Review: Nomad ChargeKey, a keychain-sized Lightning cable

in General Discussion edited January 2014
The quest to have a Lightning cable on you at all times, ensuring the latest Apple iOS devices can be charged in a pinch, just got easier with the launch of the new Nomad ChargeKey -- an affordable, super-portable Lightning-to-USB cable that performs exactly as advertised.


Nomad's previous always-on-you solution, the ChargeCard, debuted last year, and earned high marks in AppleInsider's review. Since then, the company has redone the ChargeCard with a thinner design, and has been hard at work on its next product: a Lightning cable that fits on a keychain.

For the purposes of this review, Nomad provided AppleInsider with one Lighning-to-USB ChargeKey cable, compatible with all Lightning-connected iOS devices. The ChargeKey is priced at $25, and a separate model that replaces the Lightning connector with a microUSB plug is also available.



The ChargeKey is made of two hard plastic ends connected by a flexible rubber middle. On one side is a thin USB connector that can be plugged into a Mac, PC, or wall adapter for charing a device.

The other end includes a Lightning connector for charging and syncing, as well as a loop that can be used to attach the ChargeKey to a keychain. The idea is for someone who always has their keys on them, they'll always have a Lightning cable as well, ensuring their iPhone or iPad won't run out of juice due to a lack of cable.


The accessory is thin and on a keychain, it's no larger than a typical vehicle key, while slightly larger than a regular house key. Because it's all rubber and plastic, it's light and appears durable from our tests.

If you carry a keychain with a handful of keys already, as many people regularly do, adding a ChargeKey to your pocket won't add any noticeable bulk. And the bendable middle section of the accessory means it's not another stiff item added to your keychain that may poke you in the pocket.



The ChargeKey is truly designed for convenience. As such, anyone looking for a cable that can be easily used with a wall charger should stick to a traditional cable. We can't recommend attempting a balancing act with a ChargeKey, a wall adapter, and a $600-plus iPhone.

But that's not the point of the ChargeKey. Nomad's design is intended to make this a cable that you always have on you, without even thinking about it. In that respect, it succeeds.

Thankfully, we're happy to report that the ChargeKey works. We tested it with a MacBook Pro and a series of wall adapters. We found that it worked on an iPhone 5s, an iPhone 5, and an iPad Air.


With 3.1-amp charging, the ChargeKey has enough power to juice Apple's iPad lineup. It's also a USB 2.0 cable, which allows for syncing devices.

And though it's a small accessory, we're happy that Nomad chose to use bendable rubber as the middle portion of the cable. This allows some wiggle room with which to plug in and unplug a device --?a particularly important fact when using the ChargeKey when still attached to a keychain with larger traditional keys.



The ChargeKey is small and it works. Those simple accomplishments alone make this a success.

Priced at $25, the ChargeKey is a decent value, coming in $5 cheaper than Apple's own official Lightning cables. It's also a unique product, the likes of which we haven't seen elsewhere on the market.

Based on its price, portability and functionality, we can easily recommend the ChargeKey to any keychain-carrying users invested in Apple's "iDevice" ecosystem.

Score: 5 out of 5


  • Small, durable, lightweight, and fits on a keychain
  • $25 price makes it a decent value
  • It works!
  • Wall charger use not recommended because it's so small -- but isn't the size the point?


  • Reply 1 of 19
    quadra 610quadra 610 Posts: 6,756member
    You still need a wall adapter, Mac, or car adapter in which to plug it in.

    It's just smaller and more convenient than a cable, but the same requirements remain. Not really blown away by this.
  • Reply 2 of 19
    normmnormm Posts: 653member
    The one meter lightning cable from Apple is $19. Less, not more, than this.
  • Reply 3 of 19
    kibitzerkibitzer Posts: 1,114member
    Long review for such a short product.
  • Reply 4 of 19
    dcgoodcgoo Posts: 267member

    Originally Posted by NormM View Post

    The one meter lightning cable from Apple is $19. Less, not more, than this.


