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FLI Charge review: Versatile wireless charging pad works with USB gadgets, too

Apple is praised for innovation, but is often one of the last to adopt new technologies. Yet there’s no denying the company helps fuel mainstream adoption by doing it better than everyone else. The new iPhone is rumored to introduce wireless charging, which has yet to hit the tipping point.

There have been several attempts to bolt wireless charging onto iPhone, but none do it as well as FLI Charge ($149 MSRP for the Essential Setup; available on Amazon). At its heart is FLIway 40, a silver/white charging pad measuring 8.66 inches across, 3.92 inches deep, and half an inch thick. It’s the first to offer 40 watts of power, enough to charge multiple devices at once, and far more than competing products.

Since the required conductive charging technology isn’t yet built into Apple’s hardware, the company sells a $69 case that adds this functionality to the iPhone 6/6s, iPhone 6/6s Plus, iPhone 7/7s, or iPhone 7/7s Plus. Although FLIcase adds unwelcome bulk to these sleek smartphones, it also offers great protection, with a smooth matte finish that feels great in the hand, plus a slick two-piece design that allows the case to be removed with ease.

With FLIcase attached, all that’s required to charge is setting your iPhone on the charging pad. Unlike competing wireless chargers, there’s no “sweet spot.” Four metallic contacts on the back of the case guarantee proper charging. Speeds are comparable to a regular wall outlet, but there’s no wear and tear on the Lightning port since you just grab the iPhone and go.

FLI Charge

FLI Charge makes it possible to wireless charge a pair of iPhones at the same time as larger-capacity devices like iPad.

There are some limitations. With the FLIcase on, you lose access to the Lightning port, substituted with a micro-USB port that protrudes half an inch from the bottom. A charging cable is included, as well as a headphone adapter to extend that port. The FLIway 40 power adapter is rather large, often obstructing use of the adjacent AC plug.

Charge anything

With FLI Charge, you’re not limited to wireless devices. The company offers two $29 accessories capable of powering wired devices from the same charging pad: FLIcube, a 1.61-inch square with a single USB port used with existing charging cables, and FLIcoin, a small white puck with a six-inch cable in either Lightning or micro-USB flavors tucked along the edge.

Using these accessories, it’s easy to charge up to 12 devices at once. FLIway 40 regulates more juice to devices that need it (smartphones, tablets), pushing less to lower voltage gadgets like Bluetooth headphones and smartwatches. It’s easy to still wind up with a tangle of cables, though. I set up FLIway 40 in our kitchen with my wife’s iPhone 6s in a FLIcase, a FLIcube for her iPad, and pair of FLIcoins for the kids’ iPads mini, which bordered on a mess.

That said, until Apple adds built-in wireless charging, this is as good as it gets for iPhone owners. FLI Charge components are available separately as well as in the bundle reviewed here, making it easy to place several charging pads around the home so they’re always close at hand.

Bottom line

Mixing wireless convenience with the ability to power any gadget that plugs into a USB port, FLI Charge offers a versatile way to charge multiple devices from a single place.

IDG Insider

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