My Charging Station - The Story of a Fruit Bowl

One of my big concerns in today’s techy society is charging stations. I find them horrible. An eternal tangled mess of distress. Let me tell you about the current situation in my home.

We have a few different devices in need of daily or weekly charging.

  • Kids iPad (1st gen), classic 30-pin connector
  • Nexus 7 tablet and wife's android, micro-USB
  • My Nexus 6P, new and fancy USB-C
  • Wife’s work iPhone, lightning connector
  • Pebble smart watch, some magnetic custom connector

So, five different types of connectors. This is probably the main issue of concern right here. Having five different connectors are inevitably to many to handle in order to preserve some order among charging cables and adaptors. I am assuming and hoping that in the coming years we will move towards the welcome adaption of the USB-C standard (although if apple will ever adopt it is anyone’s guess), but as for now, this is where we're at.

Kitchen

My wife and I each has a cable by our night stands, we also have a micro-USB cord sticking out from the side of our living room TV (I'll get to that in a moment). But our main and central place for charging our stuff is on the kitchen countertop, just by the fruit bowl. This is a pattern I believe isn't particularly uncommon. From the top of my head, I can't think of anyone I know that doesn't have it this way. Let's see. Mom and dad's house - check, sister - check, wife's sister’s check and check, wife's mom’s house - check.

So obviously the kitchen is a good place for charging our electronics. Why? Well it's usually convenient as you move in-and-out of your kitchen frequently. There is also the perhaps more important fact that the kitchen has very accessible sockets. These were undoubtedly put there, right under the cabinets, for use with our kitchen appliances, mixers, toasters, coffee makers and what not. But nowadays, that's probably not their primary assignment anymore.

The current bedroom situation

The charging cables are usually just lying on the floor next to the bed - if I'm lucky. More so than not, it's been kicked under the bed. Same thing on my wife's side. The only time it's actually on the night stand is when it's connected to the phone. Only then does it carry enough weight to have it stay where it's supposed to be. It has generally become so inconvenient, I actually just do my overnight charging in the kitchen fruit bowl.

The wireless phase

I've had concerns about the messy charging situation for a while. The mayor path up until last year was to use as much wireless charging as I could. I bought a magnetic wireless charger in the official Nexus series to use with our Nexus 7 tablet and Nexus 5 phone. It was a good little expensive charger but I wanted it to be used on the wall which proved problematic. The idea was to place it by the TV in the living room. A good place to store it as we use usually use it to stream music to the stereo as well as streaming shows and movies to the TV. However, it couldn’t quite handle the weight brought on by the tablet when positioning it vertically. It also didn't always snap the device into a position where it would actually charge. So as of a while back, there's just a cable sticking out from the side of the TV.

I also had a nice wireless qi charger in the bedroom (a beautiful red Nokia/Fatboy cushion). This also became problematic because it had to be perfectly positioned in order to charge. Tough challenge to do in the middle of the night after just checking the time.

Wireless charging became a worse hassle than the hassle it was supposed to untangle. On top of that, I found the slow charging speed brought on by QI charging a bigger problem than I anticipated.

The fruit bowl

Ah, our kitchen fruit bowl. At what point does it stop being a fruit bowl and start being a cord bowl? The number of chords and adaptors in this corner of the kitchen is higher than the number of sockets. To add to this, we actually also use the sockets for you know, toasters and stuff, so things frequently gets pulled out and put in the bowl. Sockets have become rare and valuable. The cord situation has gotten so bad that we now even use the spice drawer underneath it to store some cords. So the mess is spreading. First infecting the countertop and the fruit bowl, now the spice drawer. It's getting ugly.

Solutions?

Well first, let's have a look at my criteria’s for a good charging station.

  • I don't want to constantly plug/unplug cords in the sockets.
  • I want it to look nice and tidy. No tangle, no cords just lying around everywhere.
  • Enough cables and connectors so that I don’t have to disconnect a non-powered device.

I guess I should look into setting up some cable management solution. I've come to terms with the fact that the fruit bowl probably is the right place for charging and the devices. It's taken a while to realize this. The mess it brings though - that has to stop. There are plenty of smart ideas to take inspiration from. Including Legos, paper clips and spiral cable wraps. I'll have to come up with something.

The future brings what?

The ultimate solution I hope to see sometime in the future: Wireless and fast perimeter charging. Meaning wireless charging for multiple devices simultaneously, with no physical connection needed. One meter perimeter would be plenty. Some prototypes of this exist and plenty of companies are working on solutions (including apple!), but unfortunately, it's not likely we'll be seeing wide adoption anytime soon.