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Apple’s mythical AirPower shows up as a working prototype

todayAugust 9, 2021 3

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We thought it’d never see the light of day, but we’ve finally gotten a good look at Apple‘s AirPower wireless charging pad.

Unfortunately, it’s not via Apple — AirPower is still canceled. Instead, The Verge was able to access images of an AirPower prototype, courtesy of developer and Apple prototype collector Giulio Zompetti. It’s a glance at a dream that never was.

Zompetti said he was able to buy the prototype — which is missing its outer shell but is otherwise functional — from e-waste sources in China. The device features a “heavy” metal chassis, and packed 22 charging coils into a tight space, with 22 controllers to match on the bottom of the device.

Unfortunately, the mat didn’t actually work with your typical iPhone; enabling it required a matching prototype iPhone. This is because the coils are activated by the device to be charged; consumer iPhones simply don’t have that functionality.

And, true to the device’s initial promise, it was able to charge two iPhones at once.

While AirPower is hardly the only wireless charging mat that can charge multiple devices, its claim to fame was being able to do so without having to place them on specific parts of the mat.

It’s that pickiness that made AirPower hard to create; if the company simply wanted to release a wireless charging mat that could power three devices at once, it would only need three coils, not 22. This was further complicated by the fact that the Apple Watch uses a different charging standard from the iPhone (and other devices with Qi charging).

Credit: Giulio Zompetti (via The Verge)

So if it works, why did Apple cancel it? At the time, Apple said, “after much effort, we’ve concluded AirPower will not achieve our high standards and we have cancelled the project.” While the company did not specifically say how it failed to achieve those standards, reports suggested it had to do with the device overheating when operating at full power.

For his part, Zompetti says he hasn’t been able to replicate the heating issue, but he “still can’t say it isn’t there.” As far as we can tell, Zompetti did not test the prototype with an Apple Watch, and it’s possible the overheating only occurred in specific ambient conditions or with particular device combinations.

It’s worth noting that we’re only going on Zompetti’s word here, but as noted by The Verge, he has been collecting Apple prototypes for a while, including one of the Apple Watch. The device also matches earlier leaks of previous prototypes.

Given Zompetti’s impressions, it seems like Apple wasn’t too far from achieving the AirPower’s promise. For all we know, although the AirPower was canceled in its original form, it’s possible the company is still thinking of other ways to wirelessly charge multiple devices at once. A man can dream.

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