Back in February at MWC in Barcelona we met up with Powermat to see their range of solutions for wireless charging of all sorts of devices (iPhones, Blackberrys, Nintendo DS and iPods, among others). Perhaps most importantly, we have since got hold of some review samples of the Powermat, iPhone case, iPod dock and PowerCube. [...]
Back in February at MWC in Barcelona we met up with Powermat to see their range of solutions for wireless charging of all sorts of devices (iPhones, Blackberrys, Nintendo DS and iPods, among others). Perhaps most importantly, we have since got hold of some review samples of the Powermat, iPhone case, iPod dock and PowerCube. I’ve been using the whole lot for the last few weeks and can now share with the world the joys (and few low points) of the Powermat system.
The idea behind the Powermat system is one of simplicity – charge as many devices as you can using a single socket. For this to work you need to remove the main obstacles; those obstacles are generally in the form of custom, proprietary and generally different power adapters. What you have with the Powermat system is a charging mat that you place your device on and, well, it charges it – without the wires/adapters.
This site is called Wired4iPhone for a reason: we like iPhones. As such I will mainly concentrate on the iPhone Powermat solution and only briefly mention these ‘other devices’ that apparently exist. So, the obvious question is how do you charge your iPhone without connecting a lead? Well, basically you stick it in a Powermat case which has a direct connection into the “dock-connector” and a power receiver on the back. The case itself is sturdy, made out of a slightly rubberised plastic and adds around 3mm to the depth of the phone and about 6-8mm to the bottom where the dock connector fits into it. While it’s not overly bulky, the receiver does tend to cause an unsightly bulge in your pocket – perhaps if the case had been designed to blend into the receiver a bit more rather than sticking out so much then it may have ‘felt’ a bit better in your pocket. While in the case you can easily get to the power, and volume buttons but the silent switch is tricky to control though – it is easy to flick it away to put it into silent but, because of it’s proximity to the case, it is hard to actually pull back to turn silent mode off. The case also has openings at the base for the microphone and speaker.
So, your iPhone has it’s new jacket on so what next? Well, you need to charge it! This is beautifully simple – put it on the charging mat. Yes, that’s it – no fiddling with the lead, simply place it on one of the ‘dots’ on the mat. These ‘dots’ are magnetic so if you are very slightly off target it will pull it into place. You will also get a confirmatory noise and the white LED will glow (both the sound and lights can be turned off). This particular mat has 3 charge points but you will also be able to buy single point mats in the near future – these were on display at MWC but are not yet on the Powermat website. The Powermat will not overcharge your iPhone as it detects when it is fully charged and turns off the supply. I’m pretty sure it is all more technological that this but from an end-user point of view it’s all very simple!
Rather annoyingly the Powermat iPhone case does not use the standard iPhone sync lead, instead the case has a micro-USB connection (the lead is included). The case is actually quite tricky to remove so unless you have another micro-USB lead in the car then you will start to get fed up with the whole set up…
Another disadvantage is the likelihood that you are the only person you know with a Powermat set up. This means when you go away you either need to take the Powermat with you (a normal charger is way smaller) or remove the case (somewhat defeating the point). This is, however, a chicken and egg situation: as more people use Powermat, more charging points will be available, but without the availability of public or commonplace mats then fewer people might be inclined to use the system…
All is not lost though, at MWC the company were showing off their OEM kit along with a camcorder battery, smartphone battery and kettle all with Powermat built in. Once companies see the potential of such a system then it should be easier to get your device(s) charged.
As well as the iPhone case you can also get an add-on for a Nintendo DS, back plate for Blackberry, iPod dock and the Powercube. I managed to get a Powercube and iPod dock for this review.
The iPod dock is adjustable according to which model you have and does a good job of holding your ipod in place thanks to a rubber grip. Again, to charge you place the dock on the charge mat. The Powercube is for practically everything else. It contains a receiver, a mini-USB fly-lead and a box of adapters. The adapters fit onto the mini-USB and allow you to connect various phones and devices. It’s quite handy and they’ve even printed the adaptor type onto each one in case you get your Samsung mixed up with Sony Ericsson! This brings us back to the chicken and egg again, you have more adapters and leads than if you just took a single charger but then if more places had a Powermat available then it would actually give you less to carry.
Overall it’s a good system. The parts are well made and don’t feel cheap. Perhaps that is because they’re not cheap! The set up below costs a rather staggering £169.96 (Powermat £69.99, iPhone case £34.99, iPod dock £34.99, Powercube £29.99). Again, once something like this becomes more common place then the prices may drop – or at least I would hope so!
The whole thing works well but is let down somewhat by the lack of places, for example hotels, who offer a Powermat as a service. But then more people must embrace the technology before anything like that will happen. If they hurry up and market the replacement smart phone batteries they had on show, as well as pushing the OEM take up, then it could speed up the whole process.