If we analyse the way smartphone technology has progressed over the past few years, we will see a trend of increasingly more complex silicon used and displays that are more pixel dense than ever before.However over the past 12 to 15 months, this technology has begun to plateau. That is not to say that phones will not be more powerful next year, they definitely will be. But we have reached a point of diminishing returns, i.e more powerful CPUs, GPUs and more pixel dense displays will not make a difference in every day use. Manufacturers have realised this. Where they still continue on with the PPI and GHz wars, they have also begun to offer features that would actually make using a smartphone a more enjoyable or convenient affair.
One of these features is wireless charging. In fact, amongst themany ‘novelty’ features we have seen over the past 2 years, wireless charging is perhaps the only one that has seen the greatest progress and greatest exposure. Almost all new high end Android phones come with wireless charging. However if you happen to rock an iPhone 6, which retails for $699 for the base model, you’re still stuck with the age old method of connecting your phone with a charger. That being said, the accessory market for the iPhone is pretty much unrivalled. So for any feature that Apple chooses to omit, there are thousands of third party accessories that aim to fill in the gap.
Today we will be looking at a wireless charging case for the iPhone 6. It’s by a company called Patriot and the product is called Fuel Ion. The official description of the product says ‘Magnetic Charging iPhone 6 Case’ and ‘Magnetic Charging Pad’. So these are two separate accessories really; a case and a charger.
There are only two things that an effective product package needs to do. The first is to look attractive without being garish, and the most important one is that it should be easy to take the product out (I’m looking at you, Kingston V300 SSD). Fortunately the Fuel Ion manages to pull of both of these requirements. Great. Lets take a look at the product at hand now.
The case will act as a gateway between your iPhone and the wireless charging pad. It is made out of hard plastic which feels pretty robust.
The plastic built extends to the back of the case. However Fuel Ion has done a very good job in making the back give a feel of soft-touch plastic, which helps a lot in gripping the phone as well as adding to the overall quality of construction. At the centre is the magnetic strip that aligns with the magnet on the charging pad. Naturally there’s a cut-off for the camera/mic/flash as well.
Moving to the front we immediately notice the large cut-offs for the power and volume keys. In fact there are cut-offs on all four corners, probably to aid with the process of removing the phone from the case I presume. There are two front facing speaker grills at the bottom. Because the case will cover the loud speaker and mic on the phone, the front facing grills on the case are there to redirect the sound. I didn’t notice any discernible drop in either the amplitude or the quality of the sound coming from these grills.
Placing the phone in the case couldn’t be simpler. Simply slide down the lightning connector on the case, place the phone in the case and slide up the connector, making sure it’s properly connected to the phone. I should mention here that the case does not make a ‘snug’ fit. It takes absolutely no effort to take the phone out of the case because it almost feels as if it’s just lying there with nothing to support it. This is not a reassuring feeling at all because at this point the only thing stopping your phone from falling out of the case is the lightning connection between it and the phone. Because of this I am not at all confident about carrying my phone around with the case on. It would certainly save your phone from damage if dropped on its back or the side, but I’m not too confident about dropping it face first.
There is quite a bit of space between where the phone ends and where the case ends, you will not be able to plug in your headphones directly. Fuel Ion provides a female extension cable in the box to alleviate this issue. It’s also worth noting that you will not be able to use the lightning connector with the case on. Right besides the 3.5mm opening is a microUSB port for when you want to charge the phone through a wired connection. Though why you’d want to do that is beyond me.
Of course with a wireless charging case comes a charging pad as well. The Fuel Ion charging pad has quite a bit of heft to it. It feels much heavier than you think it would when you see it initially. However it’s solidly built. I do not think it’s something you have to worry about falling apart after a few months.
There are magnetic pins at the centre of the pad, which are to be aligned with the magnetic stripes on the case. The magnetic connection is actually pretty strong. I was worried about having to fiddle around finding the ‘sweet spot’, but because the connection is so strong, all I need to do is place the phone on the pad and it invariably just connects.
The charging pad itself is powered by a USB cable, which comes in a box. This is where I think Fuel Ion misses the mark. The USB cable is too short. It’s only long enough to be connected to a laptop. For anything else (AC power, desktop connection), you’ll need a longer cable. I think there should have been an AC power adaptor included in as well.
So how well does this thing charge? Quite well actually. Wireless charging is notorious for being slow compared to its wired alternative. I didn’t really notice a huge difference in charging speed on the Fuel Ion compared to charging the phone directly via USB.
It’s hard to conclude something as evolving as wireless charging technology. Is the Fuel Ion worth your hard earned cash?
It really boils down to how on board wireless charging you are at the end of the day. Is it really worth the hassle of putting on a big heavy case that you probably need to take off every time you’re up and about? Then there is the limitation of the technology as well. Every time you want to use the phone, you’ll have to take it off the charging pad, which means it will stop charging the phone. That will obviously not be the case with a wired connection because the wire will stay connected if you just hold the phone for a quick reply or something similar.
Wireless charging is best for when you’re about to sleep and instead of fiddling with cables in the dark, you just place your phone on the pad and let it charge. Believe me, this is a Godsend. It’s very annoying having to fiddle with cables, trying to find that small lightning port in the dark.
So who is this product for then? It’s for those people who have already embraced wireless charging and are willing to put up with the growing pains associated with it, especially when the technology isn’t actually built into the phone. Fuel Ion is probably one of the best after market wireless charging kits available for an iPhone today. However if you’re a conservative like me, it’s probably not worth the hassle at the end of the day.