There are typically only two things consumers care about when it comes to a USB charger: that it’s as small and powerful as possible. The aesthetics of a wall wart rarely factor into the purchasing decision, but now someone’s come along and made a wall wart that looks like a tiny Macintosh computer, complete with a glowing, smiling screen.
Let’s back up. Most consumers are also happy to just use whatever USB charger is included with the device they’ve purchased, but as more and more smartphone makers are shipping devices without a charger in the box, it’s a trend we’ll probably see spreading to other devices soon as well. The demand for third-party chargers is only going to grow, especially since many companies are taking advantage of a material called gallium nitride to create very tiny but powerful wall warts that won’t crowd a power strip and are much easier to travel with.
So the Retro 35 GaN Charger from a company called Shargeek (is that short for shart or shark?) actually has more going for it than just an adorable retro-inspired design. It uses GaN technology to output 35-watts of power — enough juice for even a laptop — but with an overall size that’s not much larger than the 5-watt USB chargers Apple previously shipped with the iPhone.
With a set of North America-friendly folding prongs on the underside, the Retro 35 also uses coloured LEDs to light up its tiny screen and indicate its charging status, changing from white to yellow to blue to green depending on the power draw and charging speed of the attached device. The smiling Happy Mac face on the screen can also be replaced with other icons or images, as the creators have provided a template for users to print their own on transparent sticker material.
The only reason we’re not screaming at Shargeek to shut up and take our money is that the company has chosen the crowdfunding route to bring the Retro 35 to consumers, with a contribution of just $US25 ($35) — half off its full $US49 ($68) price tag — to its Indiegogo campaign needed to pre-order one, with delivery expected as early as July. The company has already blown past its funding goal of just $US510 ($708), but it’s always a good idea to anticipate unexpected delays with crowdfunded products, and understand you may have to wait longer than promised to get your device — and come to terms with the very real risk that like with many other failed crowdfunded products before this, you may also never see a product or a refund. Buyer beware.