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Apple Cancels AirPower Product (techcrunch.com)
637 points by gtCameron on Mar 29, 2019 | hide | past | web | favorite | 480 comments

The whole AirPower saga is a weird event in product development. AirPower compatibility was highlighted as a feature in the packaging of the just-released AirPods 2: https://twitter.com/itsnicolenguyen/status/11106569269650636...

There has to be something that caused this abrupt cancellation.

I saw a report on twitter with serial numbers showing build dates of September and November, along with old copyright dates on the boxes on the new AirPods. Combine that with the "Hey Siri" being shown in "Gather Round" video in September, I bet they were hoping to ship the AirPods before the holidays, but were holding out hope that Airpower would work.

https://twitter.com/rouven81/status/1110980080170340352 https://www.macrumors.com/2018/09/12/apple-hey-siri-support-...

I am sorry to say but that’s what happens when you don’t have a proper product management org. Unbelievable in a large company like Apple but they do not have a Head of Product / CPO and are basically still a Sales and Marketing company with attached Engineering departments.

There has been something very very wrong with products not getting out the door at Apple over the last few years. How does it take years to update a MacPro, a MacMini, an iPhone SE, Airpower never made it out the door, Airpods delayed by half a year, the iPhone - it’s biggest seller is on a 3year refreshment cycle now instead of 2 years, other peripherals like Airport Wifi cancelled and please let’s not even get started about software which was either cancelled (Aperture) or is being outpaced due to slow release cycles. Apple needs to get a ship / get out the door mentality again!

Steve Jobs was their Head of Product :(.

I've heard product managers described as "mini-CEOs" before. I don't think it's a comprehensive description, but it speaks to ownership mentality I think.

Product Managers should never be mini-CEOs. That is a model naive, ego-driven junior PMs adopt.

Good PMs should be servant leaders, doing whatever it takes to ensure their team can have maximum impact and ownership. A big part of that is identifying new opportunities, both within the org and outside of it, and empowering engineers and designers to own what they are working on.

You just described a good CEO. Considering you limited it to engineers and designers, maybe a miniature CEO.

The concept of a servant leader is a contradiction, isn't it. 'empowering to own' is a pretty weird construction too.

Tech companies need people with very clear product visions that inspire their troops to build something excellent, even when those same troops are having their own opinions overridden by those of the visionary. Those people are usually CEOs and often but not always former engineers themselves. It's very hard to create a coherent, interestingly new product when you can't impose your will on a team because invariably to be new or innovative you must be controversial, and it's hard for non-CEOs to manage that internal controversy.

That is exactly right

The vast amount of vendor management makes the scal of PMing apple products rather unwieldy...

> How does it take years to update a MacPro, a MacMini, an iPhone SE

Creating market hunger - these are all lower volume products for Apple, with no real competition, so I guess they are on a slow updates.

Well they will never become high volume if they get updated every five years or more - that’s for sure.

This is exactly what happened. I was super surprised they didn’t realize AirPods 2 before Christmas, but I guess they figured people would buy gen 1 anyway. Then they release the new airpods in combination with their other launches of the iPads etc when they realized that AirPower wasn’t going to happen. Then they dump AirPower after the release so as to not taint sales of AirPods 2 on launch day.

My completely uneducated guess is a behind-the-scenes patent dispute or something along those lines...

IFixit has a good article on it. Basically they couldn't get it to pass wireless emissions standards the way they wanted to do it (put your phone anywhere on the pad to charge not, not directly on the circle, etc).

Would be quite rare for a patent dispute to go on behind the scenes. There were a lot of leaks suggesting mass production was due to start. I would bet production did not start, and that early production runs had low yields due to the complexity of the product.

> Would be quite rare for a patent dispute to go on behind the scenes.

Actually the opposite. Most patent disputes are resolved behind the scenes, long before anyone sues each other.

To my definition that makes it not a dispute! It's a commercial discussion with an agreement at the end of it.

>> Most patent disputes are resolved behind the scenes, long before anyone sues each other

> To my definition that makes it not a dispute! It's a commercial discussion with an agreement at the end of it.

Patent trolls send thousands of companies demands to pay royalties on a technology they never directly used. Fighting the troll costs hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of dollars, but they are only asking for $50k. Most companies begrudgingly pay. To me, that's still a dispute.

If it breaks down to the point a product gets cancelled, that would be a dispute. However yes, usually in such circumstances it tends to go public.

My theory: they couldn't make it past the FCC. Managing overlapping harmonic frequencies is incredibly challenging, and gets harder the more coils that you are integrating. From patent filings, it looks like Apple’s ambitious plan was to use considerably more coils than other charging pads on the market. https://ifixit.org/blog/14883/what-finally-killed-airpower/

Especially weird for Apple, who aren't known for vaporware. And even Google wouldn't come out and say "we can't make this work", they'd just stop talking about it until it was eventually solvable down the line, or let it evaporate altogether. It's very odd to see a tech giant just hit a technological wall.

I appreciate that Apple was honest with their communication. Too often have I seen managers/CEOs employ the strategy of avoiding the hard conversation and letting the topic fade away.

I appreciate it too, unfortunately Apple is not always so transparent. One example that comes to mind is their 2010 promise to make FaceTime an open standard. It was Steve Jobs that made that promise in 2010 (one year before his death), and apparently a patent dispute with VirnetX may be to blame, but to my knowledge they haven't made any public statements about it since the initial promise.

If legalities are to blame it seems like that would be all the more reason to come out and say something along the lines of: "sorry everyone, we want to keep our promise but stupid software patents have made that impossible." Instead they've (to my knowledge—please correct me if I'm wrong) chosen to remain silent and hoped that people would forget.

I think to your point, that was how Steve Jobs use to run the company. Under Tim Cook's leadership, things have changed. When Steve Jobs was still around, I attended WWDC under the student scholarship, but he never greeted any of the students or ran any events. On occasion, there would be the "job fair." These past few years, Tim Cook has taken the time to greet the students, chat with them, and take photos with them. There's a softer side to the company now, and it's starting with admitting to failure and making mistakes.

I don’t have the source to hand, but I’ve read (or heard on a podcast) that Job’s made that decision on stage. It surprised everybody, including the dev team behind facetime. So it’s less a case of Apple remaining silent, and more Steve being Steve.

I don't know who made the decision (or when), but he did have a slide prepared that said "OPEN" [1] in big letters next to a FaceTime screenshot, which I'd assume means the decision was made at least before taking the stage.

[1] https://youtu.be/AmXc1Mjr5J4?t=5816

Attorneys usually advice against discussing ongoing legal matters.

When there is a dispute, sure.

If it's just "we don't have all the rights, sorry", there is no legal matter to worry about.

> I appreciate that Apple was honest with their communication.

why do you assume it was honest? they sold products based upon the impending release of this product, even including it on the packaging of products according to another comment. that was like two years ago? if i remember correctly, it even featured in one of their keynotes.

the excuse "it doesn't meet our standards" sounds like a nice cover for the actual answer.

anyway, i also don't understand their comment that wireless is the "future" for power transfer. i don't see how a significant loss of efficiency where power is just thrown away is the future.

Honest after the announcement you mean? So, thats, not honest.

They knew about it then and announced airpods with support for it, on stage...

Maybe not as notable as the AirPower, but, in addition to the Nexus Q, Google also promised object removal in Photos (demoed by erasing a fence between the camera and a little league player). That was at I/O 2017.

This sets appropriate expectations. If they don't know when it will reach the quality that they want to ship it is better to cancel it.

My guess is that it's not about quality but efficiency. Assuming the product works as advertised, someone might have pointed out that the power drawn is a lot more than the power supplied to the devices being charged (which to some extent is true for every wireless charger out there), and in a world where being sensitive to green issues is becoming the norm, this might have brought some bad press to Apple.

> Assuming the product works as advertised

The rumors are that it didn’t work as advertised, or even at all. Or when it did it could get hot and catch on fire.

I think Occam’s razor applies here.

Google had the curious case of the Nexus Q. It was announced at Google I/O and they took orders. Within a few days it was canceled. Those who ordered were refunded AND got their Nexus Q.

They usually only announce things that are being released in a week, or at most in a month or two. They've been breaking that rule a lot recently though. The whole services keynote was very strange for that reason.

Not anymore lately. There are a ton of pre-announcements under Cook (Airpower, Mac Pro announced years in advance, but also most of iOS 10 and 11 were announced 6-8 months before it made it - e.g. wireless fast charging). This whole odd services keynote had really nothing to launch besides their "News" (i.e. it's only magazines) product. The rest is coming 6+ months later

Apple has a history with the entertainment industry. They know that their cooperation means leaks. We already knew about the updated Apple news, there were rumors about the game subscription thing. We knew something was coming for a TV service because they’ve been buying content.

