Apple may not have delivered on its promise of releasing its AirPower charging mat so far, but that does not mean a multi-device charger is not feasible. AT&T is reportedly developing a similar wireless charger called the AT&T Power Drum.
What to expect from the AT&T Power Drum
The AT&T Power Drum does not appear to be as big as the AirPower in size, but its odd canister shape will enable users to charge an iPhone and Apple Watch simultaneously. Interestingly, the Apple Watch must be wrapped around the charger to charge it wirelessly. Magnets around the charger help to hold the watch in place.
According to filings with the FCC and Qi Wireless Power Consortium, the AT&T Power Drum is able to put out five, 7.5 and 10 watts on select wireless charging devices and up to five watts on the Apple Watch. The iPhone is limited to 7.5 watts. The device is also small enough to fit into a bag. In fact, its small size enables it to serve as a power bank, although it only has a 3,000 mAh capacity.
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Interestingly, AT&T calls it the “Power Drum Wireless Charger & Apple Watch Power Bank.” The charger and power bank support all Qi-compatible smartphones, but when it comes to the Apple Watch, the filing strangely omits the Apple Watch Series 4. One possible reason could be that the company had planned to release the Power Drum earlier this year. The Apple Watch Series 4 was just released in September.
Other specifications revealed in the filings describe it as a two-in-one portable charger which can charge an Apple Watch and Qi-enabled wireless device simultaneously. It supports the Apple Watch Series 3, Apple Watch Series 2, Apple Watch Series 1, and the original Apple Watch. The device features a built-in magnetic charging module to charge the Apple Watch.
One possible drawback
Overall, the AT&T Power Drum appears to be a decent product, but there is one drawback. It features a micro USB port rather than a USB Type-C port. The carrier may have started developing the device when USB Type-C ports weren’t so widely used. It’s possible the final version of the Power Drum will come with a USB Type-C port.
As of now, there is no more information about the Power Drum, including its price and release date or if it will be available for non-AT&T customers. However, the FCC filing does hint that the Power Drum could cost around $100.
The news about the AT&T Power Drum comes as Apple failed in its promise to launch the AirPower in 2018. Several third-party wireless chargers have hit the market since the company first showcased the AirPower, and now it appears AT&T also aims to capitalize on the missing charging mat by offering its own similar product.
AirPower may get a privacy feature also
Although there are no signs of Apple’s AirPower wireless charging mat, a recent patent application suggests the company could still be working on the product. The patent application filed with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office references a security feature for the AirPower, according to 9to5mac. The patent application describes the use of a unique ID to protect the data transmitted between the AirPower and the device it is charging.
One of the images in the patent application showed how the AirPower can recognize the device with the biggest screen, and that device is used to show the charging status of all the devices placed on the mat, including the AirPower itself. Thus, when an iPhone is placed on the AirPower mat, it should display its own charging status and those of the Apple Watch, AirPods, and AirPods case while they’re charging, all on the iPhone lock screen.
This suggests the AirPower does transmit some charging-related data to the accessories it is charging. Thus, to prevent malicious snooping, the patent indicates that AirPower can assign each device a unique ID when such data is transmitted.
“In this manner, nearby malicious devices attempting to snoop on information transmitted between the computing device 1020 and the wireless charging apparatus 1002 will only be able to gather innocuous data,” the patent notes.
The patent also references “periodically refreshing” the IDs to further prevent any malicious activity.
Additionally, the patent notes that Apple’s wireless charging mat “can implement” other charging technologies as well, like the Power Matters Alliance’s technology.
One other thing to note is that this is only a patent application and not a full patent. Thus, it does not suggest anything about the AirPower’s release date. However, trusted Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo did say in October that Apple could launch the AirPower in late 2018 or early 2019. Of course late 2018 is definitely out of the question now, so let’s hope Apple comes releases the accessory in 2019.