Duracell Powermat wireless charging
I've been using Powermats to charge my iPhones for years. Or my wife has. Although I used it for my 3GS, 4 and 4S, there was no Powermat case available when I got my iPhone 5 last year, so just my wife used one on her 4S. But we traded the 4S for a 5s last week and she has been missing her Powermat, so I went and bought her one for $40 from Amazon, and it arrived today. Right now she's liking some other case, so I may just keep it for myself.
The new Powermat for iPhone 5 actually came out about 6 months ago. They're teamed up with Duracell now, and supposedly they have charging mats in Starbucks and other public places, although I've yet to see any. Powermat works by using a charging case, just like Mophie or any other charging case, the difference being that, instead of a thick, heavy battery built into the case, it's relatively thin because the power comes from a separate mat, rather than a battery. You put the phone in the case, and then just lay the phone and case on the mat, and it automatically starts charging. The charging mat beeps and a white light comes on when it's charging your phone, just so you know.
I was put off when the Powermat case for iPhone 5 came out, because it was bundled with a clip-on "SnapBattery" and matching charging mat, and pretty expensive. However, it turns out that they sell the parts separately, and the new mat is not required, it's actually a "TravelMat", and the case will work with most existing charging mats, of which there are a few available. Unfortunately, the one mat it won't work with is the one designed for the iPhone 4/4S, which is more of a cradle with raised edges, so the 5/5s won't fit with the case on. Fortunately, my old 3G/3GS mat that's been sitting in a drawer for two years works with the iPhone 5 case. You can also find 3G/3GS mats on Amazon for next to nothing, so that's something to keep in mind, if you get the case.
So, now let me describe the case. It's snap-on case, black matte plastic, totally flat and weighs about an ounce. It's about a millimeter thick around the sides, and about two millimeters on the back, with the front completely open. There is a cutout for the camera and flash, which is a bit longer than most cases due to the snap-on battery, which I don't have. And of course there is a cut-out for the side buttons, and on the top.
The most unusual part is the bottom. The case has two pieces: one which covers most of the phone, and then the bottom piece, which, when attached, sticks out from the bottom by a quarter-inch, leaving a space, not just a hollow but a real space that lets you see through from one side to the other. This is for several reasons. First, the lightning connector, which has to stick out from the port. This is housed in a copper piece which connects to the leads on the back of the case, with the Duracell name stamped on it. (The coppertop, get it?) The space also gives room for the mic and speaker on the bottom of the phone. There is also a hole cut into the bottom, so you can plug in your earpods. This might not work with some 3rd-party stereo plugs, but it does have the advantage of making it less likely that the plug will get bent and snapped off inside the phone. (Some of us know what that's like.) The bottom piece can be easily removed, so that you can plug in a lightning cable when there is no charging mat, or if you want to connect to a computer. Since it fully detaches, then you have to figure out where to put the bottom piece while you're using the cable. Unlike many charging cases, there is no micro-USB port, since the case itself doesn't need to be charged.
OK, so enough with the hardware. You're probably wondering what this "wireless" charging is really like. Well, of course there's still an electric cord connected to the charging mat, and you can't charge it without that. (There is now a matching "TravelMat", which is a 6 oz. brick with batteries in it, so you can be truly wireless, but it's considerably more expensive.) It's a bit more convenient than having to constantly plug and unplug. You're also less likely to misplace your phone, because you're always going to put it on the mat if it's close, rather than on some random surface. And honestly, there's been many times in the past year my iPhone 5 has drained because I didn't bother to plug it in, which doesn't happen when I have the Powermat. If you're like me, you're picking it up and putting it down all the time, all day long, and you really don't want to keep the cable connected while you're using it. Put a mat on your desk, and you'll stay charged all day. Put one on your nightstand, and you won't forget to charge it overnight. If you're going to buy a case anyway, you may as well get a Powermat case and find a cheap charging mat to put it on.
What would really make this killer would be if they get the public mats everywhere. Here's hoping!