Duracell PowerSnap wireless charger for iPhone 5: Hands-on and preview

Duracell sent us the PowerSnap, a wireless charger for the Apple iPhone 5 smartphone, for a quick spin. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, the accessory is not available for sale in the UK and Duracell has yet to confirm when it will be available here.

With the PowerSnap, the consumer electronics giant primarily targets those who want to charge their iPhone 5 without the need to attach any cable and benefit from the advantage of an added battery pack that more than doubles the embarked capacity of Apple’s flagship handset.

Note that this is a preview and a full review of the accessory, which better known as the Powersnap Kit, will be published later this week.

For the basic Powermat wireless charging, you need two main part; a wireless mat (Powermat) which transmit the power and an add-on (Access case) that converts the wireless power into electricity and charges your phone.

Duracell also includes a SnapBattery, which acts as a second battery/back-up charge with a 1,950mAh capacity; that’s 510mAh or just over a third more than the battery capacity of the iPhone 5. In other words, when fully charged, you get 135 per cent of your iPhone’s battery capacity. The flipside is that the Powersnap kit is relatively heavy at 115g. That’s a tad more than the Apple iPhone 5 and at 18.8mm is more than twice the thickness of the latter.

To understand how the technology actually works, check out the two videos below.

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The unit is slightly thinner in width than a comparable Mophie battery pack for the iPhone 5 (the Juice Pack Helium battery case). It does not feel as solid though, partly due to flimsy edges. I even managed to break off one of them during the test while removing the removable battery on the back. I also found that the bottom connector looks and feels flimsy. I suspect it might break easily if dropped. It is a crucial part of the product so if it does break, the Access case becomes useless. That said, the Duracell PowerSnap kit does actually feel nicer in the hand with the design team having clearly put some thoughts behind the aesthetics. Yves Behar, for example, helped designed the Snapbattery.

Connecting non-standard Shure headphones through the hole of the Access case was impossible. To resolve a similar problem, Mophie provided a headphone extender jack. The Duracell PowerSnap did not come with such an accessory.

Then there’s the flip down cover for USB connector which is tricky to open (although I got used to it over time) and would probably not be suitable for those with long nails. You would almost certainly break them accessing the USB. The charge button on the back does not feel intuitive to switch the charge on and off, I prefer the slider on/off version from the Mophie.

But what about the core feature of the Duracell PowerSnap? Well, the wireless recharge works well, just put the phone on the mat, it will magnetise into place and charge, however, the model I had seemed to emit a high pitch sound during charging which was irritating (think Mosquito Alarm), so it’s not something I would use at home on my bedside table.

The PowerSnap gets bonus points for getting the wireless charging right. It is relatively painless, fast and intuitive plus you can either use the charger by itself or with an additional battery. All in all though, it feels like an early pass by Duracell. No real showstopper here but a myriad of small annoying but easily resolved issues, which taken altogether do not make the whole experience as seamless as I’d expect.

After living with the product for two weeks, I’ve decided to keep my Mophie juice pack as a back up and to continue living with the PowerSnap entirely because of the wireless connectivity, which is no longer a novelty for me but an integral par of my mobile experience. I walk into the office, put the phone on my Powermat and walk away with almost 100 per cent charge in both batteries.

One suggestion would be to get a spare battery included in the kit to carry around for power users. This makes perfect should you want to swap external batteries without compromising on your extended battery capacity. Check out our first look at the PowerSnap back in February at MWC in Barcelona.