Review: uNu Aero Wireless Charging Battery Case and Mat for iPhone 5/5s
After many years of false starts, 2013 saw wireless charging accessories really hit accessible price points, and we're hoping that 2014 brings a unified standard or creates a dominant player. uNU is the latest company to bring its own option to the table with Aero Wireless Charging Battery Case and Mat for iPhone 5/5s ($100). The hard plastic battery case contains a 2000mAh cell, and there's a micro-USB port so you can charge it directly. But the package also includes a thin mat with two metal plates, which uses the included micro-USB cable to juice up the case via contacts. Black and white versions of Aero are available, and a headphone extender is included with each.
Physically, Aero is very similar to Incipio’s offGRID Battery Case. It uses the same sled-and-bumper-style design, although it’s a bit more rounded around the edges, and slightly thinner. The button protection is well-executed, allowing the controls to be pressed without needing much more pressure, or reducing the tactility. We prefer the feel of the matte black version, but the glossy white is nice, too.
There are two battery indicator lights on each side of the power button on the back of the case, although they’re not as reliable as we’d expect; when the charge level was down to the final 15% or so, Aero still showed three of the four lights. Improving the meter would make this a better battery case.
What makes this case special is the pair of small metal vertical contacts above the meter. Like other battery cases, Aero can be charged by plugging into the micro-USB port on the bottom, but it’s meant to go along with the charging pad. About five inches long, and three inches wide, the pad has a pair of 2.5” by 2.25” metal contacts on top of the plastic body, offering a weak magnetic attraction. When the case is placed on the pads, it’ll automatically begin charging. The only indication of a successful connection from the pad itself is a small light next to the micro-USB port going on; there are no audio cues.
While wireless charging is a neat feature to have, battery performance is the most important factor when it comes to a power case. Thankfully, uNu has a history of affordable, strong performers, and this one is no exception. We connected it to a fully depleted iPhone 5, let it charge fully, drained the iPhone again, and let the battery finish. All in all, it was able to deliver a 113% charge, which is well above the average, and on par with the performance from one of offGRID Pro’s 2000mAh batteries.
At $100, Aero is the least expensive turnkey wireless charging solution for the iPhone, and it works very well. Wholly respectable battery performance is paired with a simple but functional charging pad, for the same price as many competitors sold without the pad. The overall experience is strong enough to earn our A- rating. While wireless charging isn’t a necessity for everyone, this is the most practical and affordable way to get into it right now.