Review: Nomad’s battery-powered Pod keeps your Apple Watch ticking all weekend long

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The first round of Apple Watch stands were just that, accessories designed to keep your Apple Watch from rubbing against your nightstand or desk. This month, we officially moved into the second wave — powered Apple Watch docks — with the release of Boostcase’s Bloc and Nomad’s Pod ($60). Boxy, flat, and long, Bloc was a clean design with questionable practicality, but Pod makes a lot more sense: like the Apple Watch Magnetic Charging Cable it holds inside, it’s a partially metal and partially plastic puck you can easily take anywhere and use to charge any Apple Watch. Having previously designed the beautiful Stand for Apple Watch, Nomad promises that the rechargeable 1800mAh battery inside Pod “keeps your watch powered all weekend.”

From my perspective, the Apple Watch’s single biggest issue is its one-day battery life, which has meant risking a dead watch while traveling or otherwise away from a power outlet. Although you could just carry around a device-agnostic USB battery, Pod solves the power problem at a more aggressive price point than Bloc, and in a convenient form factor that will appeal to a lot of people. You can choose from a silver and black version, as shown in the photos here, or a space gray and black version made to match darker Apple Watches. Read on for the details…

Key Details:

  • Clean, simple design that bonds an 1800mAh battery and Apple Watch charging cable together
  • Silver or space gray versions nicely match Apple Watch and Apple Watch Sport designs
  • Solid feel, locked with magnets
  • Ideally suited to open-banded Apple Watches
  • Can be used with closed-banded Watches if you self-pad the table or nightstand below

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Roughly one inch thick when fully assembled, Pod arrives in four pieces: a base, a lid, an insert, and a cable. The base is the most substantial component, a 3.1″-diameter circle of aluminum with a rubber bottom pad, a hard black plastic top core, and a 1800mAh battery inside. If you’re using Apple’s thinner (non-Sport) Apple Watch Magnetic Charging Cable, you add the foam circular insert to the top of the base; otherwise, you leave it off. Even with the insert inside, the charging puck is elevated just enough to make contact with the Apple Watch’s inductive charging surface once the lid is placed atop the base. Pod totally works, but a millimeter or two of extra elevation would have prevented even a slight level of Watch/Pod contact.

Pod is easy to set up. You connect the Magnetic Charging Cable’s metal plug with its USB icon facing outward to a port in the middle of the base, wind the cable around the central wheel, and place the inductive charging puck in the center. Apple’s 1m and 2m cables are both supported. Unlike Bloc, which was designed with overly tight tolerances, I had no problem whatsoever connecting the USB plug, winding the cable, or securing the puck inside Pod. Once that’s done, you place Pod’s lid atop the base, and two magnets in each part lock onto each other to keep the unit closed.

While you can easily remove the cable if necessary, you can treat the assembled Pod as a fully portable one-piece charging station, topping off its internal battery as needed. To that end, Nomad includes a NomadKey micro-USB cable, normally sold for $20. NomadKey is too small to be plugged into the backs of iMacs or Mac minis, but fine for MacBook Air and MacBook Pro connections. Pressing a small button on the edge next to the micro-USB port activates four small white power LEDs, which glow briefly to indicate the remaining charge level, staying on when the Watch or the Pod are charging.

Should you want to use Pod as a wall- or computer-powered dock, you’ll probably need to self-supply a longer micro-USB cable to connect with the Apple Watch’s packed-in wall adapter or another power source. During most of my tests, Pod worked without complaint as a pass-through dock. But I noticed on one occasion that it wasn’t passing my iMac’s USB power through to the connected Apple Watch. To avoid this issue, you need to be sure you’ve pressed the edge button to turn Pod on — if you do this, you can feel confident that your Watch is charging.

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Pod’s battery performance is solid rather than mindblowing. Nomad originally said that the 1800mAh battery inside Pod would deliver four full charges to an Apple Watch, but later quietly walked back that claim to the aforementioned “powered all weekend” level. In my testing, Pod delivered around 287% additional power to the 246mAh battery inside the 42mm Apple Watch, which is to say two complete recharges and then 87% more before expiring; the smaller 205mAh battery inside the 38mm Watch should easily hit three full recharges. This isn’t a complete surprise because Bloc’s 2000mAh battery just barely went over the three charge mark, but it’s short of Nomad’s original “four” number, for whatever that’s worth.

