While external battery packs are becoming pretty generic, we’ve generally been pretty impressed with what iWalk has done with its battery packs over the years, providing good, high-capacity battery options at pretty reasonable prices. So we were somewhat intrigued when iWalk announced their new Watchman battery pack that provides the same 10,000 mAh capacity that the company has been known for, while also incorporating an Apple Watch charger. While iWalk is a bit late to the Apple Watch charging game, it’s worth noting that it carries around twice the capacity of competing Apple Watch battery packs, albeit with a corresponding price premium.
Watchman sports a fairly minimalist design in comparison to the company’s other products we’ve looked at — it’s basically a rectangular brick that’s roughly the size of an iPhone 7, with a circular Apple Watch induction charging pad on top. A power button, USB-A and micro-USB port are found on one end, while a built-in Lightning cable folds out from the side. Unlike iWalk’s Trio, there’s no advanced charging status display included either; a three-LED light on the front simply shows you a basic view of the battery’s capacity. A USB to micro-USB cable is included for charging the Watchman, but you’ll need to supply your own 2A USB power source for maximum charging efficiency.
A simple press of the button turns the battery pack on, at which point it will begin supplying power to both the Apple Watch charger and any device attached to the built-in Lightning cable or the USB-A port on the bottom. iWalk promises the Watchman can provide up to 12 full recharges of an Apple Watch, or about three recharges of an iPhone 7, which seemed about right in our testing. However, most users will likely charge both an iPhone and an Apple Watch, in which case of course you should expect to get fewer charges of each; in our experience Watchman was good for about three nights of charging up an iPhone 7 Plus and an Apple Watch before it needed to be juiced back up — still pretty impressive numbers that would allow you to take Watchman along with you on a weekend excursion without having to worry about finding somewhere to plug in at night. That said, Watchman also supports pass-through charging, so if you choose you can simply bring along a single USB charger to plug in at night in your hotel room, thereby saving the battery capacity for when you really need it. It’s one less charger to bring with you, and you can leave your Apple Watch charger at home on your bedside table.
Unfortunately, Watchman lacks Nightstand support for the Apple Watch, which is rather disappointing for a device that we think a lot of users would travel with; Nightstand mode is a feature that we find particularly useful when staying away from home. The magnet on the Apple Watch charger is strong enough that you can stand Watchman up if you really want to use Nightstand mode, but you’ll need to prop it up against something to do so — it’s ultimately more of a kludge than a feature. That said, Watchman isn’t really alone in this limitation; the only Apple Watch battery pack we’ve looked at that does provide Nightstand mode support is Zagg’s Mobile Charging Station, however it’s half the capacity and you have to supply your own Apple Watch charger.
We also found the LED on Watchman to be glaringly bright — something that’s not really all that great if you’re using it on your bedside table at night. Depending on your choice of watch band, you can mitigate this somewhat by angling the Apple Watch slightly so that it covers the LED, but we still found ourselves wishing that iWalk had chosen a more discrete indicator.
While Watchman doesn’t come cheap, it’s important to keep in mind that it’s only the second battery pack we’ve seen that provides a built-in Apple Watch charger, following Kanex’s GoPower Watch — a $100 option that provides 60 percent less capacity than Watchman. By comparison, less expensive — and similarly lower capacity — options such as Zagg’s Mobile Charging Station and Nomad’s Pod Pro both sell for $80, but require that you supply your own Apple Watch charging cable. Knowing Apple, it’s almost guaranteed that there’s an “Apple tax” built into the price to account for the MFi licensing fees required by the use of the Apple Watch charger, and we’ve been debating the tradeoffs between supplying your own Apple Watch charger versus paying extra for a built-in one for a while now — if you’re willing to use the charging cable that came with your Apple Watch, you can certainly save a few bucks with one of the “BYOC” options, or even just go with a generic battery pack like iWalk’s Extreme Trio, which offers twice the capacity of those options for about the same price. However, when you factor in the $30 price tag of an official Apple Watch charging cable, the asking price of iWalk’s Watchman isn’t as steep as it may seem at first glance; there’s no doubt that you’re paying a premium for the convenience of having everything in a single pack, but we think that this “just throw it in your bag and go” aspect is something that frequent travellers will appreciate. Watchman is a solid solution that’s worthy of our strong general recommendation.
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