In the keynote event for its Mi 11 Pro flagship phone today, Xiaomi surprised the audience by showing a charging mat that stirs all Apple fans' hearts. The Beijing-based phone and gadget maker gave it the usual nerdy mouthful name: Multi-coil Wireless Fast Charging Mat, which is exactly what it sounds like. The price, 599 RMB (roughly $90 US), is quite modest compared to people's $200 anticipation towards Apple's nixed product, the AirPower, unveiled 4 years ago.
The charging mat has, according to Xiaomi's co-founder and CEO Lei Jun, cost the engineering team two years to finalize its design, embedding a whopping 19-coil system with proper heat management.
What's also interesting is that coincidentally, Apple's senior vice president Dan Riccio issued the statement officially cancelling AirPower exactly 2 years ago.
Xiaomi's take on the AirPower shares a similar design except for being rectangular, rather than Apple's rounded approach. The charging mat supports up to 3 Qi-compatible devices to charge simultaneously but also supports other general wireless chargeable devices, delivering up to 20W per device. That's one device supported than the AirPower that never came to be.
Besides charing speed, another advantage of this gadget is the position-free design. Users don't have to hassle lining up their devices with the coil in the charger. Instead, they can place their phone anywhere they'd like on the mat. That is also what Apple had pictured in the 2017 iPhone X keynote.
At the event, Lei Jun didn't mention AirPower, but interestingly he did have a word for MagSafe, Apple's carefree wireless charging pad substitute that was used on the latest generation of iPhones. "Apple now has MagSafe to help align your phone to the charing mat," Lei Jun said, "and Xiaomi once had a motorized coil solution - but that was stressful to use."
This is not the first time that Xioami has outcompeted Apple in terms of wireless charging. Last year it introduced the Mi 20W Smart Tracking Wireless Charging Pad, which can track two devices at the same time and automatically move the coils to where the devices are placed. Meantime, Apple's AirPower alternative in the new MagSafe era is the MagSafe Duo Charger, which supports an iPhone and an Apple Watch to be charged simultaneously, though being criticized for lacking in basic features while overpriced at $129.
AirPower is one of the very rare cases that Apple had decided to not put to market products it showed off on its keynote events. Related leaks and published patent filings have shown that AirPower had more than twenty coils, potentially realizing the company's abandoned ambition to support multiple wireless charing standards on multiple devices simultaneously. It was also said to be a costly charging pad priced over 200 USD. But essentially, it had a substantial overheating issue. Since it was first announced, Apple's hardware team had spent over a year and eventually did not succeed in making it right.
From the looks of it, the team at Xiaomi has found a way to solve the overheating problem and was able to deliver their solution at an even cheaper price tag. However, It is too soon to say Xiaomi has invented what Apple has not. In the mean time, Lei briefly talked about the new charging mat for about 2 minutes before going onto other offerings, and skipped the exact launch date on site. There was also no mention yet on Xiaomi's website and social networks after the keynote as of the publishing of this article.
Whether the charging mat will hit the market or not, it gives everyone, not just Mi fans, another light of hope on the AirPower experience that Apple lured almost 4 years ago.
Apart from introducing premium smartphone lines, Xiaomi's launch event is too massive to fill in one day, as Lei abruptly told the audience that he will be back tomorrow evening to kick off the second half of Xiaomi's flagship reveal. PingWest will update as soon as more interesting products are released.
Update: Multi-coil Wireless Fast Charging Mat will be released on April 2nd in the Chinese market.