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If there’s one obvious issue with Pod, it’s that the design is really meant for open-banded Apple Watches; you can use it with Apple’s Milanese Loop or other closed bands, but they’ll wrap under the rubber-padded bottom, potentially scuffing against your nightstand or desk. Including a soft carrying bag would have at least reduced this problem. But apart from that, I really like what Nomad has done with this accessory: it’s relatively small, capable of keeping an Apple Watch running for around four days (including its initial charge), and markedly less expensive than Bloc. While device-agnostic USB batteries are viable alternatives, Pod’s clean cable management, size, and design are all well-suited to Apple’s latest device. Give Pod serious consideration if you’re looking for an all-in-one solution to your Apple Watch’s on-the-road power needs.

Manufacturer:
Nomad
Price:
$60
Compatibility:
Apple Watch

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Comments

  1. TechSHIZZLE.com - 8 years ago

    Needs to be angled to take advantage of Nightstand mode.

    • Jeremy Horwitz - 8 years ago

      Gotta say that even having tested the feature myself, I’m still not sure how many people are going to care about Nightstand mode. It’s really not great, particularly since the Watch screen goes dark rather than staying on when in that mode. I keep hoping that it will get better during the beta process.

      • Zac Hall - 8 years ago

        My thoughts exactly.

      • TechSHIZZLE.com - 8 years ago

        I thought that as well until I realized that the display will turn on when the watch Senses movement. This means I can just tap the stand or nightstand near the stand and the display will turn on.

        Granted, I’d rather it always be on since it is plugged in, but it helps.

  2. It is funny how people compare charges and how they operate, i generally use my watch all day and still have 40%+ left at the end when i go to bed, so on that basis, i would get more than the 4 days charge they initially stated… i would get nearly 5 days, and with me leaving the 1st day fully charged, that is alms 6 days…! Works for me… ;)

    • Jeremy Horwitz - 8 years ago

      I think that the original claim was “four charges,” not “four days.” The actual number is “around 3 charges, give or take a little,” which equals as many days as you can get out of around 3 charges.

  3. 2is1toomany - 8 years ago

    Hey Jeremy, thanks for talking about the experience using Nomad with an Apple Watch that doesn’t use an open band. I actually own a SB SS Link Watch and I was wondering how I’d wrap my watch around that. I could potentially unlink it since it’s very easy to do. I also switch out my band for a white sports band that I use most of the time. May not be an issue after all. Great stuff!

    • Jeremy Horwitz - 8 years ago

      Glad to do it. Doing something like what I showed above (or turning the Watch on its side) typically enables even open band-designed accessories to work with closed bands, but it can be awkward and not ideal for the band under some circumstances.

  4. I’d be more keen on just buying a short (12-20cm) charging cable and keeping it as a spare in my bag. Yet the shortest cable you can buy now is 1m, which is way too cumbersome for carrying around in a day-bag.

    I always carry a battery with me anyway and there are plenty of 5,000-10,000 mAh batteries of comparable size (to the Pod) and much cheaper.

    • Jeremy Horwitz - 8 years ago

      The balance of convenience and price is really Pod’s key selling point. I totally agree that there are a lot of high-capacity universal batteries out there, including the one linked at the top of the review. But not many (if any) offer an ideal combination of Apple Watch-ready size, pricing, and superior power capacity. Until those Apple Watch pucks start getting built directly into accessories, carrying around a lot of unnecessary cabling is just going to be a thing for portable Watch chargers. Add the cable to a 5,000mAh+ battery and you’re not going to be close in size to Pod (unless you treat the cable in a more haphazard way than Nomad did). However, if you’re already going to be carrying a big battery around for your phone or tablet, carrying Apple’s cable around as well may just be a small added inconvenience.

  5. Zachary Clyde - 8 years ago

    I personally have no issue whatsoever with the apple watch battery. Even on a day of ‘heavy use’ including a 10 mile run with the activity app, looking through emails, checking the weather, reading and responding to messages, using the Elevate app, and whatever else struck me, I never have had the watch die on me. I was considering buying something like this when I first got my watch, but finding that the ‘One Day Battery Life’ wasn’t as big of an issue as most critics claimed it would be I decided to forgo the purchase, and I’m glad I did. For someone who travels I might see this as useful, but if you are traveling overnight, wouldn’t you most probably bring power cords for all of your devices anyways? In which case you could use a universal USB power source, to charge all of your devices instead of this dedicated apple watch charger.

  6. darwiniandude - 8 years ago

    I have the 42mm SS link

    This product really doesn’t work with that at all to be honest.

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