The AirPower mat is the perfect example of how hard it can be to make something simple. You can get very close easily, there are plenty of multi-device chargers on the market obviously, but doing it in the way Apple envisioned is clearly so difficult that Apple itself has given up. It is saddening because I had bought into the uncompromising wireless charging vision the moment that Schiller presented it alongside the iPhone X. The dream is now dead. Apple is one of very few companies that cares enough about the finer details of this experience and has the money to fund the development effort. Realistically, no one else is going to try.
The AirPower mat was not going to be financially significant for the company but it heralded real advantages of wireless charging and would have been a fantastic complementary product for Apple customers who constantly juggle the charging their iPhones, Watches and AirPods on their nightstand. This is the reason why Apple showed it at the September 2017 event. It was a true step into the future. The iPhone X was the ‘future’ phone. One backed up the messaging of the other.
This justification makes it no less embarrassing for them. AirPower was important enough to share stage time with the 2017 iPhone lineup, so it’s a big miss however you slice it. It’s also a first in the company’s modern history. I can’t think of another product that Apple announced and simply never, ever, shipped. The 3GHz Power Mac G5 is the closest parallel I can think of and that was merely a failure to deliver a single configuration of a product line. In 2003, Apple released Power Mac G5s and promised that they would debut 3 GHz CPU options within a year. The 3GHz Power Mac G5 never materialised, highlighting limitations in the PowerPC architecture, and Apple transitioned the Mac to run on Intel CPUs not long thereafter.
I’m sad that the product will not exist and I’m also not thrilled with how Apple handled the cancellation. When Apple finally decided to release the AirPods wireless charging case earlier this month, which carried a hefty premium over the normal second-generation AirPods, they clearly knew that they had given up on the mat. They decided to wait until after the rush of AirPods orders had gone through to announce AirPower’s fate. Therefore, plenty of people bought the wireless charging model with the AirPower mat use case in mind, none the wiser to Apple’s internal plans. I am one of those buyers. Apple made more money by making its announcements public in that order. Even if the total of those purchases is small, it is a bit sketchy. I know I regret paying the extra £40 for my new AirPods.