Review: The Aircharge Wireless Charging Case for the iPhone 6 is hard to resist

When I bought my iPhone 6 earlier this year, I also purchased a simple, transparent case to protect it; the case cost me $35.

But when you consider that for another $3 you can have an Aircharge Wireless Charging Case for an iPhone 6, it's pretty darned tempting.

Then, of course, you have to purchase the actual wireless charger, but I found that also won't break the bank.

The Aircharge Qi-based wireless charging pad retails for $44.50. It's basically a thin hockey puck the phone rests on; it's about 4-in in diameter by a little less than 1/3-in thick. It also has a nice two-meter long USB power cord and AC adapter.

Aircharge also sells a $32 wireless charging case for the iPhone 5 and 5S.

If you look for charging cases for the iPhone 6 or 6 Plus, you'll be hard-pressed to find them. Apple recommends any of the Mophie Juice Pack line, which will run you from $100 to $150. Of course, what you're getting with the Mophie case is a transportable battery pack that's attached to your phone.

(On a side note, I owned a Mophie charging case for my iPhone 5, and I loved it. I could go three days without charging my phone. But I digress.)

You don't have to buy Aircharge's wireless charger to power your phone; any Qi-standard wireless charger will do the job.

Is it time for wireless charging

IKEA recently announced a line of furniture with embedded Qi wireless chargers. Qi (pronounced "chee") chargers are also offered in various models of Toyota, Honda, Chrysler, GM, Lexus and SsangYong vehicles.

Additionally, Qi-standard chargers are beginning to show up in public locations. Qi has had some success in getting its foot in the door of U.K.- and Germany-based McDonald's, as well as in some small restaurants, coffee shops and airports.

For its part, Starbucks went with the Powermat specification for the wireless chargers embedded in its tables, so your Aircharge wireless charging case won't power up your iPhone as you sip your iced caramel macchiato.

Still, wireless charging is catching on, but it's early days. Among other issues, there's a standards war going on between three major wireless charging standard groups.

The Qi standard is highly efficient, and you're not likely to see any difference in charging time between a direct-plug electrical cord and this wireless charging case.

Unfortunately, one of the drawbacks of the Qi standard, and products like the Aircharge iPhone 6 case that uses it, is that the technology is based on magnetic inductive charging.

Inductive charging, as opposed to magnetic resonance or "loosely coupled" charging, requires relatively precise placement of the phone directly against charging pad for it to work. The sweet spot isn't hard to find -- it's right smack in the middle of the Aircharge case, but if you move the case too far in one direction or another, the charging connection is lost.

The benefits of wireless charging are nominal today. It's not really wireless because you still have to plug the charger into an electrical outlet or a USB port on a computer. But it does alleviate the need for plugging in your smartphone. As the technology evolves, the distance from which you can place a charger will improve, as will the number of devices you can charge at one time.

The Wireless Power Consortium (WPC), the standards group that backs the Qi specification, has announced version 1.1, which enables magnetic resonance. So newer products will be tricked out over the coming year allowing more placement flexibility.

A simple but effective product

The Aircharge Wireless Charging Case comes in a black, eggshell finish. It is remarkably thin and light; it weighs about 1.5 ounces or 42 grams.

The case comes in two pieces and, like a battery-pack smartphone case, the bottom portion slides over the phone and plugs into the iPhone's charging/data port while the top piece locks in place to hold the case fast.

The Aircharge iPhone 6 case is made of plain, hard ABS plastic. It's attractive but is also no-frills. Instead of flexible protective covers for the iPhone's volume and on/off toggle switches, there are simply access slits in the case. I found the slit for the vibrate/ringer switch too small, making it difficult to activate it without some fingernail assistance.

Considering iPhone 6 cases without any charging functionality will run you from $35 to $90 (most are in the $40 range), the $38 that Aircharge charges for its case is quite reasonable.

If you've been considering playing with wireless charging, this is a solid product to start with.


Lucas Mearian

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