Charging Without Wires: Powermat [review]

Plans have been afoot for a while to bring out a universal phone charger – the idea being that you don’t need a load of different chargers if every one of your devices can use the same one. That hasn’t happened yet, and so we’re still in the era of having a load of different chargers and, potentially, a snake-nest of cables behind the desk for the various gadgets you own.

The Powermat is an interesting idea, though, that charges devices using a flat surface and custom cases. The only thing plugged in is the Powermat itself, and charging happens when a device (in a compatible case) is placed on ┬áthe mat. I had a Powermat Portable Mat on loan to test recently. Here’s how I got on.

The portable mat is a hinged affair that can fold up small to fit in your luggage, which is handy, and while I can see that the Home & Office Mat is a little more stylish and lower in price, the advantage of having one that you can fold up means I’d buy the portable over the home and office version any day.

Receivers Required

There is one very important thing to understand about the Powermat – you need the receiver cases to charge your gadgets. There’s a USB socket on the back of the mat if you want to charge with a USB cable but, if that’s what you’re going to do, why did you buy a Powermat in the first place? Receiver cases allow you to simply place your devices on the mat and they’ll start to charge automatically.

I had the iPhone 3G receiver (which is apparently not compatible with the iPhone 3GS but worked just fine with mine), the Nintendo DS Lite receiver and a Powercube, which allowed me to charge the majority of my tech using the mat.

The iPhone case is of particular interest, because we all want our mobile phones to be as sleek as possible. The case is quite chunky, and has a charging coil on the back that adds to the thickness, but I usually have quite a chunky case on my iPhone anyway. While there’s no denying the Powermat case made my iPhone thicker than normal, I didn’t find it unwieldy and actually thought the case felt quite nice in my hand. I should also say again, I have seen several reviews saying the iPhone 3G case will not work with the 3GS, but I found that it did.

Ease of use

The major plus point with the Powemat is ease of use. When I go to bed at night I can just sit my phone on the mat, which is on my bedside table, and it’ll charge up. No faffing around with cables. My daughter, who is three years old, can easily charge things up without me having to worry about how she’ll handle the charger. She’s got the hang of putting things on the mat, jiggling them around until the magnet catches (which holds the devices in place) and she know that when the mat beeps she can walk away and come back to play with the phone or DS later.

Conclusion

The Powermat is a great idea, doing away with all those different wires and making it very easy to charge your tech. It’s so simple a child can get to grips with it. Buying the Powermat and the appropriate receivers for your tech can add up, though, meaning that this is an elegant solution but not necessarily a cheap one. If your frustration at having too many chargers is driving you mad, have a look at the Powermat range and see what you think.

Amazon.co.uk links within this post are affiliate links. Powermat products are also available on Amazon.com.

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Comments

  1. For a wire-free world, Powermat is a good idea. Perhaps its based on “wireless electricity” principles which may be commercially feasible in coming 2/3 years. Read a simple description here:
    http://www.techno-pulse.com/2009/10/what-wireless-electricity-or-wireless.html

    • Hi Basant,

      I think it’s a pair of induction coils – one in the Powermat and one in the case. Not quite at the point of transmitted power yet, but you never know.

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