I was lucky enough to recently win a Powermat thanks to a competition run on Twitter by Powermat in the UK. I’ve been using it for a little while now and I thought it was about time I brought my thoughts to the readers of Splodz Blogz.
I was sent the Complete System for iPhone4, which included a small Powermat, an iPhone4 case, and the necessary other bits to make it work. It arrived very quickly – the next working day in fact, I was impressed. The model I got retails at £49.99 from the Powermat UK website.
Powermat is a wireless charging device for phones and other devices that works using magnetic alignment between the Powermat and a receiver, which in my case was inside the iPhone4 case provided. This product only works for the iPhone4, but Powermat also do mats for Blackberry, Nintendo DS, iPhone 3GS and also mats to charge multiple devices.
It’s a great idea. I see it as working rather like my electric toothbrush charges – it just sits on the charger (which itself is plugged into the wall) with no wires or metal bits showing. I imagined having the mat part sat on my desk at work, and just laying my iPhone on it when I’m there, topping up the charge without having to worry about having a charger in the office or carrying one around with me.
When in the case (I’ll come to that shortly), the iPhone4 sits on the mat really nicely. This version of the mat has raised corners so there is no chance the iPhone can slip off the mat, and the whole thing looks really great sat on my desk – quite stylish. My iPhone charged in a similar length of time as when plugged into the mains using the official Apple charger (much faster than when charging using the USB cable in my computer) – it went from 28% to 100% in just over an hour and a half.
When you place the iPhone on the mat a white light turns on and a short “I’m connected” audio cue sounds. This satisfies the inner geek in me – I know it’s working. There is also an opposite audio cue when you take the iPhone off the mat – an “I’m not connected anymore, is that ok?” kind of thing. The only problem is everyone else in the office also knows when I’ve just put my iPhone on the mat… and when I’ve picked it up to read a text message… and when I’ve put it back on the mat again… and so on. A little annoying for my colleagues – and me. It says on the Powermat website that the volume of the audio cue can be changed but I couldn’t see any mention of this in the instruction manual and a Google search came up with nothing. I have tweeted Powermat and will update this when I’ve had a reply.
Like I say, the whole system looks really great – design has been considered carefully. My main gripe, though, is with the case. I find it is just too big and clumsy – it’s slippery and awkward to hold.
It’s easy to put the iPhone into the case – it is hinged near the top which enables you to push the phone into the case and onto the docking connection at the bottom, before clipping the top of the case shut. But as a case for a beautifully designed mobile phone goes, it really doesn’t do it justice. The main reason is the the size – does the Powermat receiver built into the case really have to make it so bulky?
You can see the case alongside my preferred case above (a smoke-coloured Incase snap case), and just how much bigger it is. You can also see the angled edges and the high-shine plastic finish which makes it really slippery and therefore not feeling particularly safe and secure in my hands. I so want it to look and feel better.
Also, while the case has cutouts for the camera and volume controls, the lack of a docking connector at the bottom means I can’t use it in my Bose Soundock without taking it out of the case. Powermat have put a useful micro USB connection in the bottom of the case (a micro USB to USB cable supplied with the kit) so I can connect it to my computer for updates, but this doesn’t help me play my music in my kitchen.
If I’m honest this is a case that I would rather not have on my iPhone at all. It’s something I will keep in the office to use when I’m there alongside the Powermat itself (I can’t use the Powermat without it). This is a shame as ideally I would like to keep the same case on my iPhone all the time.
My favourite bit of design, which probably makes me a bit of a nerd, is the power adapter (yes that is what I said). A lot of thought has obviously gone into it to allow the cable to coil nicely around the adapter, and then fix together using the little hook at the end of the cable so it doesn’t come unravelled. While this makes the power adapter a little larger than is perhaps completely necessary, I often find that on electrical items that need a power cable that is not always plugged in it is the cable (or rather the point at which the cable meets the plug) that wears out first. This design means that the cable is kept in pristine condition, free from breaks. I would happily sacrifice a little space in my bag or drawer for this really neat way of looking after the cable. ALL chargers should be designed like this!
I do like my Powermat and have been using it at work and home and will continue to do so, but I feel that more thought needs to be put into the case for the iPhone4 which could serve the product much better with a few modifications. As a concept I love it, but in practice it isn’t working in the way I’d hoped. Perhaps Apple can be persuaded to put receivers inside the iPhone5 and then all we’ll need is the mat itself? Now that would be efficient charging.