Basically they might as well have announced things because they were rumors about all of it and if they kept trying to keep it secret for months and months the chances are their partners would end up leaking it purposefully/by mistake.

You are assuming that Apple has great cross-team communication. By many reports, they do not: I've heard that one team does not know what another team is working on, much less the status of that project.

It's a Big Tech Corp with known spies in it. You expect everything to be shared? Inter-team communication is just generally bad these days, and mostly because it tends to be the default human behavior.

I remember reading a couple of articles about Bell Labs and how they had a huge cafeteria everyone was encouraged to eat in, thereby promoting cross-communication and "cross-pollination" of ideas and insight. I kinda wonder what the Big Tech companies would be producing now and at what rate if they did that instead of letting or encouraging everyone to sit at their desks all day long (mind you, Google seems to be pretty good about that part.)

> with known spies in it

Worse than a simple information "spy" would be having a security engineer with intimate knowledge of Apple's security leave the company to co-found a new company whose entire business model is to sell expensive hardware to law enforcement that bypasses Apple's security. Oh right, that actually happened[1].

An Apple security engineer discovered–or baked in–critical security flaws at one of the world's largest technology companies and instead of disclosing them to the company, co-opted that sensitive insider information to start his own lucrative business. I've been waiting for news of this man's reputation, career, finances, and perhaps even his freedom having been taken away; so far it seems he's gotten away with it. I don't buy the apologist explanation I've heard: "he's likely just so good at his profession that he reverse engineered entirely new vulnerabilities after leaving Apple, without necessarily having exfiltrated knowledge only obtainable from within Apple's own walls".

If this man had done this to a bank or the government, he'd be rotting in federal prison. But he "only" expropriated this information from a private corporation, so no big deal. /s

[1] https://www.forbes.com/sites/thomasbrewster/2018/07/26/apple...

The company does not own your brain; using experience with a system for hacking that system (on devices you own) is not illegal, nor should it be.

Remember also that the entire concept of intellectual property is a legal fiction created to prop up revenue streams, as well.

> The company does not own your brain; using experience with a system for hacking that system (on devices you own) is not illegal, nor should it be.

Okay? But that's not what that company does at all.

If you're going to accuse someone of IP theft then please provide actual evidence.

> There has to be something that caused this abrupt cancellation.

Well, there is no way of getting 30W wirelessly (to the device side) without a lot of heat.

I guess someone thought they could solve this with smarter power management (and per the John Gruber article this was an issue last year, or even before) but it frankly it does not seem possible (unless Apple discovered room temperature superconductors).

It seems the design teams might have some people (higher ups) thinking too much about design and too little about if things are really possible given the constraints of a consumer product (typical MBA BS motivational pushes asides).

But it seems they managed to save face before another poor product would hit the shelves.

I am not sure why are you downvoted. There is a whole literature on mismanaged software/hardware projects and the culprits of those failures. Not in a small part the reason is often very bad management/design decisions.

Build a Dyson cooling toroid around it? (Said the design team)

Yeah, you're almost definitely right. Apple is an extremely design-first company, in the sense that the designers have always run the company.

This isn't the first time that sticking to a design led to a technical hardware/physics problem. This happened originally when Steven was designing the iPhone 4 with his team and took out most of the antenna lines, leaving only a small antenna line at the top and not the noticeable ugly antenna lines you see on every single iPhone today. Steven's antenna design was incredibly simple and aesthetically pleasing - just one of several incredible advances of the iPhone 4 - but Steven's antenna design led to some radio frequency problems I definitely don't understand which caused the entire "you're holding it wrong" scandal.

That is just another example from 2011 or so of designers running the company but running into a technical issue with the laws of physics - there it was just radio frequencies instead of whatever it is here with this AirPower and the the heat or frequencies or something created from the as many as possibly 15 or 32 coils inside of it.

There are so so so many examples of where this design-first approach has definitely worked. One example is how the external aluminum case of the 2-pound MacBook from 2015 was designed first, and then once lithium ion batteries were created which had to be custom and have a custom internal chemistry so that they could be stacked on top of each other in a terraced structure. A second example is in Face ID which is very fast and simple conceptually but technically requires a custom chip running a custom neural network and for PrimeSense to miniaturize their Kinect hardware that they created for the Xbox into a the super small menu bar of the iPhone X. The chip team and the PrimeSense team started with a simple concept/design of a user looking at their iPhone, and then filled in all of the extremely technical and multi-disciplinary practicalities.

When you start doing something that nobody has done before, you absolutely do not know that it can work. You will fail in every way – Jonathan mentioned that when they were creating Face ID, all that they had for such a long time were failed engineering designs that simply put did not work.

Nobody knew that you could miniaturize the Kinect hardware, or that this chip could actually run their custom neural network quickly and with low power consumption to get Face ID. But you can. For MacBook batteries, if you mess the chemistry of these batteries up, the batteries will absolutely explode just like Samsung's did the following year. Nobody knew that you could stack the batteries of a MacBook on top of each other either. But you can. Nobody knew that you could remove most of the ugly antenna lines on an iPhone and just place just one antenna line at the top. Oh wait, but you can't. Nobody knew that you could charge 3 devices at the same time within whatever FCC regulations and still maintain low heat. Oh wait, but you can't (I guess, if that's the problem).

The point is that whenever you're doing something that nobody else in the world has done, you can't know it's going to work and you will fail. You will succeed but you will also fail, if you are truly doing creative work. Here, Apple failed. I guess because what they finished in the lab was possible according to the laws of physics but not safe (coils might overheat and catch fire or melt, might explode, might stop a person's pacemaker, and so on).

Thanks for the wonderful explanation! The idea of a charging mat with multiple overlapping coils seems to be a hard wall.

That's what always confused me about this. This was very much an announced thing, not some side research project.

That's not even on the box it's on a sticker on the box. Buy some new stickers and bin the old rolls!

>There has to be something that caused this abrupt cancellation.

They could have sold a Wireless Charger just like others with their mark up. Instead we got nothing.

Also admitting MacBook Pro Keyboard Failure. I believe there is something happening to Hardware Engineering in general.

Methinks HWEng made a breach in Industrial Design's north flank, and provoked a rout. The tide is turning!

“Oh my god! The engineers are revolting!”

“You’ve worked here all these years and you only just noticed that?”

Why does this feel (in a fun and positively humorous way) like something pulled straight out of Douglas Coupland's "J-Pod"?

Love the picture, but I think it's the opposite: engineering's defence of the announce-o-tron went down for a moment, design pushed into the breach and gained a brief moment of unsupervised access. Now they face the consequences.

You're giving me flashbacks of Tesla's beleaguered engineering team.

Were it "just like others with their markup", why would people pay more for the same thing?

Quality materials, nicer fit and finish, no obnoxious blue LEDs...

> no obnoxious blue LEDs...

:) True! But for $10 I'll live with it.

Then again, not everyone wants the same thing, just like some people value their annoyance much higher than others (making a more expensive purchase actually turn out less expensive).

People are weird. But that is fine.

To me, the AirPower mat seems like a really hard thing to make. Qi charging needs concentric coils, but AirPower as a Mat needs a reconfigurable matrix to do what it needs to do.

A piece of color matching electrical tape does wonders.

well yeah but applying electrical tape to a product does kinda ruin its aesthetic in almost all cases don’t ya think

Another option is nail polish. It comes in plenty of colors and you can add a thin layer of polish to make the LED dimmer but not totally blacked out.

There's a reason you find a matching color and cut the smallest piece that covers the LED, I haven't seen any aesthetics ruined by tape if they already have an ungodly bright blue LED indicator.

I have a set of various colors of electrical tape. If the color is even close to the same, you can't even tell it was there unless you are looking for it.

Quality, QA, Design, Branding.

That is like asking why are people buying lightning connector from Apple where there are cheaper options.

That's branding 101. Conspicuous consumption, perceived quality due to marketing, brand loyalty ... quite a few reasons.

Same reason people buy $1500 plastic Louis Vuitton handbags and belts.

Apple doesn't release products that have no distinguishing features other than "made by Apple in Cupertino". Accessories without distinguishing features they prefer to just work with third parties on (such as Belkin). In fact, I'd wager that this particular Belkin charger was done in cooperation with Apple: https://www.apple.com/shop/product/HLZ42/belkin-boost-up-spe...

