Let’s travel back in time. The day is 12 September 2017: Apple had just unveiled the revolutionary iPhone X alongside the iPhone 8 – making an unprecedented move by skipping the ‘iPhone 9’.
The surprises didn’t stop there. Apple signalled its intent to “move the industry forward” by also announcing the Apple AirPower; a wireless charging pad that allowed users to charge up to three Apple devices at a time with a specialised iPhone notification display. They set its release date as 2018.
It is 2019 now. The AirPower has yet to arrive in stores. In fact, it never will – on 29 March 2019, Apple formally confirmed what many people were already thinking: the Apple AirPower was to be cancelled.
The AirPower product was seemingly too ambitious for Apple, with reports of heating problems being one of the primary reasons why the product never saw the light of day. Like the announcement of the iPhone X, Apple’s failure to deliver upon an already announced product was also unprecedented.
Curiously, the AirPower is referenced on the box of the recently released new AirPods (or AirPods 2). Was this a sign of gross negligence, or did they indeed had hopes that they could fix its problems?
Nevertheless, the wireless charging industry marches on without Apple. Phone manufacturers have started to develop unique and new ways to charge your device.
Huawei has pioneered the use of reverse charging, using your own phone to act as a charging pad for other devices. At the time of writing, three different phone series currently tout this as a feature; Huawei’s Mate and P series — as well as Samsung’s flagship S series. More phone manufacturers will no doubt follow suit.
Some may scoff at the gimmicky nature of this feature, citing the slow charging speed as a turn-off. But nevertheless, it is a novel concept, one which can undoubtedly be iterated and improved upon.
Speaking of iteration, let’s look back at the normal convention of wireless charging: charging pads. Remember Apple’s promise of allowing three devices to simultaneously charge? Well, it’s already available.
American company Nomad launched the Base Station Apple Watch Edition last year. Like the AirPower, it can also charge your iPhone and AirPods, with a separate nook to charge the Apple Watch.
While it lacks the unique notification display catered for Apple products and the traditional all-white Apple aesthetic, it essentially functions in the same way the AirPower pad would. This begs the question of how revolutionary AirPower really was.
In general, the wireless charging industry has introduced small lifestyle additions to the wireless charging products. The Pixel Stand, for example, has Google Assistant integration with its Pixel products. Wireless charging pads are also upping their wattage, producing faster charge times. The current landscape is much different than it was before.
Apple noted in their press statement that they still believe in the future of wireless charging. While it remains to be seen whether they will try another attempt at the medium, it is clear that the rest of the industry is clearly not waiting for them.
Visuals courtesy of Apple, Samsung, and Nomad.