A rare AirPower wireless charger prototype has appeared online, and this one actually works

(Image credit: iMore)

Apple's AirPower wireless charger was shown off in 2017 alongside the iPhone X before essentially disappearing off the face of the planet. Then, two years later, it was finally officially canceled after radio silence and reported issues with regard to overheating problems. But with years of development involved before the project was finally canceled, there are a handful prototypes knocking around. Every so often one appears online.

That's what has happened over on the X social network with collector @AppleDemoYT sharing a short video of a prototype AirPower device. But while we've seen prototype wireless chargers pop up before, what makes this one most notable is the fact that it actually works. And not just charging something boring like an iPhone, either — this AirPower can charge an Apple Watch.

The AirPower charger was famously supposed to wirelessly charge just about anything that you dropped onto it. The iPhone was of course one example, as was Apple's ever-popular AirPods. But unlike so many wireless chargers, AirPower was also supposed to charge the Apple Watch as well. And it was going to charge all of these things at once, no matter where they were placed. The idea was impressive, almost magical in a typical Apple way. But it couldn't be made to work, leaving this prototype as the closest we've come to seeing one function as designed.

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Posting with the video, @AppleDemoYT shared that while the AirPower charger does work, it isn't all good news.

"Prototype Apple AirPower with 16 coils (PROTO1) charging a Prototype Apple Watch Series 4 (DVT)," the post says. "It’s amazing that Apple Watch charging works, given wireless chargers today generally can’t charge Apple Watches. However, the Apple Watch on AirPower gets quite warm."

Heat was of course a real concern for the AirPower device and it's thought that a lack of cooling was what ultimately caused the project to be canceled for good. With that in mind, it's no surprise that charging the Apple Watch here does cause things to get a little too toasty.

Seven years after the AirPower charger was announced, the world is not short of a wireless charging option or five. The launch of the Qi2 wireless charging standard has helped there as well, although the AirPower still stands out in one important way. Apple designed the wireless charger to work with all of its devices, no matter where they were placed on its large charging pad.

The ability to charge anything, anywhere was what made AirPower so interesting and it's also why there were 16 inductive charging coils in this prototype. But that was thought to be a key reason the charger got so hot during use, and ultimately Apple was never keen to ship something that got too warm during use — especially something that was always likely to be used overnight with no supervision.

Today, there are tons of iPhone and Apple Watch chargers to choose from, but none of them quite live up to what Apple promised with AirPower.

Will Apple's ambitions wireless charger ever make a triumphant return? It wouldn't be all that surprising. We definitely think it's more likely that Apple will revive the AirPower project than it will the Apple Car Project, that's for sure.

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too. Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.