What is the differentiator for the $39 silicone iPhone cases?

I bought a cheaply iPhone case for my XR. Fell apart after a few months. Bought another. The edge around the screen and camera was not raised enough. I got the one I have now on sale, but it retails for like $30 plus. It’s also the best one so far.

Cases are like cables. You need to have them available, and the only way to guarantee that they're available is to make them yourself (given that they're not based on industry standards). If case you bought 2 years ago still fit on the new phone today, then there's not much pressure for Apple to have a case, but since cases are tied to specific phone designs and form-factors, the only way to guarantee high-quality cases available at launch is to make them.

It occurs to me, cases are also like chargers. Nobody questions why apple sells their own USB-C charger even though you could in theory use a generic USB-C charger.

They've been going 2 generations with each form factor. 7/8 were identical, X and XS are identical. I do appreciate that, even though I don't update every gen anyway (or even every two).

Or a credit card ;)

Designed by Apple in Cupertino

Made in China

Not sure I agree. AirPods really have almost no distinguishing features from other earphones. They’re generally worse. The only “feature” is seeing their charge on your phone, which is a pretty lousy differentiator.

You are, in all seriousness, the only person I have ever seen declare that AirPods are worse than other competing earphones. AirPods have one of the higher consumer satisfaction ratings ever, and anecdotally everybody I've ever seen talk about them absolutely loves them, even people who are normally very critical of Apple.

I never tried the AirPods so I can't comment on their quality, though I'm all for wired ones so it won't happen anytime soon. Quality aside, psychology can explain a things or two on why people absolutely love what they spend money on.


But then everybody who bought anything (that at least worked) would love it. This theory has no explanatory power to distinguish why any particular company has higher that average satisfaction ratings.

I shouldn't post replies when in a hurry (just like now:). I left out some important details: the point was why sometimes people end up loving stuff they spend a lot of money on, to the point they become fanboys even when the item purchased albeit good doesn't deserve that. I'm not bashing Apple, this happens in a lot of contexts, take for example the audiophool world. Are those hundreds €/$ per meter audio cables good? Yes, definitely! So are they worth that price then? Asbolutely not, but people keep shoveling money at them although neither the best instruments in the world nor the best ears could tell the difference when conducting a proper blind test (aka: the famous "coat hangers cable" experiment). This is where psychology plays an important part. Back to the Airpods, they could give the best audio experience in the world -I trust Apple on this, they for sure know a few things about music- but I'm also someone who doesn't like being forced by marketing to accept excessive compromises. The Airpods batteries aren't replaceable so once they fail (a few years max) one is forced to throw them away. To me it seems a price too high to pay for eliminating the headphone port, which I use and like to have on every device. I have no doubt Apple users love their Airpods, but it's a fact that those devices are not perfect. If users accept criticism for iPhones with no user replaceable batteries I would expect the same open mindset about the Airpods.

disclaimer: always in a hurry... girlfriend getting out of the train in 35 minutes and I have to drive to get there.

> The only “feature” is seeing their charge on your phone

FWIW there are many Bluetooth headphones that show their charge on your phone, it's a standard Bluetooth feature.

>AirPods really have almost no distinguishing features from other earphones.

You've got to be kidding. The kind of pairing made possible by Apple's W1 chip, and the completely cordless design, was absolutely and undeniably groundbreaking when the AirPods were first released. Even now you'd be hardpressed to find a pair of earphones that work as smoothly and seamlessly as AirPods do.

Is there another brand that pauses your music/audiobook when you take them out? If so I'd like to try it; AirPods don't fit my ears well (fall out when I bend forward.)

The iCloud pairing and tap-controls are nice, but I guess I could live without them.

Jabra Elite 65t does that and they are absolutely amazing.

I don't know what it's called but someone sells a silicone attachment for the AirPods that anchors it inside your ear. I know this because one of my coworkers has it.

There were at most 1 or 2 semi-equivalent products when they came out. Some have caught up with the specs, but fewer with the easy switching between devices.

They canceled it because the iPhone is going to become a wireless charging pad for your AirPods, watch and even another iPhone.

Samsung just released Wireless PowerShare as a feature in the S10 that allows you to share a charge and reports note this will be coming to the iPhone.

Incidentally and FML ... I was filmed pitching this idea to Intel and Mark Burnett (reality tv mega-producer) for the reality tv show, America's Greatest Makers. They reached out to me as they really needed fledging inventors. Overall we pitched sharing battery power between two phone cases https://ryanspahn.com/GetLeech .

I haven't looked but if Intel has patents that are from Sept 2015 and on then really FML. Otherwise what I thought was potentially a completely unique idea wasn't.

If they were gonna do it after the AirPods 2 release, they would have to do it ASAP, or else they'd either have to do extended refunds (and have extra return inventory of an unwanted product) or face a class-action suit from disgruntled AirPods 2 buyers who were promised compatibility with a now-cancelled product.

How would you compare AirPower with Cue::cat?

Makes me wonder if they couldn't get around any patents as wireless charging isn't a new innovation.

I’m guessing patents.

Something indeed. I don't understand what the issue could be. I have a few $20 wireless chargers that work just fine. I expected Apple to put one in premium packaging and sell it for $150.

The article mentions (rumored) issues with 3D/overlapping coils that I imagine were needed to allow for multiple device placement anywhere on the mat.

>> Specifically, I’ve heard that they ran too hot because the 3D charging coils in close proximity to one another required very, very cautious power management.

It's not the end of the world if it slows down under multiple devices, and that trivially solves the heat problem.

Is it lack of satisfaction with those tradeoffs? Is there a more fundamental flaw somewhere else? It would be nice to know what actually caused this decision.

Selling point is that you can put all your mobile devices on it. So it’s assumed you’re using more than one and it isn’t a quality experience if you have to sacrifice charging speed for regular use.

The phone is the only one that needs a particularly high wattage. If sharing drops the phone speed by a third, that leaves enough spare capacity to do a watch and airpods at the same time (with both of them getting more percent per hour than the phone). That's still a pretty good experience.

What if they couldn’t get the multi coil design to work charging ANYTHING at high power.

Maybe it was capable of charging the watch and the AirPods just fine, it was the phone’s power demands that were the thing killing it.

Definitely one possibility of many! That's why it's so hard to guess which one or two aspects really tanked it.

Fire? Like, GS Note 7 fire? That would do the trick!

Their design had many overlapping coils which dynamically could be activated. This design would allow you to place the multiple devices on the mat in any orientation.

Apple's plan was to let you place it anywhere on the mat, not on the very small charging sweet-spot.

Worth the huge premium it would've sold for? Probably not for a good deal of people, but it would've sold.

Kinja posted a deal on a dual powered mat for $35 yesterday. Crazy to think that Apple couldnt crack this to reach some level of product that consumers would find attractive.

They wanted you to just toss some devices arbitrarily on the mat and have it "just work". The one you discuss requires alignment, like all others -- for a reason! There's a reason the watch has a magnetic alignment setup.

I thought you might be able to use a 2D array of small loops but a little bit of modeling shows that to be a pretty dumb idea.

That’s what you really want to get too. A big charging mat you just toss everything on.

TBH I don’t find wireless charging today a particularly big win. It’s a bit easier than plugging in a cable. Of course, in the watch, it eliminates a port which is a win for other reasons.

I find Anker 24w fast charging bricks and 10’ lightening cables are a pretty reasonable way to quickly charge Apple devices while still using them. I bought a cheap 5w wireless charging pad to throw my phone on while I sleep.

My problem is that every charging cable I get seems to fail eventually. Either the charging port in the phone gets loose, filled with lint, or the cable mysteriously stops working. Even expensive Ankers. Meanwhile my no-name QI charger that I bought for my LG G3 like 5 years ago is still working perfectly. No parts to loosen or clog.

I don’t even bring my wireless charging when I travel. One more piece of gear to pack and keep track of.

I wouldn't either but now that I have one one my desk, nightstand, and coffee table; I could never go back.

yeah no thx. With how long devices last me now and days the only thing that will accelerate my trade in would be the extra battery wear from wireless charging.

Unless it's a particularly hot charger, a slower wireless charge is actually better for your battery.

In retrospect, I wonder if a motorized device that moves the coils to match the location of your device would have been a better approach.

I had the same thought.

I l suspect that Apple has so little in house experience with moving parts these days that they’d have a hard time shipping a good one that worked this way.

I am curious what you discovered during your modelling.

From a first principles point of view it seems to me like it might just work.

