At the time, Apple said we should expect AirPower to launch in 2018. But toward the end of that 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. The AirPower was then a no-show at Apple's 25 March press event.
Now Apple has confirmed that it has cancelled the AirPower project, which seems to have been plagued by difficulties.
In a statement Apple SVP of hardware engineering Dan Riccio said: "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," reports TechCrunch.
In this article we assess the reasons why the AirPower was delayed, and why it's now been cancelled.
For those who are interested in alternatives to AirPower that are available right now, we've rounded up the best wireless iPhone chargers.
"Look for the AirPower charger next year," said Phil Schiller, when announcing AirPower in Sept 2017. But now, a year and a half later, Apple has cancelled the AirPower project.
Over the years there have been plenty of indications that there were problems with AirPower.
In autumn 2018 all mention of the product was pulled from the Apple website after the iPhone XS and XR phones launched. It was a clear indication that the charger's existence was up in the air.
Even more mysterious: the new AirPods, with their optional wireless charging case ideal for AirPower, launched on 20 March without the AirPower.
However, there were still glimmers of hope. 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 we had even heard that AirPower had entered production. DigiTimes' supplier sources said 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" had told Hong Kong's ChargerLAB, meanwhile, that Luxshare Precision had started to make the charging pad for Apple and that it would be released soon, and another source also said Pegatron had 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
We'd even had KGI Securities analyst Ming Chi Kuo state that AirPower shipment would "start in the first half of 2019".
This all goes to show that whatever the rumours seem to be indicating, only Apple knows the truth.
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 in early 2018, or late 2018...
It's been a series of disappointments. Apparently Apple originally planned a June 2018 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 originally 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 existed for the Apple Watch 3 on the AirPower.
The other issue flagged by AppleToolBox was the requirement that charging AirPods requires an additional purchase of a $69 case. Apparently there had 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.
A Bloomberg report in June 2018 claimed AirPower was delayed because the engineering team had encountered a number of challenges including ensuring the charger doesn't overheat.
Another issue outlined in that report was related to the placement of sensors on the pad. The AirPower was to be the first wireless charger to charge three devices at a time. It's thought that it was because Apple wanted users to be able to place the three devices anywhere on the pad that the design was proving difficult.
Random placement meant that the mat required multiple charging sensors - and not just multiple versions of the same sensor as each type of device requires different sized charging components, suggested Bloomberg's source (from an Apple partner that manufacturers third-party wireless chargers).
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).
In fact, one Reddit post claimed that AirPower hadn't been approved by the FCC.
AirPower design and build
In terms of design, Apple's AirPower wireless charger wasn't going to look that different to the plethora of wireless chargers already available.
Based on the video showcase at Apple's September 2017 keynote, we knew that the AirPower was to be 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 was to be provided, the wireless charger itself still needed 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 would need to be thicker than the prototype Apple showed off back in June 2017.
AirPower features and spec
So, what was going to make Apple's AirPower wireless charger better than anything else on the market? First up it was to be built on the Qi wireless charging standard.
Apple had filed a patent for a wireless charging device, via AppleWorldToday (January 2018), that suggested 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.
AirPower was expected to have the ability to intelligently manage the charging system by allowing all compatible devices to 'communicate' between each other.
A Bloomberg report (from June 2018) claimed that AirPower would include a custom Apple chip running iOS that would 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 were charging both your AirPods and iPhone 8 on the AirPower, the devices would communicate with each other and 'decide' how much power each device requires.
The current charge of all devices on the AirPower mat was also to be displayed on the iPhone if it's also on charge, another feature not offered by other wireless chargers.