Apple’s AirPower wireless charger was supposed to arrive with the unique ability to charge an iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods all at the same time. Unfortunately, Apple canceled AirPower in March 2019, citing difficulties in bringing the product to life. Since then, we’ve seen a teardown of AirPower, some AirPower clones, and Apple’s MagSafe battery packs. Now, an Apple prototype collector has obtained a working AirPower unit for the first time.
Speaking to The Verge, Giulio Zompetti, a 28-year-old from Italy, says he has been able to purchase a prototype AirPower unit from Chinese e-waste sources. “The unit lacks all of its exterior housing, and shows this beautiful and heavy stainless steel chassis,” says Zompetti.
In photos supplied to The Verge, you can see the AirPower mat powering a prototype iPhone, with its 22 coils on the front-facing side and 22 controller circuits on the rear. In order for this AirPower prototype to work, it has to be paired with special prototype iPhone hardware to activate the coils.
“It doesn’t work with production devices, because the coils are woken up by the device,” explains Zompetti, who says he’s been able to charge two prototype devices simultaneously so far. Zompetti says he received the unit in December and was able to interact with it initially through a serial lightning cable.
“It’s an engineering prototype, it’s not meant for plug and play,” says Zompetti. “When I connected my serial lightning cable to it, I could see some chars on the log, so once I fixed the BAUD rate, I was able to read a comprehensible log.” There’s even an interactive shell to interact with the AirPower, as part of the engineering of the device.
Apple’s canceled AirPower pad was supposed to let you drop devices anywhere on it to charge thanks to multiple coils, without having to find that specific sweet spot. But various reports suggested Apple was struggling with overheating issues during development. “I wasn’t able to reproduce the issue but still can’t say it isn’t there,” says Zompetti.
While we haven’t been able to independently verify the AirPower device as it’s extremely rare, Zompetti has a history of collecting Apple prototype hardware. He’s been collecting devices since March 2018, including a rare prototype of the first Apple Watch. “It became my main passion since then to find the most good looking prototypes,” says Zompetti. He’s collected around 35 units so far, with a variety of rare iPhone and iPod prototypes in his collection.
This passion has seen Zompetti travel to engineers for help repairing old devices. “It’s almost always about finding broken or incomplete units and fixing them to bring them back to life” says Zompetti. An unreleased AirPower device is “definitely among the best” prototype hardware he’s found so far, he says.