Review: UNU Aero Wireless Charging Battery Case for iPhone 5/5s

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2015
The UNU Aero Wireless Charging Battery Case and Mat for iPhone 5s and iPhone 5 solves one of the chief concerns smartphone users have always battled: battery anxiety. UNU ingeniously combines a smartphone battery case with wireless charging technology, and there's a lot to like.




With UNU's Aero Wireless series, we thought, "Well, here's another battery case, probably as competent as a Mophie, but certainly not better."

We were mistaken for one simple reason: freedom from wires is a godsend.

There's a history of wireless charging phones: Palm Pre, Nokia Lumia, and others were all able to charge wirelessly, sometimes with optional batteries and specialized solutions built in to battery doors. Companies like Energizer and Powermat also made third-party wireless charging accessories as far back as iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4.

It turns out, this is a really great idea. It's even better when it's done without the expense of Qi technology, Powermat technology or other complex methods.

Design and Use

Instead of inductive wireless tech, UNU has instead taken an approach that uses two contacts on the back of the case and a charging pad composed of two large metal squares divided by a strip of plastic. Set the phone down anywhere on the pad, and it charges. Polarity doesn't matter, either; set it down in either orientation and it just works.

The plate, called the Aero Pad has rubber feet, and the charging case has magnets embedded in its back so that it stays put while charging.




The battery case is as thick as most other battery cases, and we would gladly use it as our full-time iPhone 5/5s case. In addition to doubling battery life, being able to set the phone down on the counter and know that it's charging is a huge convenience.

Using the battery case is similar to other battery cases we've tried. When the phone is in the case, it does not charge the phone by default. Pressing the button on back powers up the pack and starts the charging process, and when the button is pressed again, it will stop charging the phone. In all cases, pressing the button causes the fuel gauge LEDs to indicate the charge of the battery case, even when not attached to an iPhone.


The Bad

It wasn't all perfect, however. The sleep/wake and volume up/down buttons on the case are not very robust, and broke out on more than one example of the case. UNU replaced the defective unit quickly with no fuss.

While we like the case very much, when the buttons broke out we were unable to use sleep/wake or volume up and down, so the buttons breaking were a significant loss of functionality. It is possible that we're just very hard on cases, but we haven't had this kind of problem in the past with other case designs and materials.

With the UNU, the case plastics are all the same durometer, and the buttons act as fingers that flex at the one point they connect to the body of the case -- which is where they broke.




Other cases that we've had which have been more successful for us have had the buttons rendered in TPU, either as an insert, or as an overmold over the hard polycarbonate shell.

During an extended test period, over the course of a few months, we had no difficulties using the battery of the battery case to charge the iPhone, however. The internals are top-notch.




It should be noted that, aside from the wireless mat option, users can opt to charge up the battery pack via a MicroUSB cable. The charging pad itself is powered by an included Micro-USB cable that connects to a wall adapter.

Conclusion

Despite the power and volume keys popping out of the case with heavy use, the design and utility of UNU's Aero is excellent. Wireless charging turns out to be a huge convenience. Other battery cases solely use a MicroUSB connector, which we find to be a less than ideal connector.

Here, while it's possible to use the MicroUSB connector on the case, we never actually did in practice. Wireless charging is just too good of an experience.

Score: 3.5 out of 5

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Pros:

  • Wireless charging
  • Extended battery life
  • Good service

Cons:

  • Keys breaking on our sample (which UNU replaced without trouble)

Where to Buy

The UNU Aero Wireless Charging Battery Case is priced at $59.99 from Amazon and is available in black and white color options. Additional Aero Pads are also available for $24.95 each.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 20
    relicrelic Posts: 4,735member

    Pretty neat but this should have been a feature that Apple added to begin with, if that would have meant finding alternative materials to aluminium than so be it. Maybe using a plastic Apple logo on the back where the wireless charging inductive wiring could have been put.

  • Reply 2 of 20
    irelandireland Posts: 17,521member
    CONS:

    Exceedingly bulky.
    Mini USB and not lightning.
  • Reply 3 of 20
    Carry around a power mat plus have a bulky, ugly case? No thanks. I bought a mophie Power Reserve. Haven't used it yet. Goes on a keyring, no cable.
  • Reply 4 of 20
    I liked this feature on my Palm Pre 2, but I don't miss it so much I'd want a compromised design. The hardware takes up a fair amount of space inside.
  • Reply 5 of 20
    Wireless charging= save 1.5 second to plug in lightening, but heavier and bulkier phone, only charge in one location, and very awkward to work/read with iDevice while charging.

