Review: NomadKey and ChargeCard for Travelers

By Dustin Main Accessories5 Comments


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.

ChargeCard

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.
tma-nomad-nomadkey-1
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.

 

NomadKey

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.
tma-nomad-nomadkey-3
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.
tma-nomad-nomadkey-4

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!

No spam ever, and you can leave any time. Our privacy policy explains how we handle your personal information.

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.

Device not recognized, signs of a damaged cable.

Device not recognized, signs of a damaged cable.

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.

About the Author
Dustin Main

Dustin Main

Twitter Google+

Dustin just can't get enough travel or technology, but when he's not directly feeding one of those insatiable habits, you can probably find him at some far away ice cream shop taking pictures of empty cups. That, or on top of a mountain somewhere shooting photos and finding adventures to share on his website "A Skinny Escape".

Comments

  1. Avatar

    Nice review and very helpful as always. Thanks!

    I like the idea of both of these but neither works well.

    The ChargeCard, whilst aesthetically pleasing and innovative, is clumsy and impracticable – it seems that the Kickstarter money got spent on coffee rather than practical/ergonomic design.

    I would be more interested in the NomadKey. But I would not have my phone dangling from a socket like that unless I could use a pile of books to level it up! Probably not good for the cable or phone? As an option it might be useful for charging from a laptop on a flat surface. However, the Lightening option appears to be only Apple friendly and I have an Xperia X3 Compact which is more suited to the magnetic charger (due to potential weakness of flaps to access the USB socket).

    If a similar product to this

    http://www.amazon.com/Micro-USB-Retractable-Cable-BlackBerry/dp/B007Z419BI/ref=pd_bxgy_cps_img_y

    with a magnetic charger were on the market then I would be very happy.

    In the meantime both of these products need to consider retractable cables.

    1. Dustin Main Author

      Thanks Mark!

      While my phone dangling from the NomadKey was scary at first, the USB plug has never given way. I just make sure that when I plug it in, it’s not swinging around which might make the plug from the wall come loose. That said, I’m not sure if the bend of the key (from the weight of a phone) had something to do with the failure, or if it had something to do with the USB ports on either end.

      I haven’t had much luck with the retractable cables myself. With even moderate usage, they always seem to fail quite quickly. It’s either the mechanism for retracting that fails, or the thin cable that has to retract inside biting the dust.

      I’m curious about what you mean by magnetic charger?

      1. Avatar

        It’s a magnetic charging cable that clips on to the magnetic charging port on Sony’s Xperia phones.

        http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00H2EEB4S?psc=1&redirect=true&ref_=oh_aui_search_detailpage

        It saves the hassle and potential damage of having to continually open the rubber flaps that house the USB port. They have been known to break off or can loosen over time. I only have to access the USB port occasionally to back up the phone to PC or to copy files/media to my phone. But I could also do this via cloud/airdroid/pushbullet.

        You can also get a magnetic desk charging dock for the Xperias.

        http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00N9OBP7G?psc=1&redirect=true&ref_=oh_aui_search_detailpage

        The two products that you have discussed are very innovative but require a bit more work – but it’s great to see folks tackling these issues. It would be great to see this approach focused on the digital travellers’ ultimate bete noire…the laptop power brick!

        This is a step in that direction http://finsix.com/dart/

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.