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AirPower, Apple’s wireless charging pad, is still MIA

We still don't know how much it costs, or when it's arriving.

Apple / Screenshot by Sarah Tew

Whatever happened to Apple AirPower? The California tech giant first unveiled the wireless charging pad last September alongside the Apple Watch 3, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X. While those phones will work with third-party chargers from Belkin and others, AirPower is Apple's attempt to improve upon the wireless charging that's already out there.

Now, Apple's WWDC 2018 keynote has come and gone, and it was as hardware-free as promised. AirPower went unmentioned on stage, and despite whispers that Siri now recognizes the name "AirPower" and directs people to check out Apple's website, no new information was revealed. And that's after earlier rumors of a March ship date (here and here) came and went, too.

At its September 2017 event, Apple said AirPower would appear some time in 2018, but since then we've barely heard a peep about about it. And now it feels like Apple may just punt to September, when it's expected to announce as many as three new iPhones.

iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods. AirPower promises to charge them all.

GIF by Alexandra Able/CNET

Either way, it's a good time to look back and note what we know about this product so far.

What is AirPower?

AirPower is Apple's oval-shaped wireless charging pad that promises to work with the iPhone X, iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, the Apple Watch and a new wireless charging AirPods case that Apple will release some time in the future.

AirPower and Apple's new iPhones mark the company's deep dive into wireless charging and its adoption of the Qi standard. Wireless charging has been built into phones for years, but until January, two competing standards, Qi and Powermat, slowed innovation overall. 

Now that Apple has thrown its full weight behind Qi, and Powermat has joined that standard, the industry can get to work on faster, long-range charging, and putting wireless charging stations in more homes, libraries, coffee shops and cars.

You can see Apple's AirPower demo in the video below.

Now Playing: Watch this: AirPower: Apple's charge-everything tech
1:07

Why is AirPower different than other wireless chargers?

AirPower will charge multiple devices at the same time -- but other charging mats can do that, too. What's different here is that AirPower claims it can help devices communicate with each other to manage power consumption. We're not exactly sure how that works yet, but we're hoping Apple soon shines more light on this intriguing feature.

Apple's AirPower demo shows the iPhone screen tracking all the devices currently on the charger, and their battery status. It isn't clear if this will work with non-Apple devices, or if the technology has been built into the iPhone as well as the AirPower pad.

Now Playing: Watch this: AirPower: Apple's vision for the future of wireless charging
2:12

How fast will it charge my iPhone?

Apple didn't share any details about the charging speed, but the Mophie and Belkin charging pads sold through Apple's site claim output of up to 7.5 watts, which is what the iPhone 8, 8 Plus and iPhone X are certified for.  The Apple Watch, on the other hand, only supports charging up to 5 watts, which is as much as its charging base delivers.

Will I be able to charge non-Apple devices on AirPower?

AirPower will likely be able to charge any device that uses the Qi standard, but it isn't clear if Apple will prefer its own devices. We've reached out to Apple for more clarification, but it didn't respond to our request.

Will AirPower's benefits come to third-party chargers?

Apple says that it's sharing its AirPower technology with the Qi standards body (called the Wireless Power Consortium, or WPC), so other vendors can incorporate Apple's tech in future products.

When can I buy AirPower?

As we've said, we don't know. Over the summer? Alongside the 2018 iPhones? Your guess is as good as ours. 

What about that new AirPods case? 

Apple could also release AirPower around the same time it starts selling the AirPods wireless charging case. The two devices were shown off together and are meant to work hand-in-hand. A recent Bloomberg report claims that Apple may release a new version of AirPods "as soon as this year."

So: Either a new version of the existing AirPods with a wireless rechargeable case, or maybe a whole new "AirPods 2." 

How much will AirPower cost?

This is another great question we don't have an answer to. In November an AirPower listing was spotted on a Polish retailer's website for 999 złoty, which translates to about $290, £205 or AU$375. Other rumors claim that AirPower will cost closer to $199.

For comparison, the third-party Qi chargers that Apple sells both cost $60, but these only work with one device at a time. Since Apple's AirPower can charge up to three devices, it'll likely cost more.

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This piece was originally posted March 25, 2018, and is updated as new information is available.