Home >> Powermat - The first wireless charging Solution

Powermat lays out the Future - Review Part 1
Posted: November 19, 2009

Do you sometimes find your phone's battery empty in the morning because you didn't plug it in the evening before? Do you run "out of juice" in the afternoon? Has charging become a chore? Additional chargers might help - but you still have to plug'm in! There is a solution now - lose the cords. No wires, no plugs anymore. Go wireless.

We are talking about the Powermat solution. A realization of a concept that we might find becoming a standard feature in many future phones in the coming years. This is version 1.0 and early adopters gonna like it. However, it's not one size fits all, but if it fits your profile, likes, needs and pocket, go get it. You will like it. Read on to find out whether it will fit into your life.

Powermat  Home VersionPowermat Foldable

The Home / Office and the foldable Powermats shown with the Universal Receiver Disc

What it is
Powermat rolled out its wireless charging product line for mobile devices in September. Two power mats - a 3-device charging mat for the home and office and a foldable, 3-device mat for traveling accompanied with a line of receiver cases for the iPhone, iPod, battery doors for Blackberry and Nintendo Backs.
Each PowerMat also comes with an initially odd looking Universal Receiver and a pack of 8 different tips. Wireless back to cables? Weird. More on this later.

The hardware is well designed. Powermat's eye for the detail is visible at every corner, edge and curve of the hardware and overall only limited by the fact that version 1.0 receiver components couldn't be integrated into the products they were designed for.

Starting with the mats that have adjustable Leds and audible confirms that a device has "connected" with the smart mats charger controls, to built-in magnets pulling and holding the [power receiving] phones in place, down to the packaging design that by itself would be worth an "unboxing" photo session.
Don't worry - we didn't.

What you get
Each Powermat box comes with these:

  • an international power supply (Energy Star Level 5) - well designed cable management,
  • the mat with 3 charging spaces and integrated magnets pulling and holding the receivers in place,
  • 1 USB power port - adding this 4th charging spot lets you replace 4 "old type" chargers with one,
  • 1 button to adjust brightness of "charger on" LEDs,
  • 1 button to adjust an audible chirp that confirms when wireless charging connection is made,
  • 1 Universal Receiver with miniUSB connector,
  • 7 tips expanding possible connections to microUSB, Apple, DS Lite, DS I, LG1, Samsung 2, PSP,
  • carrying container for the 7 tips, registration card and [multi-national] user manual.

What about the Receiver Case?
This part is the most critical element. It contains the receiver coil and a few electronic components and it's used to make the electrical connection to the phone's or iPod's charging connector. Ideally these parts should all be inside or part of the back of the mobile device so it's original shape isn't changed too much.
Works well for the Blackberry's since only the battery door is replaced. Not to perfect for the iPhone - you get an entire case that's a bit larger than a standard case. (First time I missed a battery door on the iPhone...) And - one more thing. If you are brand sensitive you might hesitate - since your iPhone or Blackberry will be turned into Powermat phones. See images below. We hope this is just a version 1.0 flaw...

  Powermat Iphone Case Powermat Blackberry Back    

The Base Station Mats
The company developed 2 base stations - one for the house and office with three "places" to charge, and a foldable Powermat also with 3 charging places. Believe us - if you have the standard Powermat and whether you are traveling a lot or just once a month, you either take the mat with you or you might want to invest in the the foldable mat as well - unless you want to use included USB to microUSB cable that comes with the iPhone case.
The only thing we'd miss at this time is a single pad - good for a car and traveling.

Here we "simulated" a single Mat with the foldable mat - kind of triggered the single mat idea.

Powermat Folded

Our test pool consisted of iPhones, Blackberrys, iPods and a Razr with a Bluetooth headset and we realized quickly that the Universal Receiver wasn't just a "dumb" idea. The disc just became another convenient connection to a charger. We used it for an iPod Nano, a Bluetooth headset and the Razr - and it instantly obsoleted the old Motorola and Jabra chargers.

We could see a lot of our mobile devices to ship without chargers in the future when this new concept matures. See sidebar. Gone are also the days of these electrical contraptions: 6-outlet power strips loaded with all the different chargers that we could fit into them.

How to use it
Place the Powermat into your usual charge spot. Now just drop your phone on it and the magnets will pull it into the right spot. An audible chirp confirms the charging has started. That's all.
The seemingly little task of plugging the charging cable into your phone is gone.

We had a chance to "live" with the Powermat for a couple of weeks now and were able to "retire" some of my chargers. I'm charging wirelessly now and I haven't run on empty yet. But some of our testers found themselves on the not-for-me list.

For whom it's not ?

  • Anybody who prefers to keep his phone "naked" - without a case.
  • Anybody who can not get over the Powermat chrome badge on the case.
  • You are using an iPod/iPhone radio or dock to listen to music - and charge.

If you fall in those categories for any of your devices - the wireless part of the Powermat might not work for you. However, take advantage of of the Universal Receiver or the USB port and you still draw from the benefits of the Powermat - reducing the number of chargers around the house.

Universl Receiver with tips

It's a multi-device charger with 3 wireless connections and a USB port. Use the Universal Receiver with the iPod tip and off you go. Or just plug-in your iPhone cable into the USB port in the back of the mat. A charger is a charger and this one is a real good one: powering multiple devices and it has Energy Star Level 5 classification. One energy-efficient charger for 4 devices.

Part 2 of the Review will go into the technical details of the Powermat. And we will also discuss how the Powermat fits into the EU and UN decisions to reduce electronic waste and reducing energy usage by the millions of "old" chargers out there. Come back in a couple of days.

Who was First ?
The first cell phone that employed wireless charging was the Palm Pre. For an additional $79 one can buy the Touchstone charger - a base [station] and a replacement back cover for the Pre. A perfect solution that provided complete integration of the "power receiver" within the phones original case. Since design and make was all done by Palm they also added a few nice software add-ons that were triggered when the Pre was charged by the Touchstone station.

Another contender for the implementation of the wireless charging concept was WildCharge who released its product earlier in 2009. Duracell took over and sells it as a wire-free charging solution under its PureEnergy brand.

Conceptually it provides the same "convenience" than the Touchstone and the Powermat. However, since phones have become devices that we "carry" and not hide in our pockets and purses, we doubt whether Wildcharge will win many users in the now almost fashion-driven smart phone world.

Form over Function rules. Check for yourself.

Related Links:

Electricity Monitoring saves Energy

The Plugged-In Age haunts us (NY-Times)

Wireless Charging

Saving Energy at Home by watching it

Less Electronic Waste in Europe.

While the European Union seems to focus first on reducing the number of chargers by voting for a standard electrical connection - microUSB, the U.S. is targeting to reduce electricity usage. Disconnecting chargers when they are not charging is just what it says - a nice concept. Just replace one more 75 Watt incandescent light bulb with a CFL bulb compensates for 20 plugged-in chargers!
What we need is a smart charger that draws zero current when it's done with charging!


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