It's hard (very lossy) to try to couple the B fields when the rings are different sizes.

But what if they’re all small and all the same size? In a Grid pattern, like streets between city blocks?

That is not remotely related. Having a mat with two or three separated coils for phones is really easy to do. You basically just glue a few of these together.

AirPower was intended to have basically an entire surface of charging pixels. You could place phones, watches, AirPods, and combos of those on the mat in any orientation. There was also no sweetspot.

By attemping to make inductive charging mats work really well, Apple ran into some big tech contraints.

It's probably a huge coincidence that https://isairpoweroutyet.com/ launched a week ago.


It’s not weird at all.

AirPower is a feature that helps sell those AirPods amongst early adopters who would buy AirPods within the first couple of weeks.

If you want to kill AirPower, waiting a bit to grab those sales makes sense. You don’t have much to lose and revenue to gain.

I'm guessing the unexpected hype was what caused the "cancellation", and AirPower isn't really any more cancelled than it was yesterday.

I'm imagining some engineering teem at Apple telling their bosses "yeah, it's almost ready" and the bosses believing them without really caring, because it's just a silly accessory and no big deal, right? And then since the AirPods 2 announcemen, the internet has been rabid with anticipation for AirPower. announcing it is cancelled is a better PR move than letting that internet fanboy frenzy turn into frustration with delays.

I wouldn't be surprised if we see AirPower turn up again in a years time.

This doesn't make much sense to me.

Apple is the tech marketing messiah, why would they announce AirPower at a major product demo and think that it somehow wouldn't be hyped? This is a really strange fumble for them.

It was also listed as a major feature for the new AirPods, that doesn't seem like something Apple would slap on a box knowing they probably weren't going to ship, especially if was a "silly accessory."

I can totally see an engineering team BSing leadership on the product readiness, but there had to be internal pressure on this. Apple knows this looks bad after investors weren't super impressed with the News+ demo.

I think the mea-culpa announcement "This isn't going to be shipped", is better than stringing it along for months and leaving people in the dark.

Your right though, their main problem was announcing it too early. There are probably legal ramifications to this.

Back in the day "intelivision" announced a keyboard component for their console in ads. They didn't ship.. It kept slipping. Then the FTC (government) started fining them for false advertising. So they finally released one (It was junk, we had one).

"Complaints from consumers who had chosen to buy the Intellivision specifically on the promise of a "coming soon" personal-computer upgrade, eventually caught the attention of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), who started investigating Mattel Electronics for fraud and false advertising. "


I enjoyed the Intellivison II with the voice synthesis module. I have fond memories of playing B-17 bomber and burgertime.

I did love that console. Football, armor battle, pitfall,burger time etc. The keyboard adapter however wasn’t good for programming. I think it had like 2kb of memory. The keyboard adapter only game “mindstrike” game was pretty fun.

They overpromised and didn’t deliver, to avoid under delivering.

Or maybe it was working but then yesterday one burst into flames during testing which was the final straw. They don’t want to pull a Samsungs now do they?

Why did they cancel the product rather than delay it? If they are cancelling the product, either the issues are unfixable and it means that something is very wrong with their engineering, because they are expected to understand whether the product is possible a little bit earlier than some months before production. Or managers are just acting impulsively which is as wrong.

I think if it were delayed, it would still come up from time to time in tech blogs, giving them bad PR, kinda like Duke Nukem Forever. If they announce that it’s cancelled, they take a bad hit now, but they also have indefinite time to work on the product with no PR penalty on delays. The announcement leaves the door open on a future wireless product release anyway, with zero promises.

If they end up releasing the product, say, a year from now, nobody’s going to say “but you cancelled it before!!! how dare you!!”

If they announce in 2017, cancel in 2019, and launch in 2020, people will mock them and will be correct to do so. Maybe if they need three years up to indefinite the cancellation could make sense.

I could imagine something like the project manager had successfully swept all the problems under the rug to that point, despite the fact that the engineering manager was sending emails to compliance and risk management. When it caught on fire, an exec is like "WTF?" and gets a dump of all the data, and cancelling is easy.

Because they've already delayed it a whole lot.

Odd that you'd jump to Samsung as the example and not Apple's own exploding Macbook batteries from a few years back...

You are a True Believer.

Apparently, even the Chinese supply chain thought this product was going to go into production, according to Ming-Chi Kuo, whose sources inside Apple's supply chain are impeccable.

However, good for Apple.

They need to be more willing to say this product isn't good enough, and stop listening to those who say they are too secretive.

They had a good thing going when they didn't comment on products under development (or even acknowledge that they were under development) until they were ready to ship them.

Agreed. I much rather have a company like Apple just flat out say "we can't make this work to our standards, to our customer standards, and we're not comfortable with releasing this product this way."

Versus say Google who'll just never mention it again or launch a broken version only to kill it off within two years.

I hope it’s a sign of change to come. Their hardware has been actively moving from what users want to what their designers want (thinner is always better, ne legacy ports, no finger I’d, etc).

What makes you think you know better than Apple what most of their users want?

I suspect you just know what you want, and why you want it, and are extrapolating from that to everyone else.

I'd assume that users want a keyboard that doesn't break with alarming frequency and isn't nearly impossible to replace. That may just be me though.

Well there’s a healthy demand for the SE. It’s needed a serious update for quite a while and substantially from their current offerings. There’s similar preferences with the older MBPs as well. All widely commented on user forums.

It has always been like that. Remember then the Macintosh didn't have arrow keys? When they dropped disk drives?

They try being ahead of the curve and are know to ignore market interest. Sometimes they get a hit, sometimes they fail.

Usb/video ports are definitely in the same hardware realm as media drives. I don’t think people buy a laptop and never need those things. It’s like they’re tying to make their laptops into iPads.

If only they made the same decision abouut buutterfly keyboards.

but it has a hidden microphone, so it is upgradeable.

When are they going to cancel the touchbar?

Right around the time they get around to cancelling the macbook in favor of ipad

Dear god please no

> this product isn't good enough,

And Mexico will pay for it

Don't trust a companies words at face value. This sounds like PR.

Wasnt profitable enough?

Apple's management has enacted a policy of not offering competitive compensation for top engineering talent. I've had multiple Apple managers express frustration with the company's inability to attract and retain top talent. I myself got an offer from Apple for less than half what three other top companies offered, and Apple was unwilling to negotiate.

This product cancellation and Apple's general product quality decline is the inevitable result of this short-sighted, penny-wise, pound-foolish strategy to keep payroll down.

I'm not sure that this is anything new. Apple has been known for decades as a company unwilling to pay top dollar but rather count on their mystique / sense of mission to attract talent. However, with the mystique fading and no longer having a go-go stock price to make options/RSUs as attractive, that strategy is probably not working nearly as well as it used to.

Where’s the evidence of this talent drain creating great products elsewhere? I believe this is possible but am genuinely curious.

Lately it seems to be happening elsewhere entirely, at least on hardware front. See for example Huawei's foldable. Google and Microsoft will gladly solve their software problems, what they are mainly missing is their own distribution channels overseas. I think it we are now caught up to Japan in ~1970s, soon it will probably be time of dominance like ~1980s.

Who said that they were necessarily creating great products elsewhere? I only argued that they were likely going elsewhere. What happens when they get there is a function of management/environment/etc. Most companies don't offer a sense of mission or mystique to their people, but strangely many are willing to settle for stacks of money instead.

For a company like Apple who a) tries to differentiate on engineering and b) has ridiculous amounts of money this is an entirely unforgivable policy.

Source beyond your own experience? Would love to read more about the fact that Apple is offering people 40% and refusing to negotiate. That would be huge news.

Yep, need source. www.levels.fyi and Glassdoor shows comparable compensation.

Across the board Apple just seems to be struggling to execute on software. What they do offer is incomplete and buggy and they're falling farther and farther behind on new features. If they're serious about pivoting to being a services company they need to fix this ASAP. There's a deep-seated arrogance at Apple that I think they inherited from Jobs that isn't serving them well now that their competition has gotten its act together.

Just as a thought experiment ask yourself - of the apps you use daily on your iPhone, how many are made by Apple, other than Safari?

Pretty much all of them? On my home screen, music, maps, calendar, photos, camera, wallet, news, reminder, phone, messages, mail and safari. Work fairly great too :). Seems they know what they’re doing by the massive profits they bring in.

Safari, music, notes, reminders, mail, health, activity (apple watch), breathe (apple watch), calendar, shortcuts (acquisition), messages, maps, clock, calculator, weather,

I use all of those regularly and they work well. I also use 3rd party apps for some of the same categories.

