Trillion-dollar tech corporations spend a lot of time and money researching, patenting, and prototyping before they launch products. Expectedly, many of these patents and prototypes remain buried in their respective companies’ labs. For example, Apple has patented all sorts of futuristic technology and features that emerge on its latest iPhones or excellent Macs. Similarly, the great iPad maker has developed prototypes that never officially saw the light of day. Despite that, some of these early units have been acquired by hobbyists, and we will be taking a look at three of them.
1 Magic Charger
Let’s start with a recently-acquired unit. The Apple Magic Charger is a MagSafe charging stand that the company never released or even publicly announced. However, several units were obtained by different collectors, revealing a clean aluminum build and a flexible MagSafe puck. The prototype includes a braided USB-C cable, which users could pair with a separate charging brick. A hobbyist was able to reveal its official name by connecting it to a Mac.
While this accessory doesn’t seem to be referenced by Apple anywhere publicly, the company did release a similar, multifunctional product. The MagSafe Duo offers both MagSafe and an Apple Watch charging puck, allowing users to charge two devices simultaneously. However, the MagSafe Duo caps out at 11W iPhone charging speeds when paired with a 20W brick, and it rises to just 14W when paired with a 27W charger. Meanwhile, Apple’s basic MagSafe charger offers 15W iPhone charging speeds, making it a cheaper, faster, and more durable alternative for those who don’t care about the Apple Watch charging puck.
Now we’re moving on to one of the well-known prototypes. Apple’s AirPower was officially announced back in September 2017 during the iPhone X launch event. At the time, the company boasted about figuring out a way to build this challenging accessory, only to cancel it a couple of years later.
For those unfamiliar, AirPower is a Qi wireless charging mat that was supposed to support iPhones, Apple Watches (despite them not supporting Qi chargers normally), and AirPods cases. So a user could theoretically place any or all of these products anywhere on AirPower’s surface to charge them. For this to work, the company had to depend on around two dozen internal coils to cover the surface.
While promising in concept, Apple couldn’t meet its high standards when developing AirPower. Consequently, it apologized to the public in March 2019 and canceled the product. Despite the company not ever selling AirPower to consumers, certain enthusiasts have been able to get their hands on official AirPower prototypes, giving us a glimpse at the device’s internal build and how it was supposed to deliver on its promise.
While Apple officially is no longer working on AirPower, Tesla released its Wireless Charging Platform, a device that pretty much replicates what AirPower was supposed to be. You can place no more than three Qi-enabled devices at a time and charge them at up to 15W. Though, obviously, you miss out on the exclusive charging animations that Apple had planned.
3 Dual-port iPad 1
Lastly, we have one of the lesser-known prototypes that indirectly materialized through some later Apple products. A few years ago, someone got their hands on a dual-port iPad 1st Gen. The two ports are identical, supporting compatible accessories that rely on the 30-pin connector. Notably, one port was placed at the bottom, while the other was positioned on the left landscape edge.
At the time, Apple was seemingly considering the design to potentially support docks, keyboards, or other accessories while the tablet was placed in a landscape orientation. Interestingly, both ports could be used at the same time, allowing users to utilize two wired connections simultaneously. Fortunately, this horrendous design was never made official and didn’t ship to customers.
Despite the dual-port iPad not launching, its idea lives on as the Smart Connector, which is available on newer iPad models. iPad users can now rely on external accessories and connections through a three-dot connector that doesn’t sacrifice the tablet’s aesthetic or look out of place.
Every Apple concept is important
While unreleased prototypes can sometimes appeal to the masses, Apple doesn’t typically launch products if it doesn’t believe in their potential. After all, Apple devices have flopped in the past, and the company now has a solid reputation to maintain. As a result, it treads carefully by researching its devices and manufacturing them differently to see which way works best, if at all. Ultimately, every concept plays a role in the company’s development, even if its effects don’t immediately surface on the consumer side.