Apple, in a rare turnabout, pull the plug on the wireless charging mat

FILE PHOTO: Apple Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller, shows the AirPower wireless charging mat during a launch event in Cupertino, California, USA September 12, 2017. REUTERS/Stephen Lam/File Photo

(Reuters) – Apple Inc on Friday said that the cancellation of the AirPower wireless charging mat that the company announced in 2017 on the same day as the iPhone X, a rare public haven for the gadget maker known for its over-optimistic product launches.

The mat is designed to wirelessly charge up to three Apple products at once, such as an iPhone, Apple Watch and AirPods wireless headphones.

While wireless charging has spread through the gadget industry, the charging of three devices at the same time with a higher wattage “fast loading” turned out to be a challenge. Furniture seller Ikea, for example, sells a $60 mat that can handle three phones, but it has only slower 5-watt charging.

In a statement, Apple said that it had concluded that the AirPower mat “doesn’t meet our high standards.”

“We offer our apologies to the customers who were looking for this launch,” Dan Riccio, Apple’s senior vice president of Hardware Engineering, said in the statement. “We continue to believe that the future is wireless, and are committed to providing the wireless experience.”

The announcement was a strange move from Apple, well known in the electronics industry for the love of wraps tightly on product plans until the public launches them at splashy events in Silicon Valley. The early announcement of AirPower, together with a wireless charging version of the AirPods headphones, was a break in that tradition. Apple released the updated AirPods last week, heightening speculation that the accompanying charging mat would come soon.

Daring Fireball, a website that covers Apple news, previously reported that Apple engineers had problems with overheating of the devices on the AirPower path. Apple declined to comment beyond its statement about the project.

Apple offered the wireless charging of the iPhone in 2017, after many of its competitors such as Samsung Electronics Co Ltd had offered the feature for several years. While rumors spread that Apple might make its own unique wireless charging technology, the company instead opted for a system that works with Qi, which is an open industry standard already in use by Samsung and others.

Apple shares did not move on the news, and the shares of NXP Semiconductors and STMicroelectronics, two major suppliers of chips that are used in the Qi-systems, was found to be unaffected also.

Reporting by Stephen Nellis; Editing by David Gregorio

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