I use maps for routing, but google maps for search and points of interest

Tims a miser, which is great for supply chain management but when it filters down into the hiring and the end product, well we're already beginning to see the results of that in the sales numbers.

What self respecting Nerd would work for Apple? serious question

I suspect Apple's launch plan was to ship last week's AirPods with the new mat for last holiday, and that as of ~Sept 2018, Apple assumed AirPower was possible (which is why last weeks AirPods were manufactured with AirPower documentation placed into the box)

I spent sometime working on a hardware team at Amazon and we had an expression "hardware is like fruit" meaning the longer it sits unsold, the more stale and obsolete it gets (and it costs an unbelievable amount of money to keep it in storage). A few weeks/months ago, Apple must have decided that AirPower isn't going to happen, and that the AirPods that have been sitting in storage since September need to be sold so that they can actually sell their inventory before the launch of AirPods 3 (whenever that arrives)

Apple has pulled off some reported last minute hardware changes while stretching timelines.

The 2016 MBP which had a 500+ day update cycle was apparently supposed to have the terraced battery used in MacBooks. [1]

That got chucked last minute and led to a lot of battery complaints early on. I returned a loaded 13” due to limited battery life.

The company ended up working SW systems to squeeze more out of what it has and it seemed to work.

In that case they also seemed to be trying to meet a holiday release.

[1] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-12-20/how-apple...

The most famous example has to be that the iPhone was introduced with a plastic screen, but after Steve Jobs noticed how easily it scratched, they changed to a glass screen.

I can’t find it now. But Apple even had a press release that they were changing to a glass screen.

Still, the plastic iPhone was never made and put into boxes before the switch was made. It's surprising how late in the game this product was canceled

Something I don't understand about induction charging: why is it even necessary if the device and charger are still expected to be in flat contact with one another (with at most a few millimeters of separation)?

Is the point just for arbitrary positionability on a flat charging surface?

If so, I feel like there are simpler ways to solve that, just with clever solid-state connector design.

Imagine a BGA processor that could be arbitrarily aligned into a BGA socket (not only rotated, but placed anywhere onto a BGA array larger than the CPU), and would continue working. That's possible, no? It doesn't exist, but it's possible. You could have the motherboard look for known sense pins on the processor by putting its own BGA pins into a sense mode; and then, having found which pins the processor is aligned to, it could "hook up" the rest of the pins appropriately. Any pins the CPU isn't touching would remain powered down or in a low-voltage sense mode, where they're safe to touch.

Well, if you can imagine that, then just reduce the number of pads on the device side from hundreds to two, while keeping all the pads on the socket side. But lose the "socket" part.

Imagine a charger that's just a big flat matrix of tiny copper pads, where each copper pad is actually four quadrants: two for sense, one for power, one for ground. The power and ground are normally powered down.

If you have a device (a phone, say) with two large flat charging pads on the back, and you lay it onto the BGA matrix—then the phone's pads will activate (a number of!) the charger's sense pads; the charger will have an "image" of which pins to power, and discretize that image into two clusters (like discretizing touch-points on a digitizer); and then one cluster of activated sense-pins will have their sibling power pins activated; and the other cluster will have their sibling ground pins activated.

Other than the copper being exposed to the elements, I don't see why this isn't workable.

(And before you say "my phone is in a case"—your case would just need a pair of pass-through conductor pads.)

It has been tried in commercial products, but it's harder than it looks. Pogo pin type contacts don't have a lot of current capacity and there are some fairly serious issues with surface contamination and corrosion. The layout is easy, the electronics are easy, but the metallurgy of the contacts is an unsolved problem.

"but the metallurgy of the contacts is an unsolved problem"

Solved for decades. Gold-plated stops corrosion and resists contamination of most any sort.

I've always felt it was unnecessary too. A company I worked for a few years ago spent thousands to install wireless charging pads directly into the tables in every meeting room (4 floors worth of rooms). This was before any iphones had wireless charging though, so they also had these wireless charging adapters that plugged into iphones so that they could use them. That means that to charge your phone, you had to plug it in, but then leave it in a specific place in the table, making it so you can't really use it. It was the absolute worst of both worlds. They could have saved a ton of money by just having some cables attached to the table, but instead they wanted to use the hip cool technology before it was practical.

That company also had like 10 video dongles/adapters in every conference room, including ancient 30-pin connectors, but no USB-C which was the only thing most employee laptops supported. Yay technology!

Hi Roger!

Some Starbucks did this for a while as well, provided adapters for USB micro / Lightning and had chargers at the center of every table. Not sure if they still do.

I saw wireless charging on tables in Starbucks in SF.

I had a phone w/ Qi for a couple years. It was finicky, requiring I develop the habit of aligning the phone on the charger.

But once I got used to it, it was subtly very nice. No fiddling with cables at all. Nothing to wear out. Pick the phone up and go.

It feels a little like a technology of ten or twenty years from now that is not technically necessary but will be nice & convenient. Think of WiFi compared to Ethernet. Right now we can see the future & taste it just a little, but we haven't quite got there yet.

But what about USING the device while it's charging? You have to keep it flat on the charger. The plug in cable still has merit.

Lemme know when we construct additional pylons and can charge things remotely (without cancer).

That's why it depends on your use case and lifestyle. But if you're sitting at a desk for hours, with a wireless charger it becomes second nature to just put your phone on the charger when you sit down and take it out of your pocket. So when you do pick it up again, it's fully charged and good to go.

Yes, if you're a hardcore user who is on the phone for hours at a time, or are always moving out and about, then this isn't for you.

As an analogy it's like slow charging an electric car at home. If I'm using 100 miles a day, then I'd have to visit a faster charging station at some point. But if I do not drive more than 20 miles a day, I have the convenience of being able to just charge it at home without going out of my way to a charging station.

I wirelessly charge my iPhone through its case.

Hell, I charge my X through a Quad Lock case which is about as thick as you can get (it has a bulge on the back to handle the connection to the Quad Lock mounting devices). It doesn't work with everything, but it works with my cheapo Qi charger and my Nomad charger in my Tesla.

I'm sure it charges more slowly than with no case, but it does what I need.

In the late 90's there was a company trying to make a contact charger. I can't even remember what it was called now, but the gist was the device would have a couple pins, the charger a bunch of pin pads, and on detecting a device it would negotiate voltage and power level (like USB-C does now) and feed power to those pins.

Would you get sufficient contact for a solid current? What happens when you spill your coffee on the pad?

I wish we could get some kind of writeup or interview from the RF engineers who worked on Airpower. Overlapping charging coils have been dreamed of pretty much since the origin of induction charging but there must be tons and tons of issues we can't even think of. I'd love to hear their stories.

I wonder how you could do it without seeing some pretty big losses. Wireless charging is already pretty lossy, Dynamic coils though? I mean, I guess you could do it mechanically, but that would still result in less than ideal coils and a noisy device.

If you did it through transistors, somehow, then you'd end up with a lot of loss at each transistor. Too few and you don't make a good field. Too many and the losses would be really high. The cost would be crazy as well. For the transistor approach, I don't know, maybe a big silicon wafer? Maybe just a load of transistors and wires. Who knows.

There could be a Qi 2 standard that calls for many tiny coils instead of one big one, and pass much smaller amounts of current in parallel that way. Then you could cover the back of the phone with them and be able to place it anywhere on the mat.

One thing about wireless charging is the gap created by phone cases, what does a case do to charging efficiency?

In practice Qi chargers have just one operating power, either "within range" or "not within range", so whether you have a case or not won't affect charging rate, but in theory RF power does scale with 1/distance². So you could argue that Qi standards engineers did have to limit our usable charging power because they knew cases would be used.

How about another layer before passing current into the shaped coils? 1. some sort of liquid crystal layer (transistor based), where all the coils are pre-drawn, only allowing layer 2 to conduct when low current goes through layer 1 2. once the coils are formed, pass actual current through the layer 2

It is a slimy move to wait a week after the wireless charging Airpods were released before announcing this. You can't tell me that Apple didn't know this was coming. What percentage of people who have bought new Airpods in the last week wouldn't have made that purchase if they knew AirPower was never going to be released?

EDIT: Several people are responding that other manufactures make wireless chargers, so what is the big deal? Sure, you are right other options exist. There are also a wide variety of USB-C laptop chargers available that could charge your Macbook. There would still be plenty of complaints if Apple stopped selling their USB-C power brick. Two of the primary reasons people buy Apple products are because of the ecosystem and their standard of quality. Now people are forced out of the Apple ecosystem and must buy a product from 3rd parties that don't have the same quality requirements. What happens when that $5 Qi charge from some noname brand fries your devices battery?

