Amber Review – A Charging Case for the Apple Watch
The Amber – Addressing a Common Problem with Wearables
We’ve been able to get our hands on an early version of the charging case to bring you this Amber review.
All wearables have a few things in common: they’re really effective, extremely addictive, SUPER-geeky and have a very well-highlighted positive aspect. You will basically spot every desirable feature of your smartwatch or fitness tracker the very first day you lay your hands on it. But slowly as the excitement dies away, the picture of what features on the flipside starts unfolding. I’m not talking about the ugly look here; that is actually very well addressed in the latest versions of these devices, or maybe we’re growing used to it. The problem lies in the minuscule – almost negligible – downsides that can add up to turn the encounter with your prized tiny possession into one helluva experience, much like an ordeal.
Apple Watch 2 price when reviewed: $399
My First Apple Watch – Charging 24/7
So, I acquired my first smartwatch – the Apple Watch – some few weeks ago. Everything about it is as cool as the ads suggest, but one main feature is downright off-putting: the battery life is awfully short.
If you own an Apple Watch, you know that you’ve got to charge it regularly. We’re not talking once a week here — that spangly little device needs to be juiced up pretty much every night. It comes with a charging cable, of course, but where do you put your expensive gadget when it’s re-upping? And what if you can’t find a place to plug it in?
Additional Reading: A Recap of Apple Special Event September 2015
A charging dock or stand that goes on a nightstand makes sense, and there are several aftermarket chargers that plug in and hold up your watch like a mini-clock as it charges. However, if your watch and charger accidentally get knocked over, or if your coffee splashes out of your mug, those stands do nothing to protect your investment from tumbles and spills.
Additional Reading: 10 of the Best Accessories for Your New Apple Watch
It’s essentially a smartwatch weakness, but then Apple being Apple, I wouldn’t project such a shortcoming. I overheard the Apple Watch 2 is on its way to the market and that the flaw has been corrected but you wouldn’t be sure about such assurances. Plus, I don’t think I’m ready to splurge on another smartwatch, a dead-ringer of something I already have, just to address a mere battery life issue.
Here’s where ClearGrass’s Amber comes in handy. It’s a combination of power bank and protective case for your sapphire crystal covered jewel, and it has power built in. Yes, finally we have a smartwatch power-bank! It’s coming, and soon you won’t be needing to bring with you a whole dock to charge your Apple Watch. You’ll be able to roll with a case, much like a jewellery case, on the outside, with a wireless charger on the inside that can hold charge on the go! It has a built-in battery, in simple terms.
Portable and Powerful
What’s great about Amber is that it has its own 3.7 volt rechargeable battery, allowing you to charge your Apple Watch anywhere, even if there’s no wall outlet available. Your Apple Watch charging cable plugs into Amber, and winds around an inner spool. To charge your device, you simply place it inside Amber. Cover it up for total protection, or leave it open to admire your awesome toy.
Amber’s battery can charge your Apple Watch an impressive eight times, making it a perfect device for taking on short trips. There’s also a USB plug for iPhone charging, though Amber can only charge it twice before needing a recharge itself. There’s also an Amber app to let you know when your watch is charged and provide notifications on other relevant details.
As Little Design as Possible
The folks at ClearGrass – the manufacturers of Amber – must have been fellow sufferers because their watch-sized charging station is the exact solution we’ve been craving, having looked at it from every possible angle. First of all, the case is the size of a rolled Apple Watch, extremely small and portable, that is to say. The battery part of it is placed at the middle such that the watch curves perfectly around it and fills the case without leaving much space out.
From The Inside…
The inside lining is soft and well-cushioned to ensure your watch’s screen is protected from scratches and even breakage. The lid, which replicates a suitcase top, is formidably easy to open and close and, though not completely waterproof, it can protect your watch from little fluid splashes.
In simple terms: the Amber looks great, embodying the Dieter Rams mantra, “Good design is as little design as possible.” The lines are clean, and there’s absolutely no visual clutter. It looks like the elegant box in which a well-crafted, high end watch would be sold. It also fits visually with the sleek industrial design of everything Apple produces.
Good design is as little design as possible
Additionally, the cable spool cover keeps wires out of sight. Thanks to the Apple Watch charging cable that simply gloms on instead of plugs in, there’s very little involved in making the charging connection. It’s great to have a useful device that’s practically effortless.
…To The Outside
From the outside, the Amber case resembles an Apple TV; it features round corners and its square body’s aesthetic matches its functionality to bits. It measures 4.02 × 4.02 × 1.77 inches and is 9.52 oz heavy without the watch, and can thus fit perfectly in your tracksuit pocket without overly protruding.
The aluminium case comes in a variety of outside colours which mimic those currently offered by Apple devices:
- Rose Gold
- and Black.
This means you can buy an Amber that matches your smartphone or watch, if you’re for the ‘matching’ thing, that is. The inside colour is white for all Amber charging cases.
Features and Performance
One of the most outstanding features of the Amber is its 3,800 mAh battery power. You can be sure to charge your Apple Watch and iPad or iPhone together without having to recharge the case. That’s right: you can use the Amber charging case, which has a USB 2A port at the back, to charge your iPhone as well. You may need to carry your own lightning cord though, but that should be nothing as long as your phone’s battery is covered.
Amber’s battery is rechargeable, of course, and can act as a normal dock when connected to a wall socket. When connected to an external power source, the Amber – whose battery is a product of Desay, a world-class manufacturer, – has the ability to charge your iPhone, Apple Watch and itself at the same time.
A Secure Hold
The traditional way of powering up the Apple Watch has been through the use of a magnetic charger, and that’s exactly what the Amber juice pack relies on. The magnetic connection is strong enough to hold the watch in place when you’re moving and the bag containing it is shaking. This completely sets the amber apart from its closest rival, the Nomad Pod, which can neither hold your watch securely while in motion, protect it from external shock nor charge your iPhone or iPod as well.
Smart LED solution
Another feature of the Amber that I cannot go without mentioning is the battery life LED indicator which only lights up for the first ten seconds you connect it to charge. It may seem peripheral but if you figure out how disturbing an LED that keeps flashing can be in a dark room like, say, in the bedroom at night, you would think of this as a very well-thought idea by ClearGrass.
Regarding performance, reports suggest that the Amber can charge both an iPhone and Apple Watch as fast as a wall socket would when plugged to an external power source. When disconnected, the speed may lower a little bit, but then you can still bank on it to charge both of your devices at a non-diminishing speed.
Conclusion and the Next Steps for Amber
The Amber is a portable charging system from Beijing-based ClearGrass and it’s good news on every front, but you can’t get your hands on it just yet. For the Apple faithfuls, who own more than one iDevice, in particular, you have every reason to smile because the Amber is here to ease you off the burden of carrying a powerbank for each one of your gadgets.
The Amber is unlike most other Apple Watch charging docks and stands on the market today. It’s protective, it’s portable, it’s powerful, and it’s pretty. That last characteristic may not seem as important, but with good design being so central to Apple’s raison d’etre, it will probably help boost Amber’s appeal.
The only bad news could be that the Amber has not been released yet, but with the Kickstarter campaign’s $50,000 target already met, we can be sure to have this sought-after device on the market, latest within the first quarter of 2016.
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