A Kickstarter campaign promises a usable and well-designed wireless charger built with sustainable materials. Is it a great idea, or is it too expensive?
Energy efficiency is one of the defining factors of a mobile device. But with growing screen sizes and increasing specs, power consumption tends to outgrow battery capacity, which leaves us users having to charge our devices in the middle of the workday, while driving, or even while traveling (using a portable power bank, for some). Inductive charging may be the key to convenient charging, as standards like Qi let users power up their devices just by setting it atop a charging mat, desk or even a compatible car dashboard.
The problem with these charging mats, however, is that they decrease the usability of a device. For one, you need to set the smartphone atop the mat in such a way that it is at an optimum position for charging. Need to call or text? You will have to remove the device and stop charging while using it.
A Kickstarter campaign called Swich promises a “visually attractive and highly usable stand” that provides a viewer-friendly angle, so that users can still view content, text or email while the device is charging. Swich even swivels, enabling users to quickly switch across portrait and landscape orientations. Since the charger is built using the Qi standard, it can charge compatible devices like the LG Nexus 5, Samsung Galaxy S5 and other flagship devices that support the wireless charging standard.
According to the creators, the surface is made with micro-suction tape, which is shaped reminiscent of waves. This provides maximum grip for most smartphone surfaces, and it also enables the best position of the electro-magnetic waves for inductive charging.
The campaign has targeted $250,000 and it is currently at $41,733 with 14 more days to go, exceeding the target by 67 percent so far. Stretch goals include three additional colors (apart from the default white) if the campaign reaches $50,000, and a built-in battery if it reaches $100,000.
But is it too expensive? At $170, the price of Swich far exceeds comparable products from Energizer, Panasonic and Duracell, which offer Qi charging mats for about $60 to $70 apiece. Generic chargers also retail for about $20 each. Is the design worth the price? More than 200 Kickstarter users think so, having backed the project with various bundles and packages as a reward.
The holy grail of wireless charging, of course, is for devices to charge inductively without the need to be positioned in a certain way atop a charging surface. This is the same concept behind studies that aim to incorporate inductive coils on roads, so that electric cars can charge while in motion or while parked, without having to plug in. Perhaps this technology would be worth the expense. But for a well-designed charging mat, is $170 a fair price?