Whilst Apple might be cutting the wires with iOS 5 and its PC-free syncing and over the air updates, it’s still neglected one very important wired aspect of owning a smartphone – charging. Whilst it might be more convenient to never have to plug your phone into your Mac again, if you’re plugging it in to give it some juice you’re halfway there anyway. It’s a frustrating problem for iPhone power users who need their phones to hand as often as possible and don’t always have the time to dig out that natty little charger that sits at the bottom of the iPhone’s box. Fortunately, there’s a solution in a technology known as inductive charging.
Inductive charging cuts the ties that make charging an ever-so-slightly laborious issue in the technological world. It’s pretty safe to say that it’s a dark art – how electricity can transfer between two touching objects yet not give us a shock when we lay our hands on it is beyond us here at iCreate. What we do know though is that up until the last few years, inductive charging was the stuff of luxury, and like many technologies in their early stages of development it wasn’t half as convenient as it made out. If you weren’t put off by the sky-high prices for inductive charging units, you’d certainly be deterred by the sheer bulk of them. No-one really wants to turn their iPhone into a house brick. Fortunately for us, Maxell appear to have changed all of that.
Maxell’s Air voltage Wireless Qi Charging Mat and Qi charging sleeve for iPhone 4 (our only gripe so far is that it’s an absolute mouthful of a name) certainly looks the part, in that it’s rather unobtrusive. The Charging mat is not that much bigger than your average 200-page softback book and the charging sleeve (nope, we’re not quite at the stage where you can just drop your iPhone on it just yet, more on that later) isn’t too bulky either. That’s new technology problem no.1 solved. Maxell reckon that you could keep the wireless charging sleeve on your iPhone all day as a protective casing, we think it’s still a little too bulky for that, particularly around the bottom, but we’re still mightily impressive by it’s dimensions. With the charging sleeve on, using your iPhone doesn’t feel that much different, it doesn’t really get in the way of everyday usage and you don’t feel like your applying an extra wide grip to get it in your hand. This is a victory where a lot of similar units have previously failed.
Operation is just as easy as well, plug the mat into the mains, pop your iPhone into the sleeve (it makes use of the dock connection to get the juice into your phone), and lay it on the mat. That’s it. If you’ve never used anything like this before, you’d be forgiven for thinking there’s a few steps missing from these instructions but we did tell you that wireless charging is a dark art. It’s quick too, we reckon it’s no slower than charging via a wall plug, again, another stumbling block for some similar units. Obviously a more scientific version of the charge time test will follow in due course.
We’ve been using Air Voltage for the last week or so now and it’s incredibly convenient, once you’ve got used to the idea of always putting your phone down in the same place, you’ve got a pretty good guarantee that you’ll always have enough power to get your through the day. We’re not a massive fan of sleeves for the iPhone in general so we leave ours off when we’re out and about but even that is a fairly quick and painless process.
Interestingly, the Qi element of Maxell’s product name (it’s actually pronounced ‘chee’) refers to an international universal wireless charging standard, and Maxell reckon that around 80 manufacturers are going to adopt Qi charging technology in their products, which means your mat could be used for a lot more than the iPhone. We still don’t know if Apple can be counted amongst one of those 80, so you might have to hold onto that sleeve a little bit longer, either way, if you’re prepared to pay that little bit more money for the convenience of wireless charging. Maxell’s Air Voltage set is definitely a winner.
The Wireless Qi Charging Mat will be available for around £59.99 from October and the iPhone 4 sleeve will sell for £36.99 at the same time.