Duracell Powermat wants to turn NYC into a wireless-charging hot spot
By Tim Moynihan
Duracell Powermat’s $100 package: A charging mat, a charging case for the iPhone, and a portable charger.
Just last year, Powermat and Duracell were rivals in the wireless-power world. The two brands had competing products in the wireless-charger market: Powermat’s eponymous charging mat and Duracell’s MyGrid charging mat. Then, late last year, the two brands formed an alliance.
On Monday, the Duracell/Powermat joint venture released its first co-branded wireless charger, the Duracell Powermat 24 Hour Power System. In addition to that in-home system, Duracell Powermat is also adding wireless charging stations to a number of high-profile locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn, hoping it will help jump-start widespread adoption of its technology.
After using the 24 Hour Power System for a few days, I think a combination of ubiquitous power mats and compatible charging cases has the potential to change things on a bigger scale. Although physically plugging your phone into a wall outlet to recharge it is a minor inconvenience, using a normal, wired charger seemed archaic after I started using the system. Today, I placed my phone down on a regular old table, expecting it to make a space-age beep and start recharging; I figure that’s a good sign for the technology’s potential.
Hands-on with the 24 Hour Power System
The $100 24 Hour Power package I tested includes three pieces of hardware: a transmitter mat that charges two devices at once, an iPhone 4/4S case embedded with an induction-coil receiver, and a portable backup battery that looks like the love child of a drink coaster and a hockey puck.
Right now, the wireless-charging features only work with an iPhone 4 or 4S inserted into one of the special induction-charging cases. The inside of each case has an iPhone connector that jacks into the bottom of the phone, and the wireless induction system charges the device through that connection. Outside of that base package I tested, you can buy a three-device charging mat for $70 or standalone iPhone charging cases for $35.
The setup is this easy: You plug the mat into a power outlet, you put the case on your phone, and you put the phone on the mat. Once the phone is on the mat, it “locks” into place with a magnet. When electrons are flowing properly, a little space-age noise blips out of the mat to let you know that the phone has started charging.
The charging mat is small, sleek, and unobtrusive enough to put on your nightstand or that table by your front door where you reflexively put your keys. It also made me want to charge my phone more often than I normally do, not just because of the sheer convenience of putting my phone down to charge it and picking it up without disconnecting a cable when I needed to use it, but also because I enjoyed hearing that little space-age blip noise.
The case doesn’t host anything bigger than the induction coil, so it’s about as thin and light as a normal iPhone case. It’s also much slimmer and lower-profile than the cases in previous versions of the Powermat system. The case is made out of a durable hard plastic, with a rubber-hinged door near the top of it that lets you swing it open and slide the phone into the case.
The portable backup battery included in the package is a different animal: You charge itwirelessly via the mat, but it charges other devices via built-in, wired connectors. You put the pocketable backup battery on the mat, it starts charging and storing juice, and four little indicator lights on the front of it let you know when its internal battery is at full capacity. It’s essentially a power outlet that you can put in your pocket or bag, letting you recharge devices when you’re in the car, on a train, in a park, or just fresh out of power outlets.
The portable backup battery stores juice and lets you charge devices away from an outlet.
The backup battery is also compatible with many more devices than just the iPhone. The battery comes with two charging connectors that flip out of its side: an Apple dock connector for charging the last few generations of iPhones and iPod Touches, and a micro-USB connector that supports phones and handheld devices that charge via micro-USB.
The system integrates perfectly into the real world, but it’s not perfect. My biggest complaint is that the included iPhone-charging case is slick in more ways than one. It has a super-glossy finish on the back of it, which can get pretty slippery. I dropped my phone a couple of times due to that friction-free case, but at least I can say for sure that the case is durable and protective enough to prevent fumble damage to the phone.
You also need to pay attention to where you’re laying your phone on the mat. The mat has two specific points on it that start the induction-charging process, so just placing your phone anywhere on the mat won’t cut it. A couple of times, the phone only started charging once it was placed a certain way, even when I felt a magnetic “lock.” In other words, waiting for that space-age blip noise isn’t just entertaining, it’s essential.
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