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When your phone is low on juice, nothing could be simpler than tossing it onto a wireless charger to power-up on impact. Microsoft's Nokia Wireless Charging Plate, also dryly known as model DT-903, attempts to smarten up the straightforward wireless charger with some LEDs that light up when you have an incoming message or alert.
Several settings let you customize things like which apps you want to alert you, and which house the charger should go dark, making it a better bedtime companion. Unfortunately, because this charger requires the phone to have both Qi wireless charging and the Lumia Denim software upgrade, it's limited to the Nokia Lumia 830 and 930 handsets, though not Verizon's Lumia Icon in the US.
It's also on the pricier side: $60 (which converts to £40 and roughly AU$70) at the Microsoft store and online. Overall, I appreciate that Microsoft/Nokia has tried to give us a wireless charger that does more, but the small handset pool keeps it niche, and I'm unconvinced that the alerts do much to help me out. This Charging Plate is on the right track, but needs more flexibility in programming LED patterns before I'd truly sing its praises.
The Nokia Wireless Charging Plate uses the Qi wireless charging protocol (pronounced "chee") to do its thing. I tested it in green, but the device also comes in white and orange.
Even when it isn't emitting light, the oblong charging plate is pretty nice to behold. It's got a smooth, pill shape that's about 6.3 inches (159 mm) long and 3 inches wide (76 mm). It's also pretty thin, at 0.35-inch (8.9 mm), though it does stand higher off a table than that. A short foot elevates the device from the surface so you can see the light streaming out. The Wireless Charging Plate weighs 5.3 ounces (150 g).
Now, even though it's called a "wireless" charger (since it charges the device on contact and not through a plug), you still have to supply this puck with power. There is of course still one cable sprouting out from the bottom. The idea is that you can position the plate to hide the cable, which you never have to worry about moving around, since the Plate itself is meant to remain more or less where it is.
At a little more than 4 feet (121 cm), the cable ends in a USB plug you can stick into your laptop, for instance, or a spare charging brick. The box unfortunately doesn't pack in one of its own, a real problem if you also want to keep a more conventional wired charger somewhere else.
Bright lights ring the bottom of the charging plate. They spring to life in three circumstances: first, to indicate an awaiting message or alert (even if the phone is off the charger); second, when you place the phone on the charger; and third, to remind you to charge your phone when the plate detects that your battery is low. The glow will stop when the phone is fully charged (and you have no other alerts), and when you dismiss an alert through the notifications shade or else open the notifying app.
How does the plate know all this? Easy: you've paired the accessory with your device with a simple tap. The NFC, or near-field communication, protocol instantly pairs the two through Bluetooth 4.0 The result is a fast, seamless pairing.
You have your choice of five apps to trigger a quick "pulsing" pattern. This feature supports any app that also works with the Windows Phone notification center. You can set these up by opening Settings and then selecting Device Hub from the list. Click on Wireless Charger, then slide from the Overview screen to Settings. You'll turn on the Apps Notification slider and choose from your long list of top apps, like email and Skype, or a social-media app.
While you're here, you can turn the battery notification on or off and adjust the brightness of the LED (it's set on high by default). If you plan to keep this in your home at all, especially in your bedroom, engaging night mode is a must. Just set the start and end times, like 10:00pm to 6:00am. That'll put the bright lights to bed right along with you.
I like the concept behind this wireless charger, but would also like a little more flexibility when it comes to programming the pad. The pulses can get a little bit annoying, and there doesn't seem to be any syncing that tells the phone to dismiss the alert if you read a Facebook message on your computer, for instance, instead of on your phone.
I'd also love to be able to pick my own pulse pattern for different apps, or maybe introduce other color option to differentiate one type of alert -- say a missed text message -- from another kind of notification.
I'd also like to be the one to determine which level of battery drain triggers the charger to light up as a reminder. I may not want to be bothered until it's dire, say 10 percent or less. As it stands, there's no visibility into the level that the accessory thinks is too low.
Although the Wireless Charging Plate will charge any phone with Qi, the extra lighting features are restricted at this time to those Lumia 830s and 930s.
The Nokia Wireless Charging Plate is a bright idea that could still benefit from a little more work. To be truly useful, it needs to pair with more than two devices, and it should include some finer controls over those app notifications and the way you'd like to be alerted. On the plus side, Night Mode is key.
From a price perspective, you can get a smaller, more basic Qi charger to wirelessly top up your phone for cheaper than this $60/£40/AU$70 plate. For the notifications, you'll need to pay a premium. If you have an 830 or 930 and like the idea of seeing alerts from a glowing charger, then this one does what it says. If you want more control over the finer details, though, you should wait for an update -- which could very well come through the software itself, rather than require a hardware refresh.