Normally I'd agree, but the fact that the AirPower mat is printed onto the back of the new AirPods case box does seem to be a pretty good indicator that this was a very sudden decision.

That is unless they were trying to make it look sudden, but I don't think we have good enough reason to be that cynical about it.

The new AirPods boxes were printed in 2018: https://twitter.com/horwitz/status/1110977803183374341

But even if we take copyright year to be the same as the printing year, Apple would almost certainly have just made a new box if they'd known well in advance they were going to cancel AirPower. This still shows an unusual level of disorganization on their part, which is surprising enough that I'm willing to believe a sudden decision was made.

There's a good chance that we'll see this somewhat proven in that Apple will probably get that box discontinued within the next couple weeks.

Who cares - they delay it, reprint and repackage it. Apple is a massive company that’s gone through monumental efforts to enforce quality (in the past). They could’ve at least done that.

On the other hand, announcing it now means that anyone who really would have changed their minds still can. Apple will almost certainly accept returns, even in countries which don't provide statutory rights to return unwanted goods within a certain time period. Announcing it a month from now, or later, would make such returns impossible.

It does seem like this is the very latest date such an announcement could have been made, though.

What do you mean by "Apple will accept returns"? There's no Apple Store in my country and I'm not sure that ordinary shops would accept returns, especially after box was opened.

Can't speak to what's available in your country, but I've never had issues returning opened stuff (Best Buy, Microcenter, etc) as long as it's in new condition and in the original box, with receipt (most stores have a 14 day return period)

Heh, that’s almost unheard of in the Middle East for example. You have to fight tooth and nail to even get basic warranty.

Not sure about the rest of the world, but I would say that the US is an outlier when it comes to return policies.

Germany (EU?) gives you 14 days unconditional return for online purchases, and brick and mortar retailers usually match or surpass that to stay competitive with online retailers.

While that might sound like a consumer-friendly thing, the flip side is that it adds to the base price, and worse, returning items adds significantly to the environmental footprint (delivery and packaging). I've worked for large online retailers, and women returning more than half of their ordered cloth items is happening all the time.

I agree that it has negative effects for things like consumer electronics, and the system can be gamed (buy and return instead of renting, etc.).

But unless we really tighten up the standards for clothing sizes I don't see how you could sell them online without half of them not fitting. Especially with woman's clothes, where form fit is more important and manufacturers seem to take more liberty with labeling sizes.

It’s nowhere near unconditional and not even close to anything goes culture in US.

The EU would like to have a word with you.

> most stores have a 14 day return period

A return period is even mandated by law in most advanced countries by consumer protection laws. The length varies and sometimes there are some exceptions like software and customized (engraved products).

I was always under the impression that in the US, returns that were not because of a defect were more of a courtesy than a legal requirement:

> Many retailers, as part of their business models, allow returns if customers change their minds or receive unwanted items as gifts. While many retailers have decided this makes for the best business practice, they aren't legally required to accept returns. Rather, retailers are required to accept returns only if the sold good is defective or if they otherwise break the sales contract. [1]

[1] https://consumer.findlaw.com/consumer-transactions/customer-...

Absolutely not.

Returning used anything in US is cultural courtesy.

Returning in EU is mandated by law, but for online purchases only and unused products, with hygienic exclusions - the purpose being giving you the same chance as in a brick store to see the product. Opening the box, returning, sure. Using for a week, putting it in your ears, then returning, nope.

Apple Store policy varies by country slightly, but generally they allow 14 days unconditional return. That’s rather unique, and entirely voluntary, and Apple Premium Resellers rarely (never around here) have the same policy.

So obviously it depends on the country.

In many parts of the world there are consumer rights which guarantees the ability to return items even if opened.

So apple doesn't accept returns, except when compelled to. Therefore we can assume that they have screwed some people in the process.

I am not sure but I guess you can start online return or through a support agent and then ship it back?

I bought the wireless charging version, but I also had it engraved. I'm guessing that will prevent it from being returnable. Hopefully Apple issues a blanket refund of the price difference for everyone.

Why should they? It works fine on the bog-standard industry charger.

That's a fair point if they actually do work fine on other chargers. My experience with previous wireless chargers was that they only actually worked if they were designed for the specific phone (e.g. Pixel 3 XL stand). Lots of going back and forth between charging and not charging and the phone itself getting really hot and not actually charging.

I fully accept that maybe my other chargers were cheap and crappy though, so maybe I'm just unlucky.

I've got a basic flat pad I bought from Amazon for like $15 that charges my iPhone XS and my Airpods quite happily.

Apple has a 1-week (or is it 2 weeks?) unconditional return policy. It actually disservices them to announce it after since they may now get a bunch of open box returns.

Additionally your edit doesn’t hold because apple sells iPhones without an official wireless charger either. The AirPods can also be charged with a wire, not to mention any compatible qi charger.

If you’re going to call out apple for making the charging standard based on USB power delivery (an open standard), well then I think you’ve lost everyone. The whole point of Qi, and USB PD is that you can use any charger, even non Apple ones.

Apple has much less consumer friendly return policies in many non-US markets. Take Hong Kong for example: "All products purchased at Apple Store in Hong Kong cannot be returned or exchanged. Exceptions for exchange will be allowed for defective products only." https://www.apple.com/hk/shop/help/exchange_return

I'd have a hard time arguing that the AirPods are defective because the non-bundled mat on the box didn't ship.

This is...exactly the same as nearly every other retailer in HK. Off the top of my head - of places I’ve bought from recently - only Ikea allows random returns in HK. Everyone else is the same as Apple.

Unlimited returns for any reason at every store is quite an American thing.

I actually think it's a good policy that while emotionally one may be hesitant to offer, but in reality it generates more profit for the retailer so long as they're not doing anything shady or anti-consumer in the first place.

Or unless you’re in a business that has disproportionate number of asshole customers. Sony probably couldn’t afford to offer unconditional returns in the PlayStation store...

You can even return marijuana to a pot shop. It's hilarious.

I'm fairly certain the exception is Hong Kong. Japan, Taiwan, all allow returns under the standard policy.

Hong Kong probably does not allow it for other reasons. Maybe the policy gets exceptionally abused there.

>Additionally your edit doesn’t hold because apple sells iPhones without an official wireless charger either.

AirPower was supposed to be that official wireless charger. So is your argument that my point doesn't matter because cancelling AirPower is actually worse than I initially mentioned? Either way, the new AirPods are a little different than iPhones. The primary difference between AirPods 1 and AirPods 2 was the wireless charging. The wireless charging was never the top-line feature of any new iPhones.

>If you’re going to call out apple for making the charging standard based on USB power delivery

That is not why I am calling Apple out. I am calling them out because they are refusing to offer a first party solution for a product's primary feature and "it is just an open standard" is not a valid excuse for that fact.

> Apple has a 1-week (or is it 2 weeks?) unconditional return policy. It actually disservices them to announce it after since they may now get a bunch of open box returns.

Yeah, but how many people are actually going to go through the hassle of returning them?

I briefly considered buying some when they were announced, with the idea of "hmm, AirPower must be coming out soon". Sucker for Apple products that I am, it would pair well with the iPhone XS and Watch I have, and they can all live on the AirPower mat.

And then I said, meh, I'll buy some when I see the announcement for AirPower, given the problems they've obviously had bringing to market. How many others are less skeptical than me, I do not know. But for the time being, I'm content to plug my stuff in if I still have to use separate mats for phone and headphones.

I have the Studio Neat Material dock which charges all three (Airpods via lightning) and it's pretty convenient.

Nomad has a new Base Station that can change multiple Qi devices plus an Apple Watch as well.

Basically at this point there are a lot of alternatives on the market, and some of them are actually nicer because they hold the Watch up in the right orientation for Nightstand mode and work with loop style bands.

Thanks for the pointers. I may just ignore the sunk cost of the $79 Apple Watch stand and go for the Nomad Qi Apple Watch dock. Pricey, but that's some nice looking kit for some thing I'll have to look at on my nighstand every night.

I've had regular airpods since they came out and the airpower would be nice but I don't see a major need for it.

Wireless chargers are cheaply available from many other manufacturers (much cheaper than Airpower was going to be). Selling on the basis of wireless charging is not slimy or underhanded.

Exactly. I bought the wireless charging case for Qi compatibility. No way I was spending £200 on an Apple branded charger, but wireless charging is a great UX and makes the AirPods feel like a nicer product.

