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Hands on with the Mophie Charge Force wireless charging system

ICE Graveyard 18/07/2016 Haje Jan Kamps

In launching its Charge Force wireless charging accessories last month, Mophie wanted to convince you that wireless charging was the future of everything that was lovely and good. On paper, it sounded like the perfect solution for people who can’t stand plugging in their phones every three seconds — but I decided to take a closer look to see whether it lived up to its hype.

At launch, the Charge Force line-up consists of a Juice Pack battery phone case ($99.95), a wireless charging base ($39.95), a car vent charging base ($59.95) and — if you want the full line-up — a desk mount ($59.95). There’s also a $129.95 Juice Pack and base station pack for people wanting to save a little bit of cash.

Decent case, but too big and clunky

The updated Juice Pack is a great way to extend your phone’s battery life a bit. From a dead battery, it charged my phone up to around 75 percent or so, saving my day more than once. The Juice Pack case supports both the Qi and PMA wireless charging standards, too, so if you find yourself in a coffee shop or a car that has a wireless charging base built in, chances are your case will work with it. Pretty nifty.

Apart from saving my phone from dying, I wasn’t really a fan of the case; the iPhone 6+ is an uncomfortably big phone as it is. The Juice Pack case adds just that little bit too much of width, height and thickness, not to mention weight. In fact, it adds so much weight that the magnets in Mophie’s own products aren’t able to keep the phone comfortably in place.

The case is also too deep in all directions; the headphone socket is so deeply recessed that none of my headphones work without the included adapter. Try as I might, I couldn’t move the “mute” toggle switch with my pudgy little fingers, either: I needed to use a pen to switch mute on or off. That doesn’t really feel like the future we want to be living in.

My final gripe about the case is that it has a Micro USB socket on it. Yeah; they’re easy to find and cheaper than Lightning cables, but I already have Lightning cables all over my house, car and office, so it’s not particularly useful. Also, I do use a few other accessories on a regular basis — such as my Oscium oscilloscope — which means I keep having to take the phone out of its case. Not great.

Going wireless at the office and on the go

Gripes aside, I very quickly got used to the wireless lifestyle. The charging pads are smart enough to charge the phone before it starts charging the Juice Pack, so if you make it a habit to leave your phone on a charger pad, you’re always topped up and ready to go.

The desk mount is a nice touch, and being able to grab the phone to take a call or use it as a second screen to monitor, say, Twitter, is nifty. The desk mount also turns to a horizontal orientation, should you want to watch videos on your phone, which is pretty clever. Unfortunately, the desk mount stand wasn’t sturdy enough to keep the heavy phone and case securely in place; it kept sagging down instead of keeping the screen pointed at my face. 

As I normally use a magnetic mount in my car anyway, I had the highest hopes for the car vent mount. Especially if you connect your phone to the car using Bluetooth, being able to quickly throw your phone up on the mount to charge and keep it in place is fantastic, particularly if you do a lot of shorter drives with frequent stops.

Sadly, the magnets in the vent mount weren’t strong enough to keep up with the weight of both the phone and the bulky Juice Pack — I wasn’t able to use it horizontally, like I normally would; the slightest bump in the road, and the phone would move around (and it fell off a couple of times, as well). Not great; flying phones are a safety hazard. I’d be the first to admit that part of the problem might be the rock-hard suspension in my 13-year-old car, but still, it’s not an issue I’ve experienced with my usual magnetic vent mount, so it feels as if the weight of the Juice Pack is to blame.

Used vertically, the vent mount works pretty well, but I never really was able to trust it to not drop my phone off the holder and eventually just gave up on the vent mount: Safety above all, and all that.

Wireless is awesome, but…

Overall, I think what the Charge Force review proved to me is that I really love the idea of wireless charging. I wish Mophie would make a case that didn’t have a battery built in — just the wireless charging and magnetic mounting points — as I have a suspicion that this would fix most of the problems I ran into.

Ultimately, it all depends on how you use your phone, so your mileage may vary.

We do need to talk about the price, however — the full set of a Juice Pack with a base station, a desk charger and a car vent charger will set you back a hefty chunk of cash, and I can’t really say it feels worth it.  I’m a complete gadget nut and I love the wireless charging, but you can buy an awful lot of Lightning cables and much more powerful battery packs for the same price.

If you can live with the quirks, Mophie has a great set of products here — but I just don’t really see a lot of people shelling out this amount of money to solve the relatively minor problem of plugging in your phone from time to time.

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