    Apple offera a .5 meter cable, also $19.  Only the 2 meter cable is more @ $29.

  • Reply 5 of 19
    jccjcc Posts: 309member
    Bad review. You never mentioned if you can actually sync with this or just charge?
  • Reply 6 of 19
    malaxmalax Posts: 1,598member

    I'm if curious is this is an official licensed product.


    I can see this as a handy product.  I'm much more likely to carry this around than a 1 meter cable.  And if I were on a trip and forgot my iPhone cable this would get me through (assuming I remembered my MBA or could find any other computer or USB port to suck power from, which is a safe assumption).  But as other have pointed out, being a more expensive than the Apple cable it tough to swallow.

  • Reply 7 of 19
    petripetri Posts: 106member
    jcc wrote: »
    Bad review. You never mentioned if you can actually sync with this or just charge?

    From the review:

    "It's also a USB 2.0 cable, which allows for syncing devices."
  • Reply 8 of 19
    rob53rob53 Posts: 3,010member

    Backordered until February 28, design is patent pending (for a cable??). Built to charge and sync. Similar to the USB design Apple used for a short period of time to deliver software. I presume they are an official and licensed Apple accessory dealer.


    iPhone Cable


    Interesting statement, again since it's just a cable and a special use one at that. Designed by a firm on Columbus St in SF.

  • Reply 9 of 19
    It would be even nicer if there were a way to detach it from your keychain so you wouldn't have to leave your keys sitting out in the open as well as your iPhone.
  • Reply 10 of 19
    I had a high quality USB key with a small hard plastic look for connecting to a key chain. Very similar to this key ring design. Notice I said "had" not "have". It lasted about 2 month before the plastic ring snapped and was no longer usable as intended. Ended up replacing it with an all metal design which has stood the test of time on my key ring. I'd buy this product in a heartbeat for its convenience factor but not before they reinforced it with metal.
  • Reply 11 of 19

    i invested in $20 in indiegogo for one similar to this, received it last week.

    Cute - and it works - slightly more convenient than a loose cable in my pocket.


    Quadra - "You still need a wall adapter, Mac, or car adapter in which to plug it in."

    Not always. Even when I travel, i can ALWAYS find a usb socket somewhere to charge my phone or iPad.


    Article conclusion "...It's also a unique product, the likes of which we haven't seen elsewhere on the market." not true.


    not affiliated,

  • Reply 12 of 19
    Someone already made this. Had it for about a year. It's white and it's authorized by apple.
  • Reply 13 of 19
    Does it have a "May be lethal to Asians" warning??
  • Reply 14 of 19
    analogjackanalogjack Posts: 1,073member

    Originally Posted by Quadra 610 View Post

    You still need a wall adapter, Mac, or car adapter in which to plug it in.



    It's worse than that, because you also need a wall, and a powerpoint, plus you need to be living somewhere that is routing power from an electricity generating plant, and if you are in the wilderness you'll need your own fuel fired generator, so yeah, this is a pretty useless idea, unless you've ever forgotten your cable and wish you had a little key ring cable.

  • Reply 15 of 19

    $25 is a ridiculous price for something like this (even recognizing that there's probably some IP-related payment involved).

  • Reply 16 of 19
    Great idea, but I think is ugly and needlessly expensive. In the article and comments no one mentioned anything about how prone to scratching are those exposed contacts, specially in a keychain. Could someone weigh on this? thx
  • Reply 17 of 19
    cash907cash907 Posts: 893member
    Flawed design. The way the keychain hook is placed, this won't fit if your phone has a case on it, even a thin case with a wide opening. If I have to remove my phone from it's case just to use this, it's not exactly convenient is it?
  • Reply 18 of 19
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  • Reply 19 of 19
    eric38eric38 Posts: 100member
    Is appleinsider paid for doing these reviews? If they were, would they disclose it?
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