Sunday, 23 October 2016


When I saw this I laughed. The box inserted into the wall outlet (unswitched standard North American electrical socket for my English readers) is a ThingCharger. I was one of the early adopters. That meant I joined in a crowd funding scheme before any were actually made on a production line, and the company used the crowd's funds to get started in business. Some time later - quite a long time in fact - they sent me the chargers and I started using them.

Let me say at the outset that the ThingCharger is beautifully designed and carefully made. It does exactly what it says it will do and comes with clear directions and all sorts of videos about how to use it. The main benefit claimed - that you will no longer need to have cables trailing around to charge your things is true - but only so far as that goes, as the photo illustrates. We have had ThingChargers since they first started shipping and we no longer use them as designed, even though they are still plugged in around our home.

The place we used to plug in our phones and iPads  - before ThingCharger - was the kitchen counter. Why? Easy, those are the most accessible outlets. They cannot be used with the ThingCharger because of overhangs: the one on island has a shelf with an overhang above it. The one next to the stove is under a cupboard - and so on. The outlets in the bathroom are simply too perilous. Balance an iPad on a ThingCharger and it is at risk of falling into the toilet. So the places where the ThingCharger can be plugged in are outlets low on the walls of other rooms that are not hidden behind desks, tvs or stereo systems - all of which tend to have multi-outlet surge protection bars plugged in at all times.

So to use the ThingCharger, you need to bend down, and then plant the device exactly and correctly onto its power tip that protrudes from the Charger into the bottom of your Thing. If the phone or iPad is in its case, you have to be ensure that the power tip is in its intended socket and not just trapped between thing and case. There are USB ports under the ThingCharger but we have never used them as they are inaccessible in their current locations, and anyway leave cables trailing on the carpet which was what we were trying to avoid in the first place.

Yes, we no longer have cables trailing across the kitchen work surfaces where I was always convinced  I might slice through them. No, we are not using the ThingCharger. Except as noted above.

Before writing this article I did a Google search to find the links. The second item in the suggested list of searches was ThingCharger Complaints. There are many hits on that list. Here instead is a more balanced review. Which seems to reflect my experience. If your desk has a standard, flush mounted North American electrical outlet at a convenient height with nothing above it, then ThingCharger might be useful for your phone - or possibly a new iPad mini or similar. I cannot recommend its use on the old multipin Apple connector as used on older full size iPads.

UPDATE ThingCharger got into trouble. I have had several emails now from its founder, explaining what went wrong. That also cleared up why it is apparently no longer possible to get new spare tips. My partner would need a new USB C tip for her now phone if she was ever going to use the Thing again. The founder is apparently also convinced that he has another brilliant idea that he may try to crowd fund.