    Alternative: buy a 2m (6.5 ft) lightning cable or three ($10 each at Otherworld), put one at each place you use your iDevice, plug in when low, and keep using the device in your hands or lap while charging.

    My wife and I have 4 iDevices between us in constant use. Each of us has a live lightning cable in our office, I have one more in home office, she has one in living room where she works, one on small table by door, and we have two 3m cables at the dining room table, where we read the "newspaper" on iPads and talk. If one of us needs to charge two devices at once at the table it's "please pass the extra lightning plug". All locations are iPad power capable, so we don't have to think about which device goes with what cable. (After this, we still have a surplus of wall units from prior iPads, but anyway I got a couple of Power2Us because they are flush with wall and geeky-cool). Oh, yeah, plus cig lighter USB and short cable in each car.

    I'm literally barely aware of whether I'm plugged in or not. I don't have to divide time between charging and using, and I never run out of power when out and about. Inductive charging on a mat would be a huge inconvenience.
  • Reply 6 of 20
    willett wrote: »
    but heavier and bulkier phone

    Wireless charge has negligible impact on phone, if foreseen in original design.
  • Reply 7 of 20
    relicrelic Posts: 4,735member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Benjamin Frost View Post



    Carry around a power mat plus have a bulky, ugly case? No thanks. I bought a mophie Power Reserve. Haven't used it yet. Goes on a keyring, no cable.

    You don't have to carrying it around with you, the unit can still charge with a cable. My Nokia 1020 charges wirelessly, it's great I just set it on it's little pillow before going to bed.

  • Reply 8 of 20
    muppetrymuppetry Posts: 3,328member
    Not really wireless - just a different kind of adapter and, as noted, one that effectively prevents use of the phone while charging. For overnight charging, requiring just plugging in the phone once, this seems a very marginal advantage. The only place I can imagine it might be popular is on the work desk, where it can be repeatedly picked up and put down as needed during the day.
  • Reply 9 of 20
    It's wireless, not contactless. Unlike induction technologies like Qi or Powermat which limit the current to 1A or 500mA, this case actually use little contact pins that automatically extend outside the case when pulled by the magnets on the charging mat.
    Also, you don't need the charging mat to recharge the case since it has a microUSB port, which can be used for charging and syncing.
    This ended up being my favorite power case of all... until I upgraded to an iPhone 6 Plus.
    Can't wait for them to make the same case for the 6 and 6 plus. They're 5 star cases in my book.
  • Reply 10 of 20
    mpantonempantone Posts: 1,349member

    My beef is that charging mats take up more space than the handset itself and a cord.

     

    Wireless charging would be more interesting if a charging zone could be created with a wall plug or maybe some sort of USB accessory.

     

    Some wireless charging mats are so finicky that if you don't align your device right, it won't charge at all.

     

    Plus, if you remove a phone/tablet from a place where it was charging with a wire, well, now that spot can be used for something else (e.g., a beverage). No one uses their wireless charging mat for anything else.

     

    Charging mats = stupid concept.

  • Reply 11 of 20
    "battery anxiety," what am I, a fricking Samsung phone luser??
  • Reply 12 of 20
    relicrelic Posts: 4,735member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by mpantone View Post

     

    My beef is that charging mats take up more space than the handset itself and a cord.

     

    Wireless charging would be more interesting if a charging zone could be created with a wall plug or maybe some sort of USB accessory.

     

    Some wireless charging mats are so finicky that if you don't align your device right, it won't charge at all.

     

    Plus, if you remove a phone/tablet from a place where it was charging with a wire, well, now that spot can be used for something else (e.g., a beverage). No one uses their wireless charging mat for anything else.

     

    Charging mats = stupid concept.


     

    And when Apple finally comes out with there own it will be best thing ever, right. What a load, my Nokia 1020 charges just fine with it's pad, I have never had to position it any specific way. Why don't you guys actually use one before commenting, they work as advertised.

  • Reply 13 of 20
    mpantonempantone Posts: 1,349member

    Regardless, that doesn't change the fact that charging mats take up more space than the device and a cord. The real estate lost to a charging mat is unusable to anything but a chargeable device.

