests that the device could also transmit wireless power signals to a wireless power receiving electronic device, which could pave the way for true wireless charging - as in charging over the air, rather than via conduction when placed on a mat.
However, this technology may be a little further down the road. For now it seems that the AirPower will be the first wireless charger capable of charging three device at once, and it doesn't matter where on the surface each device is laid - it should still receive the charge.
AirPower is expected to have the ability to intelligently manage the charging system by allowing all compatible devices to 'communicate' between each other.
This Bloomberg report (June 2018) claims that AirPower will include a custom Apple chip running iOS that will conduct on-device power management and pairing with devices.
"The system has a great interface. They intelligently work together and communicate with each other to manage the charging through one more efficient charging system. This is not possible with current standards but our team knows how to do this," Tim Cook said on stage at the event.
That means that if you're charging both your AirPods and iPhone 8 on the AirPower, the devices should communicate with each other and 'decide' how much power each device requires.
The current charge of all devices on the AirPower mat will also be displayed on the iPhone if it's also on charge, another feature not offered by other wireless chargers.
Another way that Apple may be solving the issue of being able to place a device anywhere on the mat, is by embedding a lot of coils on the inside. According to Chongdiantou's sources, AirPower will feature 22 wireless charging coils, each of these will supply power independently.
The February 2019 MySmartPrice report mentioned earlier claims that new features will come to the charging mat when iOS 13 launches.
AirPower device compatibility
Will existing iOS device be compatible with AirPower? Unless you've got yourself an iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus or iPhone X (or newer) you won't be able to charge your iPhone using AirPower.
It's a similar story with the AirPods - despite Apple showcasing wireless charging on AirPods at the announcement, existing AirPod cases aren't Qi-enabled. The Qi-enabled AirPods case is expected to be made available alongside the release of AirPower, in September, read about the new AirPods here.
We're not so sure about the Apple Watch, though. AirPower is confirmed as being compatible with the Apple Watch Series 3, but whether previous generations are compatible is yet to be seen.
A report has appeared in Japanese website Macotakara suggesting that AirPower will detect the Apple Watch Series 3 by "special radio waves" a function "available only to Apple". This is the only way it's possible to charge the Watch Series 3, because of its Apple Watch Magnetic Charging Cable, according to the Japanese site.
Older Watches use wireless charging based on the Qi standard, but require MFi-based authentication. It's possible that Apple will offer this in its own wireless charging mat, but only time will tell.
Don't be disheartened, though - there are ways of getting wireless charging on older iPhones, it just isn't built in.
However, while AirPower is 'delayed' (if indeed it is) other companies are getting in on the action.
A Chinese company has already started selling an AirPower knockoff: there was a brief moment when it looked like the AirPower had arrived, but it turned out to be a fake.
That 'AirPower' was spotted at an outlet at Vienna airport where it was being sold for $200. This Chinese AirPower knock off has also been seen on eBay and Aliexpress, according to Apple Insider.
Apple AirPower available in the Vienna Airport arrival hall. They however charge 200 bucks! pic.twitter.com/9ZqYXqKpf4— Peter Allan (@ThePeterAllan) April 27, 2018
When the AirPower launches it is likely that it will only be available in Apple Stores, at Apple's online store, and at registered Apple resellers such as John Lewis, Currys PC World, and Argos (see more Apple resellers here). Not at airport kiosks.
This wasn't the first example of a Chinese company using the AirPower name. Back in January 2018, a video appeared on YouTube showing how a Chinese company had started producing an AirPower mini. Like Apple's AirPower, this AirPower can charge an Apple watch and iPhone X simultaneously. It will cost $15. It is likely that Apple will not be happy about the use of the AirPower brand, and it's very unlikely that the charger will be accredited as MFi (Made for iPhone) by Apple.