Is Something Wrong at Apple?
The last week in March was a major one for Apple with the launch of several new products alongside their unveiling several new streaming media and news services. But it was a late Friday afternoon news dump that may resonate the most throughout the industry—albeit for reasons Apple would prefer to just forget about.
After all of the hoopla and positive press the company received with the launch of new AirPods, updated iPads, and Apple TV+, the company confirmed that it has finally decided to cancel the AirPower wireless charging mat that was unveiled back in September 2017. Touted as a product that would add convenient wireless charging to Apple users’ bedside tables, the product was intended to be a one-stop charging solution for the latest iPhones, the Apple Watch, and the newest AirPods—the latter of which actually has messaging on its package that it is supported by the AirPower charging mat.
Granted, tech companies announce plans to launch products and then reverse course on those plans all the time. But rarely—rather, never—is that company Apple. Historically speaking, Apple is a company that carefully and meticulously plans its product announcements and launches in an effort to ensure that this type of thing never happens to them. The Cupertino-based firm was so confident, in fact, in the launch of this device that it had CEO Tim Cook first introduce it on stage during its marquee Fall keynote event in 2017, and marketing chief Phil Schiller give a detailed breakdown of the device. AirPower shared the stage that day with the iPhone X.
The AirPower was never given an official launch date, though it had experienced a number of delays prior to this cancellation. Ultimately, the decision to cancel came down to the product’s inability to meet Apple’s own standards for product quality and reliability.
“After much effort, we’ve concluded AirPower will not achieve our high standards and we have cancelled the project. 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,” Dan Riccio, senior vice president of hardware engineering at Apple, said in a statement.
According to a TechCrunch report, specific issues that the product might’ve faced related to engineering issues that saw the product consistently overheat. It reportedly had something to do with the 3D charging coils being too close in proximity to one another, which required extremely cautious power management. So, rather than force the product out into the market just to keep a promise only to likely have it recalled because of overheating issues, Apple decided to scrap it altogether.
It’s a big enough deal for Apple to cancel a publicly-announced project, but this type of announcement feels like one that’s been coming to a boil for some time. Of late, Apple has found itself in sticky hardware situations. The first-gen AirPods were delayed several months and then experienced a very slow rollout in 2017; the iPhone X had a delayed and limited launch due to the technical challenges presented in the FaceID production; and then there’s the HomePod smart speaker that experienced a nearly year-long delay before finally hitting shelves last year.
There could be any possible number of explanations for the delays and this ultimate cancellation, but what it says to me is that Apple is struggling from a public pressure standpoint. The company’s product always have impressed me and their millions upon millions of loyal customers around the world. But in the race to have the newest and most innovative technology, consumers are expecting a lot more, a lot sooner. Apple, notably, has a way of perfecting already-released technology while making it seem like something brand new. They take their time with technology while working to streamline and simplify it for their customers. That’s their lane and they would be wise to stick to it.
Where they’ve struggled recently is with announcing product too far in advance in the hopes of capturing excitement and building anticipation—which isn’t an approach that the company necessarily needs to take. All that’s done is set them up for a situation like this with the AirPower where, they make public something they’re working on that’s not quite ready only to have it backfire on them and create a negative narrative.
This is an extremely rare hardware misstep for Apple, and it’s one that makes you wonder if there isn’t something bigger happening internally at the world’s most valuable company.
What We’re Reading
- For Gmail’s 15th birthday, Google adds scheduled emails and Smart Compose for mobile. (PCWorld)
- Flights delayed nationwide as five airlines fight through a computer outage. (Gizmodo)
- For the first time ever, Facebook will let you peel back the covers on its feed algorithm, letting users know why they’re seeing certain posts. (9 to 5 Mac)