What Digital Camera review's Powermat's most recent release, the Powermat portable. Here's what we thought in our test...
Powermat moves one step closer to ‘wireless’ charging by offering unique peripherals to charge your iPhone, iPod Touch, Blackberry or Nintendo DS. There’s also a Powercube unit that has multiple heads for an array of different devices. So far, so good. However, the ‘wireless’ element of Powermat isn’t as clear-cut as it may seem – the main device itself still relies on a mains connection, and there’s no internal battery for backup. And, with those setbacks, you’ll also be limited to charging your devices only at the additional expense of purchasing the relevant ‘enabling’ receiver – the iPhone unit costing around £30 on top of the initial £70 purchase, with other costs varying from £25-35 depending on where you shop.
In certain contexts the Powermat is a great concept however. In an office environment, if I had a pound for every time someone piped up, ‘Has anyone got a charger for this thingymajig?’ then I’d be a richer man. If you nip abroad a lot, you’ll only need one adaptor plug rather than many; plus, thanks to the Portable’s included carry case, it folds up nice and small for transport.
The simplicity of popping the device onto the magnetised mat is as simple as it sounds. There’s space for three items and even a reassuring beep – which can be muted or volume adjusted – to confirm that the connection’s been made. Also, for device-specific issues – plugging the crude Apple iPhone/iPod Touch charger to Apple’s devices has been known to cause the dreaded ‘crack’ that’ll essentially see the end of your device – the Powermat eradicates this danger by removing the need to plug in and out. But it’s not perfect: the case for the iPhone sits flush to the screen, so there’s no protection and no ability to add a protective case in addition. Anyone who’s had the classic, and expensive, shattered screen will know the perils this brings. The solid plastic-like receiver case is functional, but would be much preferred if there were additional soft-cases with better protective qualities.
The Powercube is a great buy for those with several phones, though you’ll only be able to charge one at once through its wired connection. And that’s the notable issue: there are still wires. If you wanted to save £100 and invest in a simple multi-plug then you could directly charge all your devices individually. Sure it wouldn’t look as cool, and you may get into a wire-tangled mess, but was it such a significant issue before?
The most exciting and positive aspect though is what this technology will begin to do in the near future. Most of the problems outlined above will be eradicated in next-gen Powermat Portable X-series (due in June). These will include internal batteries for on-the-go charging, capabilities to support many more phones, netbooks, eBooks and more. A new iPhone ‘extended battery case’ receiver will add a longer battery life to the quickly-depleting existing Apple standard. After that we expect support for camera batteries and similar devices, really opening up a wide selection of possibility. So, for now, there’s a great concept that will soon expand to be considerably more promising.
Not without its flaws, but we like how the unit looks, the concept and we'll certainly be sharing one in this office...