     

    My guess is that Apple will come up with a more elegant wireless induction zone scheme, rather than a physical mat. Remember that Apple ditched docks.

     

    Again, charging mats are stupid. They certainly don't charge faster than a wired charger and most can't accommodate the greater load that tablets require. 

     

    Note that I wrote that some charging mats are finicky, not your device's mat. If you mat is better designed, that's great. Good for Nokia. (Or is it Microsoft?).

     

    Anyhow go ahead and enjoy your Nokia's mat.

  • Reply 14 of 20
    relicrelic Posts: 4,735member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by mpantone View Post

     

    Regardless, that doesn't change the fact that charging mats take up more space than the device and a cord. The real estate lost to a charging mat is unusable to anything but a chargeable device.

     

    My guess is that Apple will come up with a more elegant wireless induction zone scheme, rather than a physical mat. Remember that Apple ditched docks.

     

    Again, charging mats are stupid. They certainly don't charge faster than a wired charger and most can't accommodate the greater load that tablets require. 

     

    Note that I wrote that some charging mats are finicky, not your device's mat. If you mat is better designed, that's great. Good for Nokia. (Or is it Microsoft?).

     

    Anyhow go ahead and enjoy your Nokia's mat.


     

    I will thank you.

  • Reply 15 of 20
    mpantonempantone Posts: 1,349member

    You're welcome! Have a nice day!

     

    :)

  • Reply 16 of 20
    relic wrote: »
    Pretty neat but this should have been a feature that Apple added to begin with, if that would have meant finding alternative materials to aluminium than so be it. Maybe using a plastic Apple logo on the back where the wireless charging inductive wiring could have been put.

    Explain to me why any company should do something? I feel like you only want Apple to do it so you can post a dozen images of companies that did it first.

    Personally, I think their solution is unattractive, bulky, and an overall waste.
  • Reply 17 of 20

    I don't get the benefit of wireless charging if the device needs to sit on a charging pad. To me, that's the same as using a 1" charging cable. As several others have noted, using a decent length charging cord at least gives you some degree of freedom to use your phone while it is charging. When I charge my phone with a cord I can comfortably use my phone at my desk or on the couch. I would think it would be somewhat annoying to try to use my phone while it is sitting on a charging pad.

  • Reply 18 of 20
    relicrelic Posts: 4,735member

    Well for me it was more of the promise of a better way to charge your phone on the go. EverPurse for example is one such solution to that promise, it's a bag in which you can just drop your phone into and it charges. The bag itself is charged via another charaging pad when your home. At home I have a Duracell dual charging pad embedded into my night stand, I have a wood guy, or kid I should say, who is in a apprenticeship program for custom wood furniture, he does these things for me from time to time. Currently he's making me a Cherry wood desktop. with a very dark stain, to replace my current one, it's been carved out to support the insertion of my Panasonic 4k 20" tablet, so it sits flush within the table top itself. Basically a computer within my desk, the surface of the table and tablet seamlessly exist as one. Sorry, I got side tracked, but I just wanted to give you an idea of how I charge my phones.

     

    image

     

    The charging plate I use inside my nightstand and I have a Nokia charging plate and pillow for my office.

    Yeah, it's safe to say I like wireless charging, I just like really like the idea of not having to plug something in.

  • Reply 19 of 20
    relicrelic Posts: 4,735member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Larz2112 View Post

     

    I don't get the benefit of wireless charging if the device needs to sit on a charging pad. To me, that's the same as using a 1" charging cable. As several others have noted, using a decent length charging cord at least gives you some degree of freedom to use your phone while it is charging. When I charge my phone with a cord I can comfortably use my phone at my desk or on the couch. I would think it would be somewhat annoying to try to use my phone while it is sitting on a charging pad.


     

    I hardly ever use my phone when I'm home. My Nokia 2520 shares the same phone number as my phone, multi-surf package, so I get all of my SMS message's, Viber calls (GSM calls are also routed to Viber) and of course email, it's my little mobile office.

  • Reply 20 of 20
    fred1fred1 Posts: 282member
    Looks nice, but apparently it won't work with the wireless charging matts being introduced to Starbucks, McDonalds, airports, etc. etc.
    A big disadvantage, no?
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