Apple Inc., in an unprecedented retreat, canceled its highly anticipated AirPower wireless charging mat and apologized to customers who were waiting for it.
The device, designed to charge an Apple Watch, iPhone and AirPods all at once, was originally announced alongside the iPhone X in September 2017. At the time, Apple said it would go on sale in 2018. While the accessory isn’t as crucial to Apple’s bottom line as an iPhone, iPad or Apple Watch, the decision to cancel an announced product is an embarrassing and rare move for the Cupertino, California-based technology giant.
“After much effort, we’ve concluded AirPower will not achieve our high standards and we have canceled the project,” Dan Riccio, Apple’s senior vice president of hardware, said in a statement. “We apologize to those customers who were looking forward to this launch. We continue to believe that the future is wireless and are committed to push the wireless experience forward.”
Apple didn’t say why exactly the product was canceled, but people familiar with its development told Bloomberg News last year that the company faced challenges with the software, overheating and the ability to charge multiple devices on any spot on the mat.
When he announced the product in 2017, Apple senior vice president of marketing Phil Schiller said the charging system was “not possible with current standards” but that Apple’s “team knows how to do this.”
The cancellation of a device is the first in Apple’s modern era under Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook, and it represents the second misstep this week for the company’s hardware engineering group. The company earlier apologized after customer complaints about the keyboards on its latest laptops. The company also has delayed multiple other accessories under Cook’s leadership, including the original AirPods and HomePod speaker.
Dan Ives, an analyst with Wedbush Securities, called the AirPower cancellation a “complete shocker.” Gene Munster, a longtime Apple analyst who co-founded Loup Ventures, said that the “good news is this black eye will quickly pass.”
Apple watchers have been studying the boxes of new devices and scouring Apple’s website for signs that the AirPower product was still in the works. The latest iPhones launched last September referenced the charger in their in-box paperwork, while the new AirPods released earlier this month featured a photo of a charging mat on its box. Apple acquired the AirPower trademark earlier this month, suggesting the project was only recently scrapped.
The lack of an Apple-built wireless charger leaves a hole in the company’s product line up. There are several Apple devices capable of being wirelessly charged, but no Apple-made accessory to charge them. The company offers third-party versions on its website from companies like Mophie and Belkin. In late 2017, Apple bought a wireless charging company called PowerbyProxi.
Shares of Energous Corp., a rival wireless charging company, rose 2.8 percent after Apple’s news. Still, Energous has also struggled with the technology and suffered delays.
The AirPower mat would have added to Apple’s growing Wearables, Home and Accessories segment, which the company is counting on to augment sales of the flagship iPhone.