Articles on this site contain affiliate links, meaning we may be compensated if you purchase a product or service after clicking them. Read our full disclosure policy here.
If there is one thing that nearly all (non-Apple) gadgets need these days, it’s a micro-USB cable.
That’s actually pretty great for someone who is used to carrying too many adapters (get it?), but it still leaves someone like me with a problem.
I don’t want to carry a cable.
Yep, I said it. I don’t want to have a loose one-meter cable in my jacket pocket. This is where I stand, and I’m not going to back down.
You can’t see it, but I’m folding my arms across my chest now, and making a serious face so you know I mean business.
Because of that, I was really excited to try out two options from Nomad, a company that first got their start on Kickstarter in 2012. They raised over $160,000 for their ChargeCard, a business card-sized USB cable for your iPhone or micro USB device that could fit in your wallet or purse.
Since then, they have branched out to several other convenient portable charge/sync cables. The company sent me a pair of cables to review, and I tested them out over a few months to see how they’d perform on the go. Both of these gadgets are available with micro-USB or Apple Lightning connector options.
The ChargeCard is a business card / credit card-sized cable that you can literally fit into your wallet. The card itself is solid, and tapers at the top and the bottom edge, with the middle being a little chunkier to house the actual USB connector While the card itself is hard plastic, the cable in the center is not.
The standard (but uncovered) USB connector pops out of the center of the card, and maneuvers in every-which-way thanks to a super bendy silicon wrapping over the cable inside. You plug this into your laptop, or a standard wall adapter. The other end, in my case a micro-USB connector, goes right into your phone / tablet.
In use, it’s a little awkward. Since the card itself is so solid, it kind of gets in the way, especially if you need to check your device for a notification while it is connected. That makes it a handy backup cable, but too much hassle to use as an everyday connector.
The NomadKey ($20 for micro-USB, $25 for Lightning) is a USB connector on a keychain, measuring about 3 inches (7.5cm) long. On one end sits a standard USB connector, and the other end holds a micro-USB connector popping out at an angle. It’s thin, light, and seems right at home on a keychain (without looking like a nerdy piece of tech on your car keys).
The keychain / phone charger end is solid plastic, while the rest is a bendy, rubberized feel, with the same 1/2 height standard USB end as the ChargeCard.
At first, the weight of a smartphone hanging from the cable seems like an accident waiting to happen, but the micro USB connector holds solid when you gently let it down to hang. I wouldn’t want to go around hitting it while it is attached to the wall though, so keep that mind if you’re charging in a high-traffic area.
Get Us in Your Inbox
Get our regular email updates with the latest travel tech news, tips, and articles. We'll also send over a free 5000-word guide to get you started!
How They Stand Up to the Daily Grind
I got a solid 4-5 months out of the NomadKey, using it every day or couple of days when I would need to charge away from home, but then it started charging slower than I was used to. When I plugged it into my laptop, I saw the “USB Device Not Recognized” bubble pop up, an indication that my USB cable was bad. It was a sad day.
The ChargeCard seems to have met a similar fate. Though it was used much less frequently over the past nine months or so, mostly sitting in my laptop bag for emergencies, it too has its issues.
Sometimes it will connect properly to my laptop, and other times I get that same error message. I blame the awkward angle that the cable has to bend for that problem.
The ChargeCard appears to have been discontinued by the company, and they now seem to be making a move toward smartwatch accessories. You can still pick one up on Amazon if you like, for about $15.
The NomadKey has had an iteration, with a fully covered USB connector. This tells me that the original design likely had some issues in terms of durability, and they were looking to rectify it. Kudos for that.
While the Nomad folks back up their gear with a pretty great two year warranty, that might be a little tricky and inconvenient to take advantage of if you’re out and about on your travels.
The NomadKey was so convenient for charging on the go, though, that part of me really wants another, even though I’m not confident how long it would last. It’s that great of an idea, and I found it so useful, that I’d be willing to give it another chance.