Smart bag charges devices, refuses to get left behind

The Phorce smart bag is hitting the market with an impressive onboard battery and Bluetooth capability -- but at a hefty price.

Michael Franco
Freelancer Michael Franco writes about the serious and silly sides of science and technology for CNET and other pixel and paper pubs. He's kept his fingers on the keyboard while owning a B&B in Amish country, managing an eco-resort in the Caribbean, sweating in Singapore, and rehydrating (with beer, of course) in Prague. E-mail Michael.
Michael Franco
2 min read

Lots of pockets and power to boost. Phorce

A lot of potentially cool tech seeks cash on crowdfunding sites like Indiegogo and Kickstarter. Here's one gadget that made good on its promise to come to market -- although at a much higher price than originally predicted.

The Phorce smart bag had its beginnings with a Kickstarter campaign that closed in December 2012 and raised just under $200,000 for the designers. Now, the Phorce smart bag has been announced as a real-life product at this week's IFA electronics trade show in Berlin.

One of the bag's core features is an onboard battery with three USB ports that can be used to charge phones, tablets, and laptops. The battery's capacity clocks in at an impressive 26,000 mAH, which is about enough to fully charge a laptop once or to juice up a smartphone 10 to 12 times.

A second key feature is that the Phorce connects to an app on your smartphone (either iOS or Android) via Bluetooth and sends you a signal if you walk too far from it. As someone who loses stuff all the time, this a feature that's almost worth the bag's hefty price tag (more about that in a bit).

The technology itself and the multiple storage sleeves and pouches found inside the Phorce are impressive, but the outside features of the bag are pretty cool as well. It can be configured to work as either a messenger bag, backpack, or briefcase. It is constructed from a water-resistant fabric, with waterproof zippers and lots of padding to keep all that gear safe.

While the Phorce may be great at charging your mobile devices, it will do a decent job of draining your wallet. The original Kickstarter campaign said the bags would retail for $349 and $449 for PC and Mac versions, respectively. But the bags, available in red and black, actually cost €549 (about $721) for the PC version and €599 (about $787) for the Mac version, which comes with a Magsafe cable for Macbooks. The bags can be ordered on the Phorce website.

There's no real explanation of why the price has doubled except this mention in the press release: "The final product would become almost twice as powerful and include various new features. To achieve this, the team had to custom design and engineer every detail all the way down to the battery management system. This meant raising additional funds from investors, banks, and others to finance the two-year development process." So it's quite possible that the final product simply cost more to produce than the developers originally estimated.

For that kind of money, though, you could easily buy a high-quality convertible briefcase, portable charger, and a Tile to track your bag -- and you'd still have plenty of cash left over to buy lattes as you enjoy your portable office.

Of course, I wish I'd gotten in on that early-bird Kickstarter promo when the Phorce was going for $199. It was apparently a deal worth bagging.