Review: The Joy Factory Zip Mini Touch-n-Go
None of the existing conductive charging solutions on the market have struck us as particularly practical so far, but The Joy Factory's Zip Mini Touch-n-Go ($50) actually makes some sense, because it takes a different approach than the others we've seen. Rather than requiring a case to be on your device whenever you want to charge it on the base, this one works with small cords called "zip tails" that plug into the Dock Connector or Micro-USB port on the unit, and then magnetically connect to a central unit. Because it outputs a total charge of 2.1A, it'll work with all of Apple's Dock Connector-equipped devices, and even charge an iPad at full speed when it's the only thing attached.
The heart of the unit is a 3.25”-diameter plastic charging base with four contact areas on the top, and a green LED ring right in the middle. The only traditional connector is the Micro-USB port found on the back; this allows the unit to be powered with the included USB cable, either through a computer or the bundled wall adapter. Lining the bottom is a soft felt material that prevents the base from scratching your desk, but also allows it to slide around a bit more than we like. That normally wouldn’t be a big problem, but it becomes an issue when devices are connected via easily breakable magnetic connections.
Packed in with the base are two of the zip tails, one with a Dock Connector plug at the end, while the other has a Micro-USB plug—they can easily be stored in the included fabric bag. The cable running between the magnetic connector and the plug is less than two inches long, which has its benefits as well as the obvious drawbacks. Some users may leave these short adapters plugged in to the bottom of their devices, as they aren’t terribly obtrusive, and let them dangle until the power runs low. Others may not like the fact they can’t really use the device while it’s charging because of just how the short the tether is. With four devices plugged in, your desk could easily become crowded.
When it comes time to charge, you simply move the magnetic end of the tail within range of one of the four contact areas. It’ll attach, and then automatically begin charging whatever devices are connected. There are no flips to switch or buttons to push—it just works. However, because of the output restrictions, there are some limitations on what can be attached. For example, if an iPad is plugged in, nothing else will charge. If another device is already plugged in before the iPad is connected, the tablet will display a “Not Charging” message when it’s connected. Two iPhones are supported at a time, or four iPods. Extra cables are available so that you can reach these maximums, with the Micro-USB version selling for $13 and the Dock Connector version going for $15. Removing the connectors is as easy as lifting them away; the magnetic connection is weak enough that it takes to real effort to break.
Zip Mini Touch-n-Go is a well-executed alternative to inductive chargers, though that’s somewhat of a loaded phrase given that even Apple’s packed-in USB cables could be reasonably described in the same way. We like the concept, the size, the ease of use, and the overall design—The Joy Factory got a lot right here. However, Zip Mini Touch-n-Go remains in the “is that really necessary?” category given that most iOS devices include wall chargers, and could really benefit from a few upgrades. Pumping the amperage up so that the base can charge an iPad and at least one other device at the same time would be appreciated. So too would be the option, at least, of longer zip tails. These aren’t huge issues for an otherwise good charging accessory that’s worthy of our general recommendation.