Commentary: I was crushed when Apple cancelled its smart wireless charging pad. Now it's time to move on.
I'll admit it. I was seduced by the promise of AirPower, the wireless charging pad for iPhones, AirPods and the Apple Watch that Apple announced in September of 2017. Like some other wireless charging pads using the Qi standard, AirPower would simultaneously charge multiple devices, up to three in Apple's case. Uniquely, it would communicate with the devices to manage the power distribution among them.
When Apple officially killed AirPower on Friday citing an inability to "achieve [Apple's] high standards", my last shred of hope withered away. I should have known better. Apple had been stringing us along for over a year -- compatibility for AirPower even appeared on the new AirPods' box. But after four events in 2018, a laundry list of product announcements in March, and still no AirPower, I should have seen the writing on the wall.
You may think of AirPower as just another wireless charging pad, and possibly an overpriced one at that. To me, Apple's deeper involvement in wireless charging has always signified much more: an intelligent way to manage power, an innovation to spur further innovation from other players in wireless charging pads: Samsung, Belkin, Anker, Logitech and others.
AirPower, you could have been so good.Apple
AirPower was supposed to be a giant leap forward for wireless charging as a whole. Apple already gave wireless charging a boon when it first added the feature to the iPhone 8 phones and iPhone X. Apple's support behind the Qi standard (pronounced "chee") effectively shuttered the competition and caused the industry to consolidate behind a single protocol. That's a lot of heft for one brand, and Apple's influence might not have stopped there.
Had AirPower spiked consumer interest in wireless charging, perhaps we'd see a surge in the demand needed for wireless charging pads to pop up everywhere in restaurants, cafes and airports. If enough people wanted AirPower or something like it, competitors and institutions may have been quick to respond.
My gut reaction is to mourn the loss of AirPower and everything it represents. But my brain thinks otherwise. Perhaps I put too much credence in the Apple Effect, whereby Apple suddenly popularizes products, services and features even if other brands introduced them first. Perhaps killing off AirPower now is just the release that we, who have long been in the mysterious AirPower's thrall, desperately need.
The Galaxy S10 phones can wirelessly charge another device. Could this be one of Apple's future plans?Angela Lang/CNET
After all, we'd never seen AirPower in action beyond the video in Apple's initial presentation. By postponing and then finally squashing it, Apple may have saved iPhone users -- and its own reputation -- from a poorly working product. Imagine your disappointment and anger if you bought AirPower and it never functioned smoothly.
AirPower could have also been costly. Apple never announced pricing, but an optional wireless charging case for the new generation of AirPods costs $80, and that's to power up one device, not communicate with three. AirPower could have easily sold for $150. Meanwhile, plenty of other wireless charging pads sell for $30 or less.
Video: AirPower: Apple's vision for the future of wireless charging
Apple's abdication of AirPower doesn't mean it's done with wireless charging. For all we know, it could have killed its darling to start work on a new wireless charging project for 2019 or 2020; maybe one -- and this is pure speculation -- that would also work with a foldable iPhone.
It's not beyond the realm of possibility that Samsung's Galaxy S10 phones and Huawei's P30 Pro have inspired Apple to give its next iPhone or MacBook Air the ability to wirelessly charge other devices.
AirPower may have withered on the vine, but I'm confident that Apple isn't done with wireless charging yet. That's clear by the tech giant's continued investment in the feature for its iPhone and accessories. Consider this: we know that the first smartphone is slated to get over-the-air wireless charging in the near future. There's no way Apple would miss out on a groundbreaking development like that.
If you're still upset about AirPower's demise, pick yourself up and wipe away those tears. Apple has already let go of AirPower. It's time that we do, too.
Published March 29 at 5:26 p.m. PT
Update, March 30 at 6:36 p.m. PT
Update, March 31 at 7 a.m. PT