Apple AirPower: What We Know So Far – The Wireless Solution

Apple AirPower: What We Know So Far

Apple AirPower demonstration at Apple Special Event 2017

 

A source coming out of Bloomberg has recently revealed that the Apple AirPower could be hitting stores this September. This is despite the fact that news of the AirPower was completely absent from Apple’s recent WWDC Keynote 2018.

Although Apple have only stated that the AirPower would be coming sometime in 2018, if the product finally ships in September it will be released a full year after its initial reveal at the Apple special product event in 2017:

This continues a trend that many are wary of in the Apple community since Tim Cook has taken over as CEO, of products shipping later than originally anticipated.

For instance, the Apple Watch was marketed for a release in early 2015 but didn’t reach shelves until April 2015 and only then in limited stock. Similarly, AirPods were scheduled for release in October 2016 but didn’t arrive until December.

Nevertheless, a delayed release of AirPower could simply indicate that Apple are taking their time with their product to ensure it sets itself apart from other chargers on the market.

Some have questioned how well received the AirPower will be considering how cheap Qi chargers are becoming and since multi-device chargers already exist, but Apple’s slow movements seem to confirm suspicions that they might be adding novel features not yet seen in other wireless charging products.

 

What is AirPower

 

Apple AirPower at keynote event 2017

 

The AirPower is an oval shaped charger that can charge up to 3 devices at a time but is designed specifically with your iPhone, Apple Watch and AirPods in mind. From the initial reveal at the Apple event in 2017 we got some indication about which new features AirPower might offer:

The standout feature from this reveal was the spatial freedom with which devices could be placed on the pad despite the iPhone, Apple Watch and AirPods all containing different sized coils and charging at different wattages.

Usually, Qi chargers require precise alignment between a transmitter and receiver coil for charging to occur and this is only possible with coils of a similar size. Therefore, Apple will have a tough time creating a pad that charges all these devices at different points on the charger.

Another feature we witnessed last September was the direct monitoring of the battery life of devices using an interface in the iPhone. According to the Bloomberg source we now know that the AirPower will include a custom chip “running a stripped-down version of the iOS mobile operating system to conduct on-device power management and pairing with devices.”

This means AirPower may also have measures in place to cycle charge evenly between devices.

 

What We Know

 

Other than what was showcased last year we can only speculate based on sources of mixed validity about what the AirPower might add to its feature list.

On top of being able to charge the iPhone, Apple Watch and Air Pods simultaneously, Bloomberg believes that the pad may allow for complete freedom of positioning, something we haven’t seen before in a multi-charger and a technology that would really add value to the inductive charging process.

It is difficult to know how Apple engineers might pull this off, most likely by embedding a load of overlapping Qi coils.

Other features rumoured to be making their way into the AirPower include cross-device synchronisation and Bluetooth connectivity. If this is the case it would seem to tie in with their reported goal of connecting all Apple devices together, and a shared charging space that capitalises on both synchronisation and Bluetooth might be a significant step in this direction.

It definitely appears as if Apple want to make the AirPower an integral piece of kit as Mark Gurman from Bloomberg has stated that:

Mark Gurman of Bloomber Technology

“Apple designers eventually hope to remove most of the external ports and buttons on the iPhone, including the charger”.

The AirPower would be pretty vital for this to be possible. As a result of all these devices being connected, Apple can then market them together so that consumers will invest in more Apple products.

So far it is unclear whether the AirPower will be compatible with other devices, but since it will almost certainly incorporate the Qi standard, this likely will be the case.

Apple have also stated that they will offer their technology to the Wireless Power Consortium, meaning that any technological advancements unique to AirPower will eventually benefit the entire industry in the long run – that’s great news for wireless charging.

 

The Issues

 

While we hate having to wait for things, we understand that part of the reason for AirPower’s delay may be Apple’s sheer ambition with this project, they are effectively trying to accomplish charging feats never before achieved.

As mentioned, the AirPower is not just a charger, it will act like a mini hub, containing a stripped-down version of iOS, potentially alongside Bluetooth connectivity and cross-device synchronisation.

The device also needs to be able to charge devices of different coil size and wattage and may even require total spatial freedom of positioning. It would be an understatement to say that these features are difficult to implement.

Mark Hung, Vice President of research at Gartner, a global research and advisory firm, had this to say on the situation:

Mark Hung Vice President of research at Gartner

“Given the delay, I assume Apple’s engineering team has found this challenge to be a little tougher than what they had originally expected.”

According to Bloomberg the Apple team engineers have been ramping up the testing of AirPower in recent weeks by using it as a desk charger in their office. However, the team have recently been tackling problems with overheating of the product’s complex circuitry.

 

Take Home Message

 

If there’s anything we’ve learnt about Tim Cook’s reign as CEO at Apple it’s that the company is not lacking ambition.

While this is good in many ways, the company has had trouble with over-promising which has meant push-backs in the release dates of multiple cornerstone Apple products.

It appears that AirPower is no exception.

A big caveat though is that we here at The Wireless Solution welcome this kind of ambition. While it is possible that Apple could have bitten off more than it can chew, if the AirPower can live up to even just a few of these promises it will become one of the most innovative wireless charging products to date.

Not only that, but if Apple successfully manage to get around this issue of coil alignment in a commercial product, and this technology becomes available to everyone, wireless charging will hugely benefit as a result.

Apple AirPower could mark the next step towards blowing wired charging completely out the water. So, if the product is released a bit later than initially anticipated, so be it we say.

The question remains however: can Apple actually deliver at all?

We hope so.

 


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