Earlier this year, Apple completely cancelled and scrapped its AirPower charging product due to the product ‘not meeting their standards’. However, there’s now an alternative in the form of the AirUnleashed.
The AirUnleashed Wireless Charging Mat is, in its own words, a ‘radically simplified’ version of what the AirPower could have been. Apple were trying to fit 32 overlapping charging coils into one mat, while the AirUnleashed uses only three.
The left coil is designed to charge iPhones and outputs at 7.5W. The middle coil charges Apple Watches at 2W, and the coil on the right charges AirPods (or an iPhone, if you want) at 5W. I borrowed a friend’s AirPods for this review so, while I can’t weigh in on the mat’s effects on Apple Watches, I can safely weigh in on iPhones and everyone’s favourite meme-able wireless earbuds.
Straight out the box, the AirUnleashed is quite unassuming. It’s a small, minimalist, white mat with rounded corners and a single cable. It’s soft to the touch, with the top having a leather-esque coating and the bottom having an anti-slip microfibre feel. To the untrained eye, you could easily mistake it for an authentic Apple product.
Aside from two small grey plus symbols, there’s no other logos or markings on the mat. It complemented my iPhone colour scheme nicely and blended smoothly into the general décor of whichever room it was in.
I will note that the AirUnleashed requires a QC 2.0 or higher charger with an output current of at least 2A at 5V, and doesn’t come with a charger in the box. The default iPhone charger isn’t compatible with the mat, while the iPad charger and any other third-party chargers with 2A charging ports are.
The mat doesn’t come with a charger bundled with it. If you need one, AirUnleashed do sell a QC 3.0 USB Wall Charger (you can choose from a US, UK, or EU plug), which supports Fast Charging capabilities, on their site for an additional $14.
The device comes with an instruction and safety manual which I heartily suggest you read, read again, and then read a third time just in case. Although the manual doesn’t say that you need to remove your iPhone’s case for charging – but you do need to remove anything with a magnetic strip, such as a credit card – I removed mine, just in case.
While, generally, wireless charging works fine with a thin plastic phone case, I have a thick and bulky Otterbox brand case on my phone. This lead to me developing a personal issue with the AirUnleashed, as I had to remove my phone’s case every single time I wanted to charge my phone.
While this isn’t the AirUnleashed’s fault, as wireless charging has yet to reach the point where charging using a thick case is safe, it still means that the allure and appeal of the product was dampened somewhat for me.
If you value your phone’s safety and lack of scratches over easy wireless charging, the AirUnleashed won’t be for you. If you don’t have a case or have a thin plastic one, you’ll probably be fine and enjoy all the benefits the wireless charging mat has to offer.
Charging itself is as simple as plugging your AirUnleashed into a wall socket and putting your iPhone/AirPods/Apple Watch down on their respective mat coil. When you’re not using the mat for charging, it’ll go into rest mode to conserve energy and prevent any potential overheating troubles.
This causes a problem where, sometimes, the AirUnleashed won’t wake from rest mode and it may take a lot of picking up your device and putting it back down to convince the mat to kick into gear. This can be especially frustrating if you’re in a hurry, or if you pop your device down without double checking and return an hour later to find it hasn’t charged.
In regards to overheating, I never noticed any sort of heating issue with the AirUnleashed or any of my devices. The mat maintained a cool temperature to the touch and, at most, my iPhone and the AirPods charging case felt slightly warm, similar to how they do after being charged with a cable for a while.
For how fast the mat charges your devices, I didn’t really notice much of a difference between wired and wireless charging in terms of time. Both the wired charging and wireless charging took around 3 hours to completely charge my iPhone 8 Plus, which was operating at 87% maximum battery capacity, from 1% to 100%.
The AirPods in their charging case, which were approximately a month old, took around an hour to charge fully on the AirUnleashed.
I will say that, despite the lack of a difference in time taken to charge, the AirUnleashed was significantly more efficient and convenient overall. It’s much easier to just pick up your iPhone or AirPods or Apple Watch and go about your day and, when they need charging, to just place your device down on a mat instead of fussing about with wires and plugs.
The bottom line is this: the AirUnleashed is an excellent charging mat if you’re a fan of wireless charging and have only a couple of Apple products. No, it’s not the AirPower that Apple promised – and that’s fine, because it’s not what Apple promised. The AirUnleashed does what it says on the tin, and it it does it efficiently and with ease.
Despite this, if you’re not a fan of wireless charging or if you only have one device that supports wireless charging, then you probably won’t be interested in the AirUnleashed. Once I gave the AirPods back to my friend, I didn’t really see the need for having an entire mat just for my iPhone, especially when I still had to remove the phone case in order to charge it.
However, if you have an iPhone, an Apple Watch, and some AirPods, I suggest thinking about picking up the AirUnleashed. You’ll be able to charge all three devices in half the time and with only one socket being taken up. The price tag is also fairly decent.
If you’re interested, you can get the AirUnleashed here for $99, with free worldwide shipping.
Note: I was asked to change the images in the article after I had returned the AirPods, which explains the lack of AirPods and the exceptional amount of “X for scale” items. Please rest assured that all three Apple devices can fit on the mat with room to spare.