It'd be a slimier move to release a $200 charging pad that doesn't work well.

That's nothing for Apple. They have released $2000 laptops that don't work well.

But not on purpose. In this case, after a sustained engineering effort, Apple finally and reluctantly concluded that they could not build this particular product up to their standard, so they decided to just not build it at all, instead.

We should applaud that. That's how things should work.

>But not on purpose.

You could argue that after three models with butterfly keyboards, it's pretty purposeful. It's not like no one pointed it out to them.

Not sure why this is being downvoted. You could excuse the first model using the butterfly keyboard as them not knowing the issues, but multiple revisions have been released since and the keyboard was untouched. That can't not be deliberate.

I mean, they clearly did try to fix it, as evidenced by the membrane they added to the newest revision. The fact that this didn’t actually resolve the issue is unrelated.

Ugh they should really get rid of that keyboard

I had a 2016 MacBook Pro which absolutely had a lot of issues with the butterfly keyboard. It was clearly a bad product. But they definitely fixed the issues with the 2018 one.

There definitely isn't the same level of complains on the internet about it.

There are less complaints about 2018 model. They didn't really fix it.

If my (non-Apple) laptop is anything to go by, the keyboards with that crappy low-rise design have average life expectancy of one year. The 2018 modification will not get clogged with dust until the end of 2019, at which point people will be complaining about it too.

This is ignoring the fact that very few people have issues with these keyboards overall.

How many people are very few people?

There's 35,000 signatures on a petition to recall the keyboards. There's two class-action lawsuits. There's how many different online writings about the issue?

You can get signatures and file suits for almost anything, that's pretty meaningless. If it wasn't an insignificant percentage, they would've done something about it.

So your basis for the "very few people" is Apple's inaction?

They're really the only entity who knows how widespread this is, and is financially incentivized to address it. Additionally, my employer has probably 30,000 of these keyboards in service and it's not a significant issue.

They're also financially incentivised to downplay the issue considering the class-action lawsuits alleging that they were selling defective keyboards.

I don't think Apple is too concerned about class action lawsuits over keyboards... They'll settle and pay a little cash, another entirely insignificant number.


>There were a lot of "online writings" about WMD in Iraq, too.


> There were a lot of "online writings" about WMD in Iraq, too.

Not sure if that's true or not, but wouldn't a lot of people have complained about that too, had they malfunctioned, or even been used, a la Macbooks?

My 2018 MacBook Pro works great. No issues with the hardware at all and I love the TouchBar.

What exactly is wrong with them ?

You're one of the lucky ones; my 2018 laptop has unreliable "o" , "s", "h", "j", "k", and "e" keys (can you tell I'm a heavy vim user?), and the black plastic around the "K" glyph has started to wear away.

For me it's endless stuttering with spacebar, e, and r for some reason.

The keyboards. My 2016 MacBook Pro has had issues with several of the keys.

Apple has extended the warranty on the keyboard to four years, but it's not like they will actually give you a working keyboard design, but rather switch out the keyboard for the same design.

They're also being sued for the keyboard issues.

I know that they had issues with the 2016 and 2017 models. I owned one.

But those issues were fixed in the 2018 one. Which is why they haven't needed to extend the warranty at all.

Sadly people are reporting issues with the 2018 versions as well. For example, this article hilariously was written without the 'r' and 'e' keys to showcase what's been happening recently: https://www.wsj.com/graphics/apple-still-hasnt-fixed-its-mac...

Not really.

Joanna Stern's article was about her 2018 MacBook Air's keyboard, which has the same membrane as the 2018 MacBook Pro keyboard.

> "I know that they had issues with the 2016 and 2017 models."

So it's no longer your belief that the 2017 model was significantly better than the 2016 version? Or was it significantly better, but still shit? In one or two years will the 2018 version in turn be considered significantly better but still shit?

I have both a 2016 and 2017 one. I did not notice any difference in keyboard quality and they both failed after about a year. Keys either stopped picking up input, or would repeat. On one my space bar repeated a lot and just felt wrong.

I won’t be touching the 2018 one until I see reports of people that have had them for over a year. It sounds like based on the new WSJ reporting, the 2018 has problems too though.

I don’t believe Apple even ever officially admitted the membrane design in the 2018 model was to keep dust out and improve reliability. Pretty sure the official reason was noise reduction.

>What percentage of people who have bought new Airpods in the last week wouldn't have made that purchase if they knew AirPower was never going to be released?

Like, zero?

Apple will almost certainly allow you to cancel or return without cost. I dont think it will have that much of an actual impact, which is why I doubt that fewer sales are why they chose to announce now.

They were probably more concerned about negative headlines and media coverage leading up to the event when choosing to reveal this information a week after.

Returning has a cost (The time+effort).

It is a slimy move to wait a week after the wireless charging Airpods were released before announcing this.

Slimey? Really? Slimey is opening a factory along side a river and then dumping the waste chemicals in the river while touting the number of jobs added to the local economy.

In Apple's case, they announced a product early, turns out they couldn't deliver on it. No harm, no foul... okay maybe reputational foul, but nothing of real consequence.

The lather the Apple tech pundit crowd has worked itself up over the Airpower nonsense (you can't call it anything more than that at this point) is bewildering. If Apple would have delivered I probably would have bought it, my stuff still charges the legacy way, I'll probably buy more Apple stuff in the future, the world moves on.

Honestly, I was never excited about wireless charging.

Then, on a whim when I ordered my Pixel 3, I put the stand in my cart. I didn't even realize it was wireless. I just like the nice look of a well-thought-out phone stand, and the feel of it in the dark when I read myself to sleep.

I then remembered that I replaced my old Pixel because the port had problems. Less wear on the ports is important.

Wireless is a huge deal for devices that require frequent charging.

To the point of less wear. My iPhone 5’s Lightening port still works just fine but the phone itself needs replacing. My perfectly usable iPad Air however now has a Lightening port which is so worn out that I need to engage in a voodoo ritual of supporting the cable with a matchbox to ensure sufficient contact and _just_ the right angle to get it charging... then walk away carefully so as to not disturb the tech spirits.

I’ve warmed significantly to wireless charging just because of that, and the lowered charging speed wouldn’t be a problem since I could leave devices overnight on the AirPower mat. I was especially excited about the proposed design of AirPower because precise placement wasn’t needed. I could easily imagine that making it much more handy than precisely aligning everything in the dark when putting away my iPad.

Wireless is a huge deal for devices that require frequent charging.

I won’t argue with that, I just can’t square the lack of “Apple branded” wireless charging as a pain point.

Apple explicitly marketed AirPower support as a main feature of the next generation of AirPods. To a lot of people on Twitter, it was THE main feature of AirPods 2.

Saying "hey, buy the new version of AirPods at a $50 premium because it's compatible with this new thing that's about to come out" and then fumbling on that product you just marketed to drive sales of AirPods isn't kosher.

Wireless charging is still supported though, that’s the mind boggling part. Nobody says “Ok I bought this wireless charging pad what am I going to do with it now?”

No matter what Apple does, people will be pissed off at something.

Contrary to your point:

A. They announced the cancellation a week later, you still have time to return your AirPods 2.

B. If they had gone with substandard product, then you will still complain, why didn't Apple cancel this product a long time ago!? Why did they release this piece of shit? We will have #AirPowerGate storm on Twitter, armchair specialists would start analyzing and delivering nasty analysis about Apple, Louis Rossman would make a new angry video, etc... Jeez guys.

See, Apple is in a no-win situation here. No matter what they do, people complain obsessively without understanding and putting yourself in their shoes.

They put themselves in that "no-win situation" by pre-announcing the product. If they were profiting by selling products based on future compatability with airpower, that could be fraud.

Literally every major company does this. Tesla announces their cars years ahead of production. Thousands of products are announced at the CES - cameras, phones, laptops, etc.

Things go wrong sometimes after announcing a product.

> that could be fraud

No, it is certainly not.

Apple had reputation of not doing that. The last few years they do it all the time, are late all the time and can’t learn the lesson (see: last week’s announcements).

It’s not that common, except today’s Apple and, well, Tesla, to announce early and be very late delivering.

Announce cancellation of AirPower before selling a new product that would have used it, rather than after.

They could have cancelled the AP2 too, or at least announced this cancellation before that launch.

Why? The new AirPods still have Hey Siri and longer battery life on telephone calls. If you choose the Qi case they still charge wirelessly with other Qi chargers.

