This gadget turns your tabletop into a phone charger – Is it worth it

Your desk is messed up. OK, maybe not your desk specifically, but think of all the things you’d find in an average workspace. Tap or click here to give your home office a high-tech makeover.

Start with your computer and then a monitor or two (or three?) with a keyboard and mouse you can have a set of speakers, wireless earbuds, and of course, the all-important phone charger.

Whether it’s a cable on your desk or some kind of docking station, it still takes up space. You now have the option of buying an innovative and “invisible” gadget that basically turns your desktop into a wireless charging pad – but is it really worth it?

Cave Labs UTS-1

Meet the Cave Labs UTS-1 Wireless Charger, a 2021 honoree of the CES Innovation Awards, that promises to turn any flat surface into a charging pad. Not only that, but this Qi charger is supposed to be as fast as some of the more powerful wireless charging options for iPhone and Samsung Galaxy smartphones.

Unless the surface is very thick, whether it’s a desk or some other type of table, the idea is to mount this charger on the bottom (no drilling required), hence the “invisible” part. It works with wood, glass, plastic, marble, granite and quartz but keeps it away from metal surfaces.

The ability to surface charge your phone in-between is possible thanks to Cave Labs’ patented Intelligent Power Communication (IPC) technology, which the company calls the first of its kind. Like any other Qi charger, electromagnetic induction passes through the phone case-like material, in which case just massive—which takes little setup.

When the sample unit sent to me for review arrived, I remembered not to get ahead of myself and just tear off the packaging. You’ll need to first make sure the surface you want to attach it to isn’t too thick or thin, and luckily there’s a guide you can use to double-check the right side of the box. For standard UTS-1, the surface cannot be more than an inch thick or thinner than seven-tenths of an inch.

Instead of adding it to my desk, I wanted to set up the charger on an end table where it would be accessible to other people in the house as well and it was within correct range. Now it’s time to open the box.

The package wasn’t that big, but I still found more than I was expecting. In addition to the actual charger, there is a power adapter, manual, paper guide, and various stickers. The next steps involve a certain level of patience…

some Assembly Required
Verifying that your desk or table works is the easy part. Now is the time for a little trial and error. Select the location on the Surface where you want to charge your phone, then line up and plug the charger straight down. Even if it is possible to drill small screw holes, it is very easy to use the supplied double sided tape to mount it.

Once it’s done, attach the power cord and toggle the small switch on the charger to C for calibration. Place your phone on top of the paper template that most closely matches your specific model. Then use both hands to slowly move it to the place where the charger is located.

The charger will beep more frequently as you get closer to the sweet spot and the phone will become a solid tone when the phone is fully lined up. This is where you slap one of the stickers on, where the X marks the spot. Then toggle the charger from C to one of two other settings, depending on the thickness of the table.

Does it work?

Because I didn’t want to attach the charger in a bad spot to take off the double-sided tape later, I was probably overly cautious during the installation process. Even so, it only took 20 minutes or so.

And it works… sort of. While the UTS-1 is designed to work with all Qi-compatible smartphones, it has a bit of a problem with the latest iPhone 12. Part of the problem is the thick camera module. But the biggest impact on performance is the MagSafe technology built into the iPhone 12, which has internal magnets that interfere with the charging signal.

And wouldn’t you know it, I have an iPhone 12 Pro Max. While Cave Labs recommends removing the case from the iPhone 12, it still charges mine — but it’s too slow.

Verdict: Is This Unique Wireless Charger Worth It?
Convenience doesn’t come cheap, and adding an “invisible” charger to your desk is no exception. While it’s satisfying to just plop your phone down and watch the charging indicator light up, it’s not going to happen for everyone—especially if you have an iPhone 12.

I love the novelty of this idea because it’s really different from anything else on the market. I also appreciate all the thought that went into the design, like detecting a foreign object that prevents it from trying to charge your keys or a random pot that you unceremoniously put on the charging spot.

But some iconic low-profile charging stations are going to be a lot cheaper than the UTS-1’s $104.99 price tag.

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