The birth and meteoric rise of the iPhone pretty much ended the use of physical controls on smartphones. Sure, there are still two or three buttons there, but only because designers and engineers haven’t come up with a foolproof touch-only replacement for them just yet. This trend of devices that can be controlled only by a tap or a swipe has crept into other products, especially those related to smartphones. Minimalist design and wireless charging technology both have a hand in a generation of wireless chargers almost devoid of any physical mechanism. While some might appreciate the simplicity of these designs, others might find them boring and even distant. The latter group of people might find this wireless charger to be a little bit comforting, bringing some level of active interaction back to our increasingly digital lives.
Designer: Lee Huang
The earliest wireless chargers had to be flat and horizontal for a good reason. The limits of technology at that time required that devices and chargers have to be very close and with magnetic coils overlapping at a precise position. Now that magnetic wireless charging is a thing, one can even place a phone vertically on a wall-mounted charger. What hasn’t changed, however, is how these surfaces still need to be completely flat, which interestingly still resulted in mostly flat designs anyway.
MagSafe Trio, which might be too common a name for this design, is a concept that tries to bring a bit of life to the otherwise banal wireless charger. It does so by adding back some physical controls but without using typical buttons or switches. The charger requires a physical action before you can actually use a function, making the activity more intentional, deliberate, and, in a way, personal.
Pushing a spring-loaded button on the front, for example, makes the MagSafe disc pop up for charging a compatible iPhone. On the side, you have to twist and pull a knob to reveal an Apple Watch charger. The top of the box-like charger is admittedly flat to accommodate an AirPods case. There is a button there to switch on a soft light, though it isn’t clear if it also toggles the earbuds’ charging. That light also makes this charger concept a good night lamp for your bedside table.
The MagSafe Trio concept makes charging a bit more interactive and almost playful, but it might not appeal to those who just want to drop or stick their devices to a charger at the end of a tiring day. The design also leaves a few questions unanswered, like how the mechanisms will fit in such a small body or how it won’t topple forward with a heavy iPhone hanging from it. Still, it’s an interesting idea that brings a little bit of life to sometimes dreary and commonplace chargers. That said, the new wave of magnetic wireless chargers with unconventional designs is also attacking that problem from different and more practical angles, making it a bit more interesting to watch this space.