It’s a solid spec bump to a product. Not a huge leap (which is there is no 2 in the name) but it’s not like they were ONLY going to work with the AirPower and had no other new features.

No reason to cancel them.

what? Why would they cancel the new AirPods?

So why announce something you can't deliver?

Apple is not the only company that announces products. Go to CES and you'll find hundreds of products. I am sure some of them never make it to production.

Apple isn't the only one. While I agree that announcing a product and not delivering is a bad thing - shit happens, especially here where the engineering team busted balls for months to correct and issue and they couldn't resolve it.

Sometimes, it is safety or regulatory failure. There are many reasons why a product can't make it to the market.

“You tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is, never try.” Homer Simpson

> What happens when that $5 Qi charge from some noname brand fries your devices battery?

Qi has been out a long time. Is there any indication whatsoever that Qi spec devices are doing this?

>There would still be plenty of complaints if Apple stopped selling their USB-C power brick.

Of all the examples you could give, I actually think just about nobody would care about the USB-C power brick. To be honest, its kind of stupid already to buy a first party charger. It';s throwing $50+ into the wind.


I’ve been much happier with the elegant Apple charging equipment than anything else I’ve used.

The bricks are reconfigurable to use different outputs and different inputs, and the cables roll up neatly with the help of a simple hook and loop cable tie.

I’d be sad if Apple stopped selling their chargers, primarily because with their engineering I’m pretty sure I get a safe well engineered product, whereas 3rd parties can display both lower quality and some really concerning cost cutting measures.

http://www.righto.com/2016/03/counterfeit-macbook-charger-te... http://www.righto.com/2014/05/a-look-inside-ipad-chargers-pr...

Sure one could then find reputable vendors, the Apple ecosystem has quite a few but most people would more than likely get the cheapest one from Amazon and sadly some of those products carry some serious safety risks.

I like that Apple has their own offering which one can feel confident in using. It is also nice to see that they will walk away from a design such as AirPower if they realize they cannot ship it to the standard which should be required for power delivery. At it’s base such a product should at least be easy to use and safe.

I ordered Airpods with wireless charging without even considering if/when Airpower would ship (when they announced it, I thought about the engineering challenges, considered what I know about electronics, and figure they would need a miracle to pull it off).

I have other (single-device, of course) charging pads and they work great, so it isn't a big deal.

My thoughts exactly. This can't be something that was discovered something last night after hours, by someone burning the midnight oil.

Me personally, I've built up a mental "queue" of things that need to line up before I invest in a 1) new phone (that supports wireless charging, 2) an Apple Watch, and 3) AirPods (the new ones). And all of those I planned on getting around the time of AirPower. Now that it's been nixed? I mean, I still dig the Watch but I'll probably keep my current phone and headphones for years, at least while they all still work just fine.

Pretty bummed for the people that got them expecting AirPower, though.

I think you are stretching to find a reason to blame them. It did not prevent people from buying iPhone X which had a wireless charging too, what makes you think that it somehow affected AirPods case sales?

I bought a pair today. I mostly bought them for the incremental speed bump and supposed longer battery time. Otherwise I would have just bought a wireless charging case to go with my series 1 pair.

14 day return policy.

Depending on jurisdiction. In Hong Kong (probably because of scalpers that sold to gray market in China etc.) there used to be a 30% restocking fee, and now no returns whatsoever, full stop.

> Two of the primary reasons people buy Apple products are because of the ecosystem and their standard of quality. Now people are forced out of the Apple ecosystem and must buy a product from 3rd parties that don't have the same quality requirements.

This isn't the first time that Apple have decided that ecosystem didn't matter - some of the USB-C dongles (the Ethernet adapter for one) that Apple sell are branded Belkin, they ceded the Thunderbolt display to LG (that LG really Just Worked [1]) and they've abandoned Airport.

1: https://9to5mac.com/2017/02/13/lg-ultrafine-5k-display-apple...

If they felt they could not deliver a quality product, and decide not to release it, what is the big deal

The new AirPods can be charged on Qi chargers, that are available on Amazon for $10. No one bought wireless charging AirPods because of AirPower.

> No one

I did. I don't want to add another cable to my nightstand, I wanted to replace my Apple Watch puck with Airpower and gain the ability to charge my headphones there too, and then if I ever get a wireless charging iPhone be able to get rid of the lightning cable as well. I don't mind trading the lightning cable between my phone and Airpods, but I imagined I wouldn't have to for long with the AirPower releasing seeming so imminent.

I feel like a sucker today.

Nomad makes a very very nice nightstand charger that will do all that for you.


I don't have this version, but I have their other base station that charges up to 4 devices at once: 2 wirelessly, and 2 via cables. I'm extremely happy with it.


You can return them to Apple for a full refund. Please update us if you do.

Pretty pathetic response. When did Apple turn into the sort of company their fans used to laugh at?

This feature was planned and advertised. People buy based on these things. I'd love a Apple wireless charging mat. I also like their Watch. Charging the lot of them would maybe move me from Android. Oh no! It's disappeared. Steve Jobs would never have put up with this.

Narrator: He won't.

What's the downside of Qi chargers? (Assuming they didn't figure out some hardware problem that Apple couldn't figure out.)

There isn't a specific downside. AirPower was an attempt to add additional functionality by letting you just dump stuff on the charging mat, while all current charging pads require one device per section and a specific orientation.

I'll state up front that my experience with Qi is from about five years ago with a Samsung Note 3 with a Samsung induction charging case. But I found it to be fiddly enough (have to hit the sweet spot on between the charger and the coils on the case/phone) to be just barely more convenient than plugging in.

My impression of what AirPower was supposed to do was allow me to just throw my shit on the nightstand charging mat and the phone, watch, and earphones just magically charge without fiddling. Not being a hardware engineer, my impression was also that, in order to pull this off, involved big, hot coils and Apple couldn't get rid of the "hot" part.

So now the solution is to buy separate Qi pads for phone and earphone case, and I still need a proprietary charger for the Watch because it doesn't use Qi. Or just say "fuck it", and plug my phone and old AirPods case into the Lightning connectors I already have by the bed, and use the Apple Watch charging stand I already bought.

In summary, I'm one of those that would have spent the $200 on Apple kit if they could have pulled it off because I don't find Qi to be quite the solution I was looking for.

I have the official wireless charging stand for Pixel 3, and FWIW, it doesn't seem to have problems charging it even if the phone is visibly tilted and off-center on the stand.

But perhaps that's exactly why it's a stand and not a mat - there are only so many ways to put a phone on it such that it stays there.

They're way better now, but I specifically only buy the Samsungs with fast charging that have a fan built in. I have to really mangle how it's put on the charger (like half of the phone hanging off the edge) to have any issues.

I've got a few of these for my old s8 and s10 and they work great. Only downside I can think of is when my battery is low and I need to keep taking the phone off the charger to respond to something, at that point I just cable it in so I can use it and charge at the same time. It's also of course not as fast as cabled fast charging so if I'm very low I'll cable it.

That's not incredibly frequent but does come up every few weeks.

I love them at my desks but I use cables everywhere else as I'm usually grabbing my phone to use it (like in bed).

I have one of those for my S8+. It's nominally better in terms of positioning tolerance than the old Qi charger I had for my Droid, but not by much. I still have to have the phone within a couple of millimeters of the left-right sweet spot for it to work. I'm glad I have the charger, but it's still pretty fiddly. Maybe it has a wider range if you don't use a case, so that the back of the phone is closer to the mat. Aside to those considering: it charges noticeably slower than the straight plug fast charge, but still faster than the old, non fast charge systems.

I'm using Xiaomi charger with iPhone 8 and it's exactly this: I just put phone there without any kind of aligning and it just works. Wonderful product, something so much in Apple style. Single device only, of course, but it's cheap enough to buy as many of those circles as needed. And it's barely producing any heat. May be they compromised charging speed, I'm not sure, I just put it there for night.

They typically charge devices slower than the wired approach and I find it is sometimes hard to place a phone in just the right spot where it charges.

What Apple was doing that was hard, was to charge multiple devices at a time on a single pad without having set locations.

Fast chargers should charge faster than the default 5 watt wired charger.

Qi is the standard AirPods and iPhones support to charge themselves wirelessly - it's like asking what's the downside of a lightning port :)

Actually did. I’ll try to use of the alternative then. What Qi charger you recommend?

I have this one, and really like it: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00C40OG22/ref=oh_aui_sear... – it costs $10.99 and has anti-slip rubber on its surface.

I also own another that has a completely smooth surface and my phone tends to slide off.


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