Apple's biggest embarrassment of 2018

It's rare for Apple to fall foul of its ego, but hardware can be hard, and it seems like the Cupertino giant bit off more than it could chew back in 2017.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor


2019 is here, and there's no sign of the AirPower charging mat that Apple promised us at the iPhone X launch event back in September of 2017.

The AirPower mat was Apple's answer to hassles that the Apple devoted encounter when having to charge up their iPhones, Apple Watches, and AirPod earbuds. Rather than mess about with different chargers and cords, AirPower was supposed to offer a single charging mat that users could place their devices onto and have them charge simultaneously.

AirPower seemed like exactly the sort of gadget I'd expect from Apple. A single bit of kit that solved a real-world problem and that tied the hardware ecosystem together.

Must read: Weird but really useful gadgets

So where is my AirPower mat?

Here's what Apple's SVP Phil Schiller had to say about AirPower back in 2017:

"We are going to be working with the Qi standards team to incorporate these benefits into the future of the standards to make wireless charging better for everyone. So look for the AirPower charger next year."

Well, I kept looking, but I saw nothing. On top of that, Apple went very quiet about AirPower, not responding to questions about it, and went as far as to trying to erase all traces of it from its website following the iPhone XS launch in September of last year.

None of this bodes well for AirPower, and should act as a reminder that developing hardware is hard (worth bearing that in mind the next time you're contemplating throwing money at some ambitious moonshot of a project you come across on a crowdfunding site).

So what happened to AirPower?

iPhone tips, tricks, and shortcuts you need to know for iOS 12.1

Over the past few months I've spoken to a number of sources in the accessories and charging business, and they all claim that not only was AirPower a very ambitious concept fraught with technical challenges, Apple had made the job of developing an all-in-one charger all the more difficult by using differing wireless charging protocols for the iPhone and the Apple Watch.

On top of that, rumor has it that overheating was also an issue that plagued AirPower, which is understandable given how much power this charging pad was expected to handle.

Could AirPower still make an appearance? Sure it could, but my guess is that if Apple has gone as far as to wipe it from its website, it will be a rebooted product, possibly coinciding with new hardware (if Apple unified its charging protocols for different devices, that would go a long way to making AirPower easier to pull off).

But as it stands, AirPower represents a big fail for Apple. The company made some big boasts, swaggered on stage about how cool it would be, and then nothing for over a year. A rare misstep for Apple, and an embarrassment that I'm sure that it will be keen to avoid in the future.

Apple, you really need to fix these stupidly outdated iOS design decisions

See also:

Editorial standards