So when Apple killed the unreleased AirPower in March after keeping customers in suspense for 18 months (see “Apple Cancels AirPower, Can’t Take the Heat,” 29 March 2019 and “Apple’s AirPower Wireless Charger: What Happened?,” 17 September 2018), those who had been holding out for the product were left to ask: “Now what?”uhh..
Unsurprisingly, given Apple’s failure to overcome the engineering challenges, there is nothing on the market quite like the AirPower, which Apple claimed would charge evenly across the entirety of its oval-shaped surface so you could place an iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods (in Apple’s wireless-charging case) on it any which way.
But that doesn’t mean you have to settle for a boring device charger. I went in search of chargers that blend personality with versatility for those who want something special.
If you like the notion of charging an iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods all at once, you have options. I evaluated a lot of wireless and wired chargers in this category. I zeroed in on a handful I like, but they are not without their annoyances.
Nomad Base Station Apple Watch Edition
The $139.95 Nomad Base Station Apple Watch Edition builds a fancy, leather-clad charging surface onto a metal base and adds an Apple Watch dock on its left corner. With space on the leather pad for two iPhones (or an iPhone and the wireless-ready AirPods case), Nomad’s charger is a decent all-in-one option.
The other issue with the Nomad Base Station is cost. At $140, it’s pretty expensive when you consider that simple charging pads can be had for $15 or less.
Nomad Base Station Hub Edition
If you already have a convenient way to charge your Apple Watch and just want a handsome iPhone and AirPods charger, the $99.95 Nomad Base Station Hub Edition is all you need. It has the same leather pad for two devices and the same metal base, but it dispenses with a watch dock.
Like the other Nomad Base Station, this version supports 7.5-watt iPhone charging and charges at 10 watts with compatible Android smartphones.
What’s more, this version of the Nomad Base Station includes one 7.5-watt USB-A port and one 18-watt USB-C port, so it can serve as a wired charger as well as a wireless one. I was mildly disappointed that the Nomad Base Station Apple Watch Edition doesn’t include such ports given its stratospheric cost.
3 in 1 Charging Hub
Elago tackles three-device charging in a different, entirely wired way. Its $24.99 3 in 1 Charging Hub sports docks for an iPhone and an AirPods case, with room for an Apple Watch to wrap around the base of the elevated AirPods dock.
For the 3 in 1 Charging Hub to work, you need to add the standard cables. Lightning prongs poke through the bases of the iPhone and AirPods docks. The Apple Watch location has a rounded cutout for positioning the charging puck. Cables snake out the back of the hub with three small slots in the base to keep them organized and plug into standard chargers.
Overall, the 3 in 1 Charging Hub is a clever, low-cost way to charge multiple Apple devices at once if you don’t mind having to futz with cables on occasion.
The market is littered with simple wireless charging mats (see “13 Qi Wireless Chargers for the iPhone Reviewed,” 22 February 2018), but you might want more versatility and design pizzazz. Here are some of my favorites.
Logitech Powered For iPhone and Belkin Boost Up Wireless Charging Stand
If you crave an upright iPhone stand that lets you position your handset either horizontally or vertically while charging it wirelessly, Logitech and Belkin have you covered.
Though these stands look different the $69.99 Logitech has a square-ish configuration while the $69.99 Belkin is more rounded they operate on the same principle. You can position your iPhone in either portrait or landscape mode, the latter of which makes it easy to watch video on the small screen.
These stands won’t work for charging AirPods since they don’t lie flat. Also, in my testing, the Logitech stand seemed to have difficulty charging an iPhone XS Max in Apple’s Smart Battery Case even though that accessory supports Qi wireless charging. The Belkin stand worked fine with that combination.
Apple Watch Stands
Manufacturers have come up with boatloads of Apple Watch charging docks and stands (see “Eight Apple Watch Stands That Stand Out,” 5 August 2015), but certain Elago models have charmed me because of their Apple-themed whimsy.
A while back, I wrote about one that’s shaped to resemble a classic 128K Mac (see “New Apple Watch Stand Looks Like the 128K Mac,” 2 March 2017). Since then, the company has added to its line of Apple-styled watch stands.
For those who like retro game machines, Elago also sells a GameBoy-styled stand in your choice of four colors. Pricing on these whimsical chargers fluctuates a bit between $12.99 to $15.99, depending on the style and what sales are in effect.
The Bottom Line
It’s too bad that AirPower proved impossible for Apple to build because it would have advanced the state of the art for wireless charging. Other chargers from the likes of Vinpok and AirUnleashed mimic AirPower’s look and feel, but don’t provide the underlying technology that apparently was too much for even Apple’s engineers. (I tested an AirUnleashed sample with high hopes, but its surface marred easily, and I had difficulty getting it to work dependably. If I have better luck with a replacement unit, I’ll say something in the comments.)
So it’s best to put AirPower out of our minds and look for a charger whose approach, personality, and price matches your needs.