Apple AirPower Failure Hints at Risks of Premature Announcements

Companies prefer to use late Friday afternoon as the ideal time to dump bad news on the public. Apple did just that on March 29, announcing that it had canceled its AirPower charging pad.

“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,” read an apology attributed to Dan Riccio, Apple’s senior vice president of Hardware Engineering.

Originally announced in ye olden days of September 2017, AirPower underwent several delays, and the rumor-mill hinted that Apple’s engineers were wrestling to subdue the hardware’s tendency to overheat. Indeed, TechCrunch’s Matthew Panzarino, citing unnamed sources within the company, suggested that AirPower’s “3D charging coils in close proximity to one another required very, very cautious power management.”

Apple will likely remain tight-lipped (as usual) about the roots of this particular failure, which stunned the tech community—the company generally doesn’t unveil new products unless it has worked out the technical kinks. Nonetheless, it’s clear that the engineers thought they could deliver on the product’s promise of simultaneous multi-device charging—until the hard reality of physics and heat envelopes inserted itself into the production.

For tech companies that aren’t Apple, there’s a hard but valuable lesson here: It never pays to announce something that you’re not sure will actually work. Vaporware might excite the public (or at least a portion of your customer base) for a day or two, but failing to produce a finished product will harm your brand long-term. Apple will likely get away with this once or twice—outside of the tech press, it’s hard to tell how much of the general public was genuinely excited for AirPower—but if it fails to launch something big, its brand will take the hit.

And most companies are a mere fraction of Apple’s size. In those cases, never releasing a product can prove devastating; just ask anyone who’s ever tried (and failed) to deliver on a white-hot Kickstarter campaign. Similar rules apply to janky hardware.