A hands-on video of an Apple AirPower prototype from 2017 was shared on YouTube today, offering a closer look at Apple’s short-duration wireless charging device.
The deep dive into the AirPower prototype comes from a collaboration between YouTube channels 91Tech and Apple Demo, which acquired an Apple AirPower prototype. AirPower was an Apple-designed charging mat designed to charge Qi-based iPhones, the Apple Watch, and the AirPods that Apple announced in September 2017 alongside the iPhone X.
AirPower was designed so that users could place an iPhone, AirPods and an Apple Watch on any part of the mat to charge the device, which meant multiple overlapping charging coils had to be included. This would have prompted the devices to display a unique iOS animation on the screen when placed on the charging pad, as seen in early Apple marketing materials. An iPhone on the AirPower charger would have also shown the charging of all devices placed on the pad.
Photos allegedly depicting an AirPower prototype surfaced on social media in August 2020, showing a multi-coil design and the device’s internal circuitry, and the first video footage of the device emerged in August 2021. The video from 91Tech and Apple Demo offers the best look yet at Apple’s ill-fated AirPower charger.
Like other AirPower prototypes that have emerged in the past, the unit lacks the white outer shell that Apple marketed the device with, more clearly displaying its internal circuitry.
Although the prototype unit was not functional in the conventional sense, it was possible to connect to it through Terminal on a Mac using certain Apple developer tools that are not publicly available. Errors during the initial start-up of the AirPower unit suggest that it was never calibrated, and as such it was probably never used.
Rebooting after issuing commands to initiate self-calibration read a large amount of information about the prototype, such as firmware install date June 7, 2017, specific coil selection commands , etc.
The prototype AirPower unit has 22 coils and is similar to others that have leaked in the past. Apple’s AirPower-related patent filings show designs with either 16 or 22 coils, and the 22-coil design seems to be what Apple was planning to go for later iterations of the device.
No AirPower prototypes emerged from 2018 or 2019, suggesting that the hardware for the short-lived device was almost fully developed in 2017 or earlier. Instead, the software went through a period of iteration before the AirPower project was scrapped due to an inability to fix overheating issues.
AirPower missed its original launch date target of 2018, and after a slew of issues with its development, Apple canceled Project AirPower outright in March 2019.
Rumors in subsequent years of Apple’s work on a smaller wireless charger seem to have been tied to MagSafe or the MagSafe Duo charger, rather than AirPower. Nevertheless, a reliable report Bloomberg Last year, journalist Mark Gurman said Apple was still investigating AirPower-like charging solutions for the future.
Apple prototypes are rare items prized by collectors who obtain units from individuals who smuggle them out of Apple’s infrastructure before they are destroyed. Prototypes of a Mac mini with an iPod dock, an original iPad with two 30-pin ports, a third-generation iPod touch with a rear camera, original Apple Watch with different die designs rear sensors, AirPods with a transparent case, an Apple Watch Series 3 prototype with additional connectors, an iPhone X in a jet black finish, an iPhone 12 Pro and an earlier MagSafe battery design saw the day in recent years.