Unlike Google, Apple is one of the few companies that rarely cancels anything after an official announcement. But alas! AirPower was doomed to fail. Many have tried to speculate the exact reason behind it’s cancellation. But reasonable explanations include the high heat output and high cost of input materials.
Recently a YouTuber by the name of Luke Miani managed to snag an Apple AirPower prototype, and even managed to make it work, well, sort of. So, there are actually two AirPower prototypes that exist, one with 16 coils and the bigger one with 22 coils. Miani manages to get his hands on both of them.
The entire idea behind AirPower was creating a surface where you could place your phone, watch, ect anywhere and it would charge. Now this sounds simple, but engineers at Apple soon realised that they would have to overcome many fundamental physical problems to make it work. Anyone who has used a wireless charger knows, that the phone or device needs to be placed at a precise position to work, which is directly above the magnetic copper coil. What AirPower tried to do was pack in a bunch of copper coils, and layer them in a way that there would be no dead spots on the charging mat, and the entire thing would work seamlessly.
As Miani showcases in his video, the two prototypes have 16, and 22 clusters, each representing a charging coil. Interestingly, the bigger AirPower device even had an Altera FPGA chip. These chips are very capable in terms of managing IO and are often used as interfaces in high bandwidth traffic applications. FPGA’s are also like blank slate digital chips which enable the designer to implement any logic gate combinations, thus providing a lot of flexibility in terms of development. Although these kind of chips are very expensive, and the Altera FPGA chip in the prototype costs a whopping $80.
According to Miani, this could be because Apple was running into limitations of their own in-house hardware, and didn’t have any substitutes by that time. Although it could be because AirPower was in developmental phase, where companies tend to use FPGA chips initially for flexibility.
Now, coming to the juicy part. Yes, Miani does manage to charge both his phone and Airpods, but only for a bit. In the specific prototype, only one coil at the top right seemed to work.
Many have speculated that Apple might re-introduce the AirPower after ironing out it’s kinks, but unlikely given Apple seems to be overtly invested in MagSafe at the moment.