Commentary

The Hype Around Apple's AirPower Charging Mat Proves Overheated

Eighteen months after Apple CEO Tim Cook teased a wireless charging mat called AirPower at one of the company’s fastidiously staged events, the company has pulled the plug on the device after concluding it “will not achieve our high standards.”

“Since being announced in September 2017, AirPower was one of Apple's most-awaited products. The company promised that the oval wireless charging pad would arrive sometime in 2018 but later pushed out that deadline,” CNET’s Shara Tibken writes.

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“We apologize to those customers who were looking forward to this launch. We continue to believe that the future is wireless and are committed to push the wireless experience forward,” Dan Riccio, Apple's senior vice president of hardware engineering, says in a statement.

“The AirPower charging mat has become something of a focal point for Apple’s recent habit of announcing envelope-tickling products and not actually shipping them on time. The AirPods, famously, had a bit of a delay before becoming widely available, and were shipped in limited quantities before finally hitting their stride and becoming a genuine cultural moment,”  Matthew Panzarino writes for TechCrunch in breaking the story.

“AirPower, however, has had far more time to marinate in the soup of public opinion since it was announced. Along with recent MacBook keyboard troubles, this has functioned as a sort of flash point over discussion that something isn’t right with Apple’s hardware processes,” he continues.

“Apple had mentioned the unreleased AirPower in some packaging materials, and it’s shown on the box of the new AirPods wireless charging case. Earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal reported that Apple had given the thumbs up for AirPower to enter mass production. But now, more than 550 days after being announced, it seems that the product will never ship,” Chaim Gartenberg, Chris Welch and Tom Warren point out for The Verge.

“Longtime Apple bull and analyst Dan Ives of Wedbush Securities didn’t mince words when expressing his disappointment with Apple,” Tedra DeSue writes for CNN.com.

“This is a major black eye for Apple. A product that was touted by Tim Cook himself never even makes the shelves, it’s a complete shocker. [The cancellation] does not move the needle financially speaking but it’s a hit to the golden Apple brand,” Ives said Friday on CNBC's “Closing Bell.”

“Unlike other charging pads on the market designed to handle multiple products at once, the AirPower distinguished itself by having the capability of charging the iPhone, AirPods and Apple Watch all at the same time regardless of their orientation and positioning in relation to the charging coils. This would have made it the most user-friendly and desirable wireless charger on the market -- had it actually been released,” Jason Perlow reports on ZDNet.

“Apple never gave an official word as to what was going on with AirPower, but well-connected Apple blogger John Gruber said in September that he heard AirPower was running ‘way too hot’ thanks to the multi-coil design that was necessary for the product to work. Indeed, Gruber's sources indicated a number of engineers at Apple said it would ‘never work,’” writes Nathan Ingraham for Engadget

“There’s no doubt AirPower could have been a very useful product for people with multiple Apple devices, and it wouldn't surprise me to see Apple give it a shot again down the line, but for now we'll have to charge our plethora of devices on separate wireless mats (or just plug everything in like the heathens of old),” Ingraham adds.

“...Ultimately, I believe Apple did the right thing. Can you imagine the potential ‘PowerGate’ of cooked iPhones, Watches and AirPods? It's far less egg on Apple's face to cancel the product outright than to release a dangerous dud,” Perlow observes. 

“The public cancellation of AirPower is a huge embarrassment for Apple. But given the company's obsession with bleeding edge engineering and its compulsion for thinner, lighter, faster, more densely packed and difficult-to-repair products, such an embarrassment was inevitable,” he adds.

Then again, when you’re getting $19 for a one-meter cable and $29 for a power adapter that plugs into an outlet, what’s the incentive to make it obsolete?

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