AirPower- What’s In a Name?

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Apple teased its coming wireless charging pad during its iPhone event last week, but we didn’t get too many details. We know that it is compatible with the Qi wireless charging standard, and that Apple has said that they may include compatibility with other Qi-compliant devices. We also know that it will work with the new iPhones 8, 8 Plus, and X, all Apple Watches, and Apple’s AirPods with the new Wireless Charging Case that is coming soon. But that’s about all the news that’s fit to print, for now.

Frankly, I’m more interested in what we don’t know about the AirPower than what we do. It certainly looks like Apple is quickly moving toward allowing wireless charging across all of its mobile products. The larger iPad is the only exception, but its size honestly makes wireless charging less convenient. Also, changing the iPad’s rear case materials away from aluminum to something more conducive to wireless charging may not be feasible. However, despite the exception of the iPad, I think its safe to assume that we will see a growing number of Apple’s smaller devices and accessories (and maybe some from Beats, as well) gain AirPower compatibility in the near future.

For clues to the longer-term future of the AirPower, I’m looking at the name, itself. On the surface, this is clever branding that fits alongside the AirPods, which will be compatible right off the bat (with the right case). However, I have my suspicions that this name may have a deeper meaning than just a play on another popular Apple product.

The first place my mind went when I heard the name AirPower was back to the rumors earlier this year that Apple was working on far-field wireless charging. At the time, the rumors were that such a feature might be included in the iPhone X, but they quickly subsided. It is more likely that this more experimental technology is still in the developmental phase, and that Apple is working on implementing it in the future.

Apple’s rumored pursuit of far-field wireless technology isn’t something new, either. According to an AppleInsider report from 2012 covering an Apple patent, they have at least investigated such technology in the not-to-distant past. While we know that Apple often patents technologies and processes that they never actually use, there is good reason to think that every major tech manufacturer is pursuing far-field wireless technology of some kind. This is just the kind of customer-centric technology that Apple specializes in and excels at delivering in an accessible form, so I think it’s pretty natural to assume that Apple is already hard at work on this in the lab.

The AirPower we see today will likely never morph into a far-field charging device. Such a device will likely come in a form other than a mat, as they can only transmit power through direct, or very close to direct contact. While it is conceivable that power could be wirelessly transmitted between a high to low voltage converter plugged into a wall socket and a remote mat, most of the research in far-field wireless charging is geared toward charging devices directly at a distance. It is more likely that this is what we will see in the future from Apple and others.

Whether Apple will get there first, or another manufacturer will beat them to it remains to be seen. However, I think it is just a matter of time before we see a wireless wall plug or dongle from Apple that will charge a device at a distance of three to five feet. That sounds like a device worthy of a name like AirPower, and I think that is exactly the kind of device that will one day bear this same name and branding.

What do you think of the current AirPower? Am I crazy, or do you agree that a future AirPower charging device will feature far field wireless charging technology? Do you think Apple will get to far-field wireless first? Let me know in the Comments section below, on Flipboard, on our Facebook page, or on Twitter @iPadInsightBlog.


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