Crowdsourcing sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo let inventors appeal directly to the public for funds. They’ve made a lot of entrepreneurial dreams come true.
If you’re inspired by the inventor’s pitch video, you send some money. It’s not an investment; you don’t get rich if the invention becomes a hit. But you do get some memento — a T-shirt or a discounted version of the invention once it’s manufactured — and the rosy glow of knowing that you helped to bring a cool idea to life.
Until now, there’s been only one problem: You had no way to know if the invention was actually any good. You had to trust the inventor’s video.
That’s the beauty of our Kickstarter reviews. We actually test the prototype, find out how much promise it has and help you decide if the thing is worth funding or buying.
Today’s invention: The All-Dock, a handsome universal charging dock for all your gadgets.
The claim: The All-Dock is the fastest charger in the world for phones, tablets, cameras and other gadgets that charge from a USB jack — four or six of them at a time, depending on which model you get. It’s also a convenient stand for using the touchscreens while they’re charging and an attractive way to conceal cable clutter.
Price: $60 for the compact four-gadget model, $90 for a four-gadget model with bigger slots, and $110 for the full-sized six-gadget version. (These are estimated prices for the final versions when they ship in May.)
Goal: This Kickstarter project needed $40,000 to go from prototype to manufacturing. With three days left in the campaign, more than $87,000 has been contributed — more than double the goal. It’s a go!
Status: There are two working prototypes, both in pretty much final form.
What I tested: The inventor, Klemens Dittrich, sent me the glossy white four-gadget model (plastic). A black plastic one will also be available, along with a wooden one (walnut or bamboo) and, eventually, anodized aluminum models in silver or black.
My test unit was final in every way except that its USB jacks don’t supply as much juice as the final version will (2,000 milliamps instead of 2,400) and therefore don’t charge the gadgets as fast.
What I learned: I’ll come right out and say it: I’ll bet a lot of the people who contributed to the All-Dock project were misled.
The video on the inventors’ Kickstarter page quite clearly depicts something irresistible: a charging stand that lets you plop your phones and tablets into perfectly sized slots — with one hand.
What a glorious setup, right? Snap in, snap out. No fiddling with cables.
But that’s not what actually happens. The All-Dock is essentially a hollow box that conceals your USB charging cables. You have to supply them: a Lightning cord for your recent iPhone, a 30-pin cable for your old iPad, a mini USB cord for your Android tablet, and so on.
The top of the All-Dock — the part with the slots — lifts out. Inside the box, you find a row of four or six USB jacks. That’s where you connect your cables.
(Yes, my 9-year-old labeled his iPad charging cord so people would quit taking it.)
You thread them through openings in the top deck (where the slots are), reseat the top deck and then plug the single power cord into the wall. It’s 70 inches long; it will practically reach a power outlet down the street.
But here’s the thing: Each time you want to charge your gadgets, you have to find the correct protruding end of its corresponding cable and connect it manually, just as you always have. It’s a two-handed operation that somehow got edited out of the Kickstarter video. And that requirement takes a lot of the magic out of the All-Dock.
I know, I know. If needing two hands to plug in a cable is life’s great frustration, then we’re the luckiest first-worlders on earth. But you see my point: The demonstration video distinctly makes it look like a one-handed operation.
Now, to be clear, the All-Dock still offers advantages over the usual cluttery mess on your counter. It does conceal the tangle of wires. It does prop up the gadgets, horizontally or vertically, so you can use them while they charge. It does provide a slight audio-quality boost to music played by gadgets, like the iPad and the iPhone, whose speakers are on the bottom edge. Here’s what it looks like on my kitchen counter.
Perhaps most usefully of all, the All-Dock charges quickly. Klemens asserts that the USB hub inside the final box will supply 2,400 milliamps of power to each gadget, more than any other dock. That’s enough to bring most gadgets to an 80 percent charge within an hour.
Since my prototype didn’t have the final charging hub, I don’t know if that’s true. I can say for sure, though, that my gadgets charged a lot faster than they would plugged into a computer’s USB jack (though not as fast as if they were each plugged into a wall outlet).
The big question, then, is: How unique is the All-Dock?
Turns out the answer is: Not very. A quick search on Amazon unearths several multi-gadget charging docks, some of which have almost exactly the same design. They all require you to supply your own USB cords, for example. They all require two hands to plug in each cable to your gadget. And most cost less than the All-Dock will.
The rival boxes don’t advertise their USB hubs’ power measurement, like 2,000 milliamps or whatever. Otherwise, though, they seem to be the same (very good) idea, for less money. And you don’t have to wait to get them; they’re all available now.
The bottom line: If you contribute to this Kickstarter project, you’ll enjoy the satisfaction of helping an inventor’s dream come true. You might get slightly faster charging.
You will not, however, get something new and original — and you will not get the effortless “insert to charge” effect depicted in the All-Dock’s video. You’ve been warned.
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