Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Gear Closet: Stacked Wireless iPhone Charging Case

One of the biggest buzzword phrases in technology surrounding smartphones in recent years is "wireless charging." For those who don't know, this is a way to power up your device without having to actually plug it into a cable and wall outlet. Instead, you use an inductive charging system – typically in the form of a special case and a charging pad – that allows you to simply place your Android phone or iPhone onto it and automatically starts recharging the gadget. It's quick, simple, and easy.

As a bit of a tech nerd, I've followed the wireless charging scene with some interest, but always had two issues with the technology. First, I never thought it was all that hard to plug a cable into my phone to charge it up in the first place, so I thought that wireless charging was largely a solution that was looking for a problem. My other hesitation with the technology is that it isn't really "wireless" per se, it just shifts the cables to other devices – in this case the charging pad – and adds another layer of tech in the form of a charging case or built-in inductive chargers. To me, wireless charging wasn't something that I saw as all that useful or innovative. Wake me up when true wireless charging hits and my iPhone automatically charges from anywhere in the house at all times.

But, recently I've had the chance to test out the Stacked wireless charging system, and I have to say that I've come around on the technology quite a bit. It definitely is convenient to use and offers quite a bit of flexibility, even for travelers. And while I still want a more advanced wireless charging system fro my future gadgets, the Stacked system is definitely something I've come to appreciate in a very short time. Well... at least mostly.

One of the things that makes the Stacked system so helpful is that it is modular, allowing you to use it in a variety of places, in a variety of ways, with the help of a few accessories. The base Stacked product includes the 360º Speed Case, which fits over your iPhone 6/6S or 6/6s Plus (a version for the iPhone 7  is coming). The case itself fits snugly on your device, and while it doesn't add much in the way of bulk, there is definitely more heft to it. The case doesn't weigh an awful lot (less than an once), but you'll definitely know that you've added it to your phone once its in place.


Like most iPhone cases, the Speed Case added a nice layer of protection to your smartphone, which some of us have a tendency to drop on hard surfaces from time to time. With this case in place however, you'll find that your fragile device is much better at surviving those little mishaps. The back of the Speed Case also has a magnet embedded in it which allows it to attach to the Stacked chargers, which we'll talk about shortly.

Priced at $39.99, the 360º Speed Case isn't especially expensive when compared to other cases, but on its own it doesn't really do much other than help protect your phone from harm. To truly get the benefits of the system, you really need to purchase a Stacked bundle ($99.99), which include a couple of options for wirelessly charging your iPhone. Without the chargers, there isn't much reason to own the Speed Case on its own. But with a charger in the mix, things get much more interesting.

The Stacked bungle comes with the case of course, as well as a battery pack and a standard charger that plugs directly into the wall. Both the battery pack and the charger have magnets that have an opposite polarity of the one found on the case. That means that when you place your phone onto either charger, it'll slide into place with a satisfying click, and within a few seconds begin charging.

The wall charger is small and comes with a fold-out power plug. This is meant to be plugged directly into a standard AC outlet for convenient charging at all times. It holds the phone firmly in place, and provides a nice steady charge, getting your iPhone back up to 100% as quickly and efficiently as the charger that came with the mobile device. The Stacked charger even has a standard USB port built into the side, allowing you to charge another device at the same time. This makes it a handy option to have with you when you travel as well.

The Stacked battery pack comes equipped with a 2000 mAh rechargeable lithium-ion battery of its own. This is enough to fully charge your iPhone once, with just a little power left over for later. It also features two USB ports, one micro-port for charging the battery pack itself, and another standard USB for charging other device. The pack is thin, lightweight, and easy to take with you anywhere. It also has the magnetic connection system integrated right into its case as well. In fact, it has two magnetic ports, one for connecting to the Speed Case, and another for attaching a second battery pack. In this way, you can actually daisy-chain multiple battery packs (which run $39.99 on their own) for a convenient way to carry extra power with you.

In my case, I actually use the battery pack to charge my smartphone each evening. The pack is plugged into a USB charger of its own and sits on the desk in my office. Before I head to bed each night, I simply put my iPhone onto the pack – with that satisfying click once again – and the next day it is fully charged. It is quick, simple, and efficient too.

Another Stacked accessory that I've been testing is the 360º Wireless Car Charger. This add-on costs $49.99 and extends the wireless charging set-up to your automobile too. It conveniently attaches to your air conditioning/heating vent and includes the magnetic locking system as well. So, when you get in the car you simply place it on the dock which holds it in place while you drive, and provide power at the same time.

While driving I often listen to music and podcasts that stream to my audio system via Bluetooth. The 360º Wireless Car Charger holds my phone in place so I can access those audio files quickly and easily too. It also comes in super handy when you're using your phone to navigate as it allows you to see the screen as it provides direction and points of reference. And since using your phone's GPS is one of the biggest hits on the battery, keeping it charged is an essential piece of the puzzle on long road trips.

So, is the wireless charging system a time saver? Hmm... not really. I still don't find plugging in a cable to be all that time consuming, and it really doesn't take any more time than placing the Speed Case onto the charger or battery pack. That said however, I do like that I can use it with the Wireless Car Charging while in my vehicle, which is where I've found this product to be the most useful for me personally. And that said, if you were to buy this system for use in the car, it is probably in your best interest to have the charger and battery pack too.

All of that said, I do really like this line of products. All of the items are well made, look great, and are easy to use. The case provide a great level of protection for your phone as well, and it can be removed – or put back on – within a matter of seconds. And while I'm not exactly saving any time over using a directly plugged in cable, it is still handy to be able to just quickly place the phone on the charger without even thinking about it.

I did run into a few issues when using this wireless charging system while traveling recently. I was out of the country, and plugged the wall charger into an outlet for use in charging my device. But when I got up the next morning, I discovered that it hadn't worked, and my phone was at 22% charge as I was getting ready to head out the door for the day. Unfortunately, I hadn't brought the Stacked battery pack, so I instead had to plug my iPhone into a standard battery pack that I take with me on all my adventures. The problem was, I had to remove the case and plug in a standard cable to make it work. This left my phone without a case, and vulnerable to drops. In future versions of the Speed Case I'd love to see a lightning-cable pass through that would allow me to charge using a standard battery pack – without removing the case – should the need arise.

I learned a valuable lesson from that trip as well. When traveling I should always take the Stacked battery pack with me. It really isn't all that large, it serves the same purpose for keeping my phone charged, and it can help charge other gadgets too. That helps to make it a very useful gadget to have at your disposal on any journey.

After reading all of that, the question still remains – am I a wireless charging convert yet? Again, the answer is both yes and no. While I still want to see true wireless charging at some point, this is a really nice product for sure. Everything is built to a very high level of quality, and it works quite well – the one incident mentioned above not withstanding – too. I especially love using it mine car, and have come to rely on it around the home and when traveling too.

If you're going to jump into the Stacked wireless charging system, I'd recommend doing so with one of the bundles and the car charger. That combination is pretty much perfect and will have you covered for all of your needs. Find out more at PoweredbyStacked.com.

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