Powering devices on the move

Indeed many of these items are used as standard office equipment now – does anyone really use a mobile phone only when they are out, and have it diverting to the office phone when they’re in? It’s the same for laptops, many people use them as their main computer and they’re outselling desktop PCs as a result.

The end effect is a bit of a mess below the desk. Connecting cables are one thing and wireless technology is starting to get around that as an issue, but power cables are still a massive difficulty. Here we look at a few of the workarounds.

Gear4 PowerPad for iPhone

An elegant solution for people with multiple iPhones to charge – as long as they’re relatively small. It’s a pushover to install. You put your device into the rubber case provided, which fits the iPhone 3G and the iPhone 3G S (or the mark two and mark three versions if you can’t remember which one you’ve got), plug the pad in and put the phone on the pad. It charges through a bit of induction technology and it’s really straightforward. No magnets. No metal bits.

If you have a two-person office, or a couple of people with iPhones and no more, then it’s great. You can probably get three of them onto the pad at a pinch, but you’d need extra rubber cases for the extra phones. And here’s the thing: out of the box, so to speak, it will only accommodate one phone and that’s not much when you’ve just paid £79.99 for it – so you end up with the same amount of cables you had before.

The iPhone-only nature of the device is also worth querying; by all means the iPhone has the bigger market share but is it too much to ask for optional versions for Nokia, for Sony Ericsson, for a hand-held games console?

Palm’s Touchstone devices are similar in that they’re designed exclusively for the Palm Pre smartphone. If you have one then they’re an excellent piece of kit and it’s convenient simply to place your device onto a charger rather than fiddle with getting the alignment right. On the other hand many people hadn’t previously realised this was a problem – they just plugged things in and went. As a style statement it’s great, as a business asset less so – but at least Palm is supporting its own phone so it’s more understandable that it only works with the one device.

Don’t get me wrong, the Gear4 device is a nice piece of kit assuming it’s one of those proof-of-concept, see-how-the-market-reacts things with room for loads of followup releases for different products. It just looks a bit insular as it is. Try the Powermat or Powermat Portable instead – similar idea, more flexible. Both devices switch themselves off when there isn’t a device on them, which is useful for saving energy as nobody, ever, remembers to turn the things off at the mains.

Bluelounge Refresh

This device is a lot more basic but does a lot more. It just does it less tidily.
You can expect to pay £69.99 for a Bluelounge Refresh and you can choose the colour. It has good things and bad things going for it.

First the bad. It’s not particularly well made. The idea is that you put all of your electrical equipment  – OK, anything to the size of about three mobile phones – onto the surface of the device and plug them all in to the built-in adapters. There are many of these adapters but because the floor of the device is removable you can conceal any that you’re not using.

So far so excellent – but the floor of the thing keeps falling off. Would some sort of clip arrangement have been too difficult to build in? Apparently it would. This means, of course, that any attempt to conceal the wires is hampered by the fact that the floor supposed to cover them up keeps coming loose and they poke through.

So much for fastidiousness, then. Where it scores, though, is in its flexibility. There are adapters for every standard means of powering a device – USB, iPhone, everything. I’ve had it charging a camera, headphones and a phone simultaneously and only taken up one wall socket in doing so. It’s this rather than the PowerPad that sits in my office and it’ll charge most of my stuff – I just wish it was a bit more, well, refined.

iGo Green

Something new from PC World is the iGo Green, the first of a range from iGo. The idea is slightly different from the reduction of wires but great if you want to clear your box of office cables (come on, every office has one). It does two things. First, plug it into the wall and just change the tip for every different device you need to charge. This is childishly simple. Second, it’ll shut off automatically when your device is charged which should reduce standby power consumption by about 80 per cent.

Not that standby uses a lot of power, of course, but any reduction is welcome. Businesses who are concerned about their environmental impact will do well to look at one of these; people who are concerned from the money saving angle might find that even such a large reduction in standby consumption will make recouping the £79.99 you’ll pay for it a distinctly long-term prospect.