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There are many technologies we're desperate to see break into the mainstream: WiGig, LightPeak and Near Field Communications (NFC) to name just a handful, but the easiest to implement would be inductive charging. Other than the Palm Pre and its Touchstone charger the induction charging in gadgets remains criminally underused so peripherals companies are taking matters in their own hands and none with more vigour than Powermat…
For those not in the know, inductive charging has been around for years. The science is quite complex, but the simplest way to describe it is a form of short distance wireless energy transfer. An induction coil in the charging base station creates an electromagnetic field which transmits power to a second induction coil in the device and this is converted into electric current to charge the battery. If you haven't seen it in the Pre, then another high profile example is Oral B's electric toothbrushes.
So back to Powermat and what makes it interesting is the level of commitment the company has to this technology: a massive advertising budget, a multitude of charging 'mats' in just about every format and cases for a plethora of devices. In short Powermat is betting the farm on finally getting users to adopt inductive charging. It had a tentative start, but second generation products are now turning heads – so what do we make of them?
Having taken a look at a variety of Powermat products the answer is: it depends entirely on which devices you own.
What can't be faulted are the charging mats themselves. Powermat sells these in different sizes to support one, two or three devices. They also come in rigid shapes (the 'Home & Office' mats above) or foldable 'Portable Mats' (below) for easy travelling. Whatever their configuration each is well built with a signal input for an AC adaptor and textured finished to the mat with their charging points clearly indicated.
A nice touch is Powermat uses magnets in its mats and cases so devices automatically align when touched down. You'll also hear a distinctive noise to let you know your device has started charging and another when it is picked up from the mat. In addition to this mats have a white LED for each charging area which lights up when in use.
So far so good, but where things become more hit and miss are the cases themselves.
Powermat dubs these cases 'receivers' and it must be noted there is currently a greater selection of them in the US than the UK. Stateside the company has receivers for the iPhone 4, 3G, 3GS, iPods, BlackBerry Tour, Pearl, Bold and Curve series, HTC Evo, HD2 and Motorola Droid X handsets. On top of this are back panels for the Nintendo DS Lite and DSi. Here you'll find the HTC, Motorola, iPod and BlackBerry Tour receivers are currently missing and it seems odd not to have made receivers for hugely popular models like the Desire, Desire HD and Galaxy S.