AirPower teardown shows the Apple wireless charger that never was

(Image credit: Apple)

Officially, AirPower was seen for the first and last time in September 2017. A “sneak peak” at the end of an event that had already debuted the iPhone 8 and iPhone X, AirPower missed its 2018 release window and wasn’t even mentioned at the launch of the iPhone Xs before being declared officially dead in March 2019

“After much effort, we've concluded AirPower will not achieve our high standards and we have cancelled the project,” Apple said at the time.

Rumors persisted that it was both prohibitively expensive to manufacture and prone to overheating. And now a teardown of a supposed prototype AirPower charging pad makes that explanation seem very plausible indeed.

Originally posted to Chinese website Bilibili, the video shows 14 wireless charging coils packed into a design that remains compact enough to be portable. That may sound like overkill, but the AirPower was supposed to enable users to place up to three devices anywhere on its surface and they would immediately start to charge. That kind of freedom requires a lot of coils packed in to a small space. 

The whole thing is remarkably complex with a keyboard-style metal frame keeping various electronic parts neatly segmented. It’s pretty clear that Apple plunged a lot of R&D money into this before pulling the plug. 

Alleged AirPower prototype being opened up

(Image credit: Bilibili)

Of course, it’s possible that AirPower isn’t completely dead, and merely sleeping. Front Page Tech’s Jon Prosser believes that a simplified version will be coming later this year or early 2021 “if they pull it off.” 

Alleged AirPower prototype being opened up

(Image credit: Bilibili)

The project, known internally as “C68” will apparently come with fewer coils with less overlap plus an Apple A11 chip inside to deal with the heat problem by switching said coils on and off as required.

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Even with fewer coils, this is not a product that will be cheap, with a $250 rumored price tag. The best wireless chargers cost much less than that. For example, the Logitech Powered 3-in-1 dock can juice up to three devices at once and is priced at $129. So Apple's new AirPower will have to be truly special to command that kind of premium. 

And for those still holding out hope, there's good news. According to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman, AirPower has been reborn.

Alan Martin

Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.