AirPower prototype shows why Apple was right to abandon its wireless charger

Apple's AirPower as it was meant to work (Image credit: Apple)

Remember AirPower? Apple’s advanced charging mat concept never got out of the gate, with the company forced to abandon it amid a plethora of overheating issues. Well, now an unreleased prototype from 2017 has emerged on the internet – and it demonstrates just how bad things were for the device.

Apple leaker Kosutami shared a set of images and videos of an AirPower prototype on X (formerly Twitter). According to the poster, the version they tested got so hot that it started to melt their AirPods Pro case, causing the plastic shell to start blistering in places.

That backs up previous leaks that have followed AirPower over the years. The idea of the charger was that you could place any mobile Apple device (including iPhones, Apple Watches and AirPods cases) anywhere on the charging mat and they’d still juice up properly. That differs from most wireless chargers, which require you to position your devices in specific locations to ensure they charge correctly.

The problem with AirPower was that Apple was never able to control the excess heat the product generated when devices were charging. In the end, Apple threw in the towel and ditched AirPower in 2019. The fact that the company kept trying for years after Kosutami’s prototype was made suggests Apple was confident that it could overcome the heating issues, despite their very apparent dangers. Ultimately, that proved not to be the case.

Buggy and potentially dangerous

A prototype of Apple's abandoned AirPower wireless charging mat, with several devices charging on top of it.

(Image credit: Kosutami)

Kosutami included a few other interesting tidbits in posts on X (formerly Twitter). For one thing, they included a photo showing the AirPower pad charging an Android phone, something that almost certainly would not have worked in the final product once Apple had finalized the AirPower’s software.

As well as that, Kosutami was apparently able to charge an Apple Watch on the AirPower mat. Yet they noted in a reply to another X user that the Watch was charged for less than a minute and still overheated and crashed.

The prototype tested by Kosutami has 15 charging coils – fewer than a revision from later in 2017 that came with 21 coils. Presumably, the lower number of coils left gaps in the pad’s charging coverage, meaning it would be easier for devices to be placed in suboptimal locations (such as only half over a coil). This in turn seems to be what caused the severe overheating issues, as Kosutami explained to MacRumors.

Gaining a peek inside an unreleased Apple product like this is extremely rare, even more so since it shows the actual damage that early AirPower prototypes were capable of causing. Based on this evidence, it looks like Apple was right to abandon the project, regardless of its lofty goals.

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Alex Blake
Freelance Contributor

Alex Blake has been fooling around with computers since the early 1990s, and since that time he's learned a thing or two about tech. No more than two things, though. That's all his brain can hold. As well as TechRadar, Alex writes for iMore, Digital Trends and Creative Bloq, among others. He was previously commissioning editor at MacFormat magazine. That means he mostly covers the world of Apple and its latest products, but also Windows, computer peripherals, mobile apps, and much more beyond. When not writing, you can find him hiking the English countryside and gaming on his PC.