Review: Powermat for iPhone

Powermat tries to take the pain out of iPhone charging. (May 29th, 2010)

The Powermat Wireless Charging System for iPhone is a unique offering that give iPhone users both a wireless charging system as well as a protective case for their phone. Cable-free power sounds great in theory, but as most iPhone users either already have a case donít want one, how useful could this device really be? Read on to see our take.

Electronista Rating:

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Product Manufacturer: Powermat

Price: $70

The Good

  • Good concept.
  • Charges quickly.
  • Easy to remove the case.

The Bad

  • Bulky case.
  • Can't dock without removing the case.
  • A lot to pay for a few seconds of convenience.

Design and build quality

The Powermat charging station is a very straightforward device; it looks and feels very well built. The case, in turn, is made up of two separate pieces that connect to each other to envelop an iPhone. The bottom half of the case is durable and feels well built, but the top half doesn't seem to have the same build quality as the bottom and feels a lot flimsier.

The Powermat charging station has a set of white LEDs on the bottom of the mat that light up when an iPhone is docked, a chiming sound is also made to confirm the charging connection. Powermat thoughtfully included a small magnet in both halves of the charging system, so the iPhone slides right into the correct position on the charging mat. Along with these functional features, the company also boasts a number of power saving features to ensure that the charger is as economical and low power as possible; these are hard to gauge in practice, but it's good to know Powermat is at least concerned about the issue.





Functionality

When charging with the Powermat, our iPhone seemed to charge just as quickly as with a traditional USB charger. However, it faces the same quirk that many other battery cases face: the only way to sync the an iPhone when using case is to either remove it and use a traditional Dock Connector cable or to use a mini USB cord to connect the iPhone to a computer. That's alright in most situations, but it makes AC adapter charging or a dock an impractical option.

The Powermat case is larger than most cases both in thickness and length due to the charging hardware necessary to make the system work. The case does provide ample access to the phone's buttons and headphone jack but replaces the Apple dock connector with a mini USB port. For some users the added girth of the case will make the Powermat a no-go from the start; in comparison to other cases, such as the mophie Juice Pack Air, the extra size is certainly noticeable.



Wrapping up

The Powermat is, at least in concept, a very cool product. The magnetic dock charges the iPhone surprisingly quickly. The case certainly has some drawbacks, as its very design forces you to change your usage habits; if you've invested a large amount in dockable hardware or have tight pockets, this won't be an option. But if you don't mind the girth, it could be compelling if plugging in a cable is often a nuisance.

In our opinion, the real issue may just be that the wireless charging is not that earth-shattering a development, and a truly unique solution would be built into the body. Paying $70 for an average at best iPhone case and saving a few seconds with each charge-up seems a little much to us it's only if you're a zealot about minimizing accessory clutter that it's likely to be the best thing since sliced bread.

by Kelcey Lehrich


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