Apple has canceled its highly anticipated AirPower wireless charging mat and apologized to customers who were waiting for it. NuCurrent, a developer of ultra-efficient antennas for wireless power transfer has identified a complex engineering problem and explained the reason for the failure of the AirPower wireless charging solution.
The device, designed to charge an Apple Watch, iPhone and AirPods all at once, was originally announced alongside the iPhone X in September 2017. At the time, Apple said it would go on sale in 2018. Apple didn’t say why exactly the product was canceled, but according to NuCurrent, people familiar with its development said that the company faced challenges with the software, overheating and the ability to charge multiple devices on any spot on the mat.
NuCurrent, says Apple’s AirPower product was an ambitious concept that took on multiple, overlapping technical challenges related to wireless power.
The Main Challenges Were:
- Variable Loading: Having from one to three devices charging simultaneously
- Variable Charging Rates: Supporting devices with different power requirements (ie. Watches and AirPods need less power than iPhones)
- Variable Receiver Sizes: Supporting Watches, AirPods and iPhones, all of which have different receiver antenna sizes
- Industrial Design Standards: Apple’s stringent industrial design standards often constrain product height/thickness specifications
After analyzing the above factors, NuCurrent has identified a complex engineering problem that causes the following performance issues:
- Excess heat
- Faulty communications between the transmitter and receivers
- Switching complexity
- Dead spots over a large portion of the charge area
- Manufacturing complexity
The lack of an Apple-built wireless charger leaves a hole in the company’s product line up. There are several Apple devices capable of being wirelessly charged, but no Apple-made accessory to charge them. The company offers third-party versions on its website from companies like Mophie and Belkin. In late 2017, Apple also bought a wireless charging company called PowerbyProxi. It should not be too long before Apple launches a wireless power solution.
Shares of Energous Corp., a rival wireless charging company, rose 2.8% after Apple’s news. However, Energous has also struggled with technology and suffered a number of delays. The AirPower mat would have added to Apple’s growing Wearables, Home and Accessories segment, which the company is counting on to augment sales of the flagship iPhone.