When Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) announced its latest iPhone 8 series and iPhone X at a product launch keynote last September, one of the key features of the new devices was wireless charging capability. Naturally, alongside these smartphones, Apple also introduced a wireless charging pad that it marketed as AirPower.
AirPower, Apple said, would be available sometime in 2018, though the company didn't pinpoint an exact date.
Per a new rumor from Mac Otakara, a Japanese site that has accurately reported information about future Apple products, Apple intends to make the AirPower charging mat available next month.
Here's why this is important to Apple's business.
A new source of revenue
Apple hasn't announced pricing for the AirPower charging mat, but MacRumors -- citing a "price listing for the accessory that appeared on a Polish website in November" -- thinks that it'll sell for $199.
The $199 figure is a pretty hefty sum, and if Apple can sell significant quantities of these each year, it could add hundreds of millions of dollars to its annual revenue.
That's not the kind of revenue growth that'll convince people to buy Apple stock if they weren't interested before, but for the long-term health of Apple's business, every new source of sustainable revenue is a good thing.
Improving the value of newer iPhones
Although Apple talked about wireless charging as a key new feature in the iPhone 8 series and iPhone X, the reality is that customers have to rely on third-party chargers that, frankly, deliver hit-or-miss charging performance.
For example, as I perused the Apple online store for a wireless charging pad, I saw some models from third parties like mophie and Belkin -- two well-known names in smartphone accessories.
The mophie charging pad had a 3.5-star average rating out of a possible five on the website, with many serious complaints about the performance, reliability, and usability of the pad. Out of 92 customer reviews, 24 of them rated the device at one star, while 11 gave it two stars.
Another one, from Belkin, fared even worse, with a 2.5-star average rating on the site. Out of 59 reviews, 25 of them were one-star and nine of them were two-star.
I think that by not selling its own branded wireless charging pad, built to Apple's higher standards, the value proposition of wireless charging on the iPhone 8 series and iPhone X is diminished.
Once the AirPower mat is available, I'd expect many current iPhone 8/X users to consider buying one to take advantage of the wireless charging capabilities of their devices.
If the AirPower mat works well (that is, it's unequivocally more convenient to use it than to plug the iPhone/Apple Watch/AirPods into the charger directly), then wireless charging could become a significant selling point for Apple's new iPhone models.
The attractiveness of wireless charging as a selling point could be amplified as users of older iPhones see users of newer iPhones benefit from the convenience of a wireless-charging iPhone and an AirPower mat.
Ultimately, anything that helps to convince customers to upgrade their existing iPhones is a win for Apple, and I think once the full potential of wireless charging is realized (the AirPower mat could help with that), Apple could see some modest acceleration in the typical iPhone upgrade rate.