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Leak says AirPower could be the key to the first portless iPhone

Published Apr 13th, 2020 3:15PM EDT
iPhone 12 Release Date
Image: Apple

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  • Apple engineers are supposedly working on a new version of the AirPower, which is a crucial device for a future iPhone without ports.
  • A YouTube leaker says the new AirPower prototype features the same chip as the iPhone X to dynamically manage power and heat.
  • It’s unclear whether this accessory would be ready in time for the iPhone 12’s launch, but the first images and renders of the revived AirPower have already leaked.
  • Visit BGR’s homepage for more stories.

When Apple unveiled the iPhone 8 and the iPhone X in September 2017, the company also announced a universal wireless charging mat called AirPower. That was the year the iPhone finally got support for wireless charging. But AirPower was meant to be more than a “dumb” wireless charger requiring you to place a product in the exact right spot. It could also recharge multiple devices wirelessly at the same time, including the iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods.

However, the accessory wasn’t ready in early 2018, and then Apple went dark. Finally, in March 2019, the AirPower was canceled. The problem with the AirPower, according to reports, was it was overheating.

But it turns out the project hasn’t been completely abandoned. The AirPower device is still very much in the works, a leaker says, and it’s a critical component when it comes to Apple’s plans of making a next-gen phone.

It may look like we’ve hit the peak of smartphone design, but handset makers aren’t done perfecting the phone yet. The goal is to increase the display so that it occupies the entire front of the device, eliminating buttons and ports. Apple has been working on this vision for years, and we may be closer than expected.

Three things need to happen for the wireless iPhone to become real. First, the notch has to disappear, and all the Face ID sensors need to be placed under the screen. Secondly, wireless AirDrop transfer speeds have to be faster and support larger data files. Finally, the iPhone needs to support fast wireless charging.

The notch is shrinking on this year’s iPhone 12 models, reports say, but it might take a while until the notice disappears. Apple might be making more progress on the other two fronts, though. It’s working on a new Wi-Fi spec called 802.11ay for “ultra-short range” use. And Apple is developing a revamped AirPower model, one that won’t overheat.

Jon Prosser, well-known YouTuber and the source of a myriad of recent leaks, shared more details about Apple’s renewed AirPower plans on Twitter and YouTube:

According to a mid-March tweet, Apple needs AirPower “to push portless iPhone” in the future. That’s why the project has been resurrected, or perhaps never totally died. Prosser followed up on the story a few days ago, posting a new picture of the “C68” prototype that’s currently in the hands of Apple engineers working from home because of the novel coronavirus pandemic:

The leaker then took to YouTube to explain his scoop in great detail.

The original AirPower did not work because of the Apple Watch, Prosser said. The wearable uses a proprietary charging method, and AirPower units would often overheat and catch fire. Apple supposedly had 50,000 AirPower units made at some point, but decided not to launch the product.

The new prototype, seen in the tweet above, as well as in the mockup image that follows (also from Prosser), features the iPhone X’s A11 chip. That’s an upgrade from the A10 processor used in the previous version, but it’s not for added processing power: The A11 is the first A-series chip to intelligently manage heat dissipation.

The chip will supposedly route power to specific coils of the accessory, and cut it when some areas overheat. If the region where the Apple Watch is placed on overheats, the chip would just cut the power and wait for the temperature to drop. The other devices would continue charging.

It’s unclear what sort of charging speeds the AirPower will support. A portless iPhone would have to offer fast wireless charging support and work on any Qi charger, not just AirPower. The Huawei P40 Pro supports 40W wireless charging, and the OnePlus 8 Pro is rumored to get 30W wireless charging as well. The Galaxy S20 supports 15W wireless charging, while the iPhone 11 goes up to 7.5W. It’s unclear what sort of speeds the iPhone 12 will have to offer.

Prosser said on a podcast that the device might cost $250 when it launches in Q4 2020 or Q1 2021. That’s if Apple launches it, of course. That might sound like a lot for a wireless charger, but the AirPower would still be a unique accessory, one that Apple fans who own several devices might appreciate.

A leak from Ming Chi-Kuo said Apple would drop the Lightning connector from the iPhone that will succeed this year’s iPhone 12 series. The only way to make that happen is to either go all in on wireless charging or replace the Lightning port with USB-C.

Prosser’s leaks have been met with resistance, and he might still be wrong about AirPower. But the YouTuber was the first to give us the correct prices for the Galaxy S20 line, and many of his recent coronavirus-related leaks about Apple have come true. The full video about AirPower’s revival follows below.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.