You might be surprised how much variety is in the world of cell phone chargers. When they're not using old-fashioned electricity, chargers can deliver juice to your gadgets in quite a few unexpected ways. Indeed, we've seen chargers that run off hand cranking, AA batteries, or even the sun. But it wasn't until a product called the Wildcharger landed on our desks that we were really impressed.
What looks like a silver placemat is actually a unique gadget that can charge multiple devices at once. It requires no wired connection to the phone, and it charges in about as much time as it takes a traditional AC adapter. All this whiz-bang functionality comes at a cost--$89.99 for the charger and a special adapter for your phone--and you'll need a Motorola Razr (more on that later), but if you're looking for a conversation piece, you can't go wrong. But as cool as it is, we couldn't help but wonder what the real benefit of the WildCharger is.
The WildCharger is composed of three parts: the charger itself, an AC power adapter, and a special adapter for your phone. The first part is the most interesting. As we mentioned previously, it looks like a placemat, albeit one the Jetsons might have used. The broad metal stripes do more than just reflect the light; they actually serve as the pad's conductive surface. The back of the pad is sturdy plastic and on one side are the charger port and a small indicator light. The pad measures 6.75 inches by 8.5 inches by 0.75 inch and weighs just 4 ounces. No, it won't fit in your pocket, but it should slip easily into a large satchel or suitcase. The AC adapter is nothing special; just plug it into your socket and connect it to the charging pad. The cord could be longer and we wish the adapter wasn't so wide (it takes up a lot of room on a power strip), but those are minor gripes.
As we said earlier, you'll also need a particular phone adapter to use the WildCharger. Though you can buy the adapter and charger for the aforementioned bundle price, you also can buy them separately ($59.99 for the pad and $34.99 for the adapter). Also, WildCharge (the device's manufacturer) only sells adapters for Motorola's Razr V3 as of this writing, but the company says it will support other phones in the next few months. While there are certainly enough Razrs in the world to keep the WildCharge busy, we hope it introduces new adapters sooner rather than later.
Installing the adapter on the phone is a simple affair; you need only to remove the battery cover and snap the adapter in its place. Then, just insert the adapter's mini-USB plug into the Razr's mini-USB port (just as you would the normal charger). After everything is connected, place the Razr face up on the pad so the adapter faces down. It doesn't matter where you place it on the pad; you just need to make sure that the four metal bumps on the back of the adapter are resting flat on its surface and the phone is not hanging off its end. Fortunately, the adapter is magnetized to the pad so the phone won't fall off. Also, you shouldn't place the pad on a metal surface, or it won't operate properly.
We tested the device with a GSM Motorola Razr V3. The WildCharger is also compatible with CDMA Razr V3s but they require a separate adapter. Putting everything together took just a couple minutes, and our Razr started receiving its charge as soon as we placed it on the pad. It took a little more than an hour to charge the phone completely, which is about the same time that it takes a standard electrical socket charger to do the job. The blue indicator light on the pad will turn on to indicate your phone is charging, when the pad is not in use the light will turn off. As the WildCharger outputs 15 watts of power, WildCharge says you can charge as many devices that can fit on the pad. We couldn't test that promise as we only had one phone adapter, nor did we have five Razrs sitting around. We noticed, however, that throughout our test, the phone grew pretty hot during the charging period.
So how does it work? Electrical current is delivered to the metal stripes on the pad from the AC adapter, which is then passed to the phone adapter (remember those metal bumps) and then on to the phone. When you think about it, the concept is pretty basic but WildCharge is one of the few to put it into practice. All in all, it's an innovative and effective device, but like we said earlier, we need a more compelling reason to shell out the money when a perfectly good charger comes in the box. The ability to charge multiple devices at once is nice, but other products do the same, and frankly, we need more than that.