Video Provides Detailed Look at Apple AirPower Prototype
A hands-on video of an Apple AirPower prototype from 2017 has today been shared on YouTube, providing a closer look at Apple's short-lived wireless charging device.
The deep dive into the AirPower prototype comes from a collaboration by YouTube channels 91Tech and Apple Demo, who acquired an Apple AirPower prototype. AirPower was an Apple-designed charging mat designed to charge Qi-based iPhones, the Apple Watch, and AirPods that Apple announced in September 2017 alongside the iPhone X.
AirPower was designed so that users could place an iPhone, AirPods, and Apple Watch on any portion of the mat to have the device charge, which meant that multiple overlapping charging coils had to be included. It would have prompted devices to display a unique on-screen iOS animation when they were placed on the charging mat, as seen in Apple's early marketing materials. An iPhone on the AirPower charger would also have shown the charge of all of the devices that were placed on the pad.
Photos allegedly depicting an AirPower prototype surfaced on social networks 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. 91Tech and Apple Demo's video provides the best look yet at Apple's ill-fated AirPower charger.
Like other AirPower prototypes that have emerged in the past, the unit does not feature the white exterior shell that Apple marketed the device with, displaying its internal circuitry more clearly.
While the prototype unit is not functional in the conventional sense, it was possible to connect to it through Terminal on a Mac using some Apple developer tools that are not publicly available. Errors upon initially booting the AirPower unit suggest that it was never calibrated and, as such, it was probably never used.
Rebooting after issuing commands to initiate auto-calibration allowed a large amount of information to be read off the prototype, such as the firmware install date of June 7, 2017, commands for selecting specific coils, and more.
The AirPower prototype unit has 22 coils and is similar to others that have leaked in the past. Apple's AirPower-related patent filings show designs with 16 or 22 coils, and the 22 coil design appears to be what Apple planned to move ahead with for the later iterations of the device.
No AirPower prototypes have emerged from 2018 or 2019, suggesting that the short-lived device's hardware was almost entirely developed in 2017 or earlier. Instead, software was the subject of a period of iteration before the AirPower project was shelved due to an inability to resolve overheating issues.
Rumors in subsequent years about Apple's work on a smaller wireless charger seem to have been related to MagSafe or the MagSafe Duo charger, rather than AirPower. Nevertheless, a report from reliable Bloomberg journalist Mark Gurman last year said that Apple is still looking into AirPower-like charging solutions for the future.
Apple prototypes are rare items valued 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 Watches with different rear sensors array designs, AirPods with a transparent casing, 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 Pack design have emerged in recent years.