When Apple announced AirPower, we discovered that there is a new type of wireless charging somewhere out there, but what, how, and when were never answered because Apple canceled the launch of AirPower. Today, however, some of that is being answered by Nomad and its collaboration with Aira. The Base Station Pro uses Aira's proprietary FreePower free positioning wireless charging to create a wireless charging pad that lets you just drop your phone anywhere without worrying about finding the "sweet spot."
Nomad Base Station Pro
Bottom line: This charging pad can charge three devices at once and there is no specific position necessary. Toss two iPhones and your AirPods Pro onto the pad and walk away without worrying about whether the charge will connect.
- Free-positioning charging
- Works with three phones at once
- Thin design
- Luxury leather look
- International adapters included
- Braided power cable
- First-generation tech
- No USB ports for wired charging
- Not edge-to-edge charging
Free at last
Nomad Base Station Pro: What I like
The Base Station Pro is a charging pad with an aluminum base and leather charging surface. It measures about 5.5" x 9", which is big enough to set two iPhone Pro Max devices, plus an AirPods Pro charging case or even three iPhone Pro devices. It's got a big surface, but under the leather surface is hidden a set of 18 charging coils laid out with a specific design and Aira's proprietary FreePower charging technology.
You can read up about FreePower more in my interview with Aira Co-Founder Jake Skatnick for the details, but basically, it's part of the next generation of wireless charging pads; a system of charging coils instead of a single coil system.
This means you can put your phone or earbuds charging case practically anywhere on the pad and it'll "seek out" the correct spot to connect to the device's wireless charging spot. You don't have to move your phone around or change its position in order to catch a charge. It also means you can set your phone down perpendicular to your charging pad and it will charge it every time.
Free positioning charging isn't as new as it was six months ago. More and more companies are launching their own versions that allow you to set your phone practically anywhere on the pad to receive power. I'm excited about this future of wireless charging.
What makes Nomad's Base Station Pro unique is just how thin the profile is. The Base Station Pro pretty much looks just like the Base Station. Even though it's got an 18-coil matrix, the coils aren't simply stacked one-on-top-of-the-other, so the pad maintains the thin profile that Nomad's other Base Station pads use.
As usual, Nomad makes an impressive luxury leather charging pad. If you like Nomad's aesthetic, you'll be pleased with this executive design. It's minimalist, elegant, and eye-catching.
When you're paying a premium price for your product, it's the little extras that count, and in this case, it's the braided USB-C cable and the international power adapters that are included in the box. I can tell you from experience what a complete joy it is to have adapters for different countries just sitting in your tech accessory box when you need them. And don't get me started on Nomad's braided cables. I've been a huge fan of these quality cables for years. The USB-C cable is removable from the charging pad. So if you want a good quality rugged USB-C cable for your everyday bag, you can steal it, replacing your less-rugged cable on the Base Station Pro (don't tell Nomad I suggested this).
Nomad Base Station Pro: What I don't like
In terms of design, I think Nomad could have done a little bit more to really wow us with the first iteration of the Base Station Pro; like having ports for wired charging, for example. It's actually designed with extra space where a USB-A port or two could fit, but it's not in this first generation. There is also no Apple Watch charging puck, or even an empty slot where a future Apple Watch charging puck could fit. Nomad assures me that both of these options are coming in a future version, but supplies were limited in 2020, making it more difficult to get the products they needed in time for launch.
Though this is marketed as free-positional charging, it's not 100% correct. The charging matrix does not extend all the way to the edge of the pad. For phones, you probably won't even ever notice it. With the AirPods case, however, I placed the case too close to the edge more than once and didn't catch the charge. So this free-positional charging isn't quite as free as I'd hoped for.
The technology itself seems a bit under-baked, too. In January, I was told that Aira's FreePower was super fast because it uses special technology that quickly finds the device to pick up the charge. In my experience with testing an iPhone SE 2, an iPhone XS, and an iPhone 11 Pro, it took about three seconds to connect and start charging. Nomad assures me that this will be addressed in a firmware update, available as soon as it's fixed.
I also discovered an unusual issue specifically with the iPhone SE 2. When I place an unlocked iPhone SE on the pad, it would sometimes trigger things to happen on the device without me touching it at all. For example, my email app launched, searched for a name, tapped on the name, started a new email and added a different address than the one searched for, and typed "Fb" into the subject line (yes, capital F). When I asked Nomad about this unusual behavior, I received the following:
In rare cases, multi-device chargers have been known to interfere with the capacitive sense touch screen in a device. This behavior, albeit a surprise to the user, is not damaging to the device and will not have any lasting effect. We hope to address this shortcoming in a future firmware update.
I have about a half-dozen multi-device chargers in my house, but I've never seen this happen before. I should point out that this only happened with the iPhone SE 2. I tried, but could not replicate the same issue with the iPhone XS or the iPhone 11 Pro.
With all of these little issues, it just seems to me that they could have held off launching the Base Station Pro a few more months until they worked out the bugs.
Free-positional wireless charging is so new that there isn't even a standard name for it. It's been called "free positioning," "freedom of placement," and "position free" in different marketing brochures. There are very few chargers that are marketed as free-positioning (or whatever version thereof).
You may have heard of the ZENS Liberty wireless phone charger, which launched in May. It has a very similar design aesthetic, but with a different charging matrix. For something completely different, the Spansive Source uses a type of free-positional charging in a vertical format.
Nomad Base Station Pro: Should you buy
You should buy this if ...
You've been waiting for free positioning wireless charging
This has been a long time coming. We've been waiting for better wireless charging since charging first went wireless and the Base Station Pro is at the cutting edge of this new technology.
You love quality leather and Nomad's design aesthetic
Free-positioning or not, the Base Station Pro looks fantastic on any desktop. It's made of quality materials, including the rugged braided USB-C cable, and charges three devices at the same time without effort.
You want a premium product that you can update as technology improves
Aira is continuing to improve on its FreePower technology and promises to regularly update the Base Station Pro with new firmware whenever there is a fix. That means your charging pad will always feel like new because it will continue to get new or improved features.
You should not buy this if ...
You don't have patience for brand new tech
There's no denying that this is new to market technology. It's going to have hiccups, glitches, and some initial setbacks. If you'd rather have a product that works perfectly out of the box, you should wait a couple more years before buying a free-positional wireless charging pad.
You own Android devices
Currently, Aira's technology was designed for the iPhones specific power delivery. Android Central's Daniel Bader noted that the technology can be spotty with some Android phones and it doesn't work at all with the Pixel 4. Non-Apple earbud charging cases may have some minor connectivity issues, as well.
You're waiting for Apple to bring back the AirPower
In a way, this should be in the "why you should buy it" section. Apple canceled AirPower. The technology just isn't here yet for what Apple is trying to do. So if you're waiting around for AirPower, maybe it's time to move on. That being said, however, we've been hearing a lot of rumors lately about Apple still secretly working on AirPower, so maybe waiting is alright?
Free-positional wireless charging is the next wave of charging technology and the Base Station Pro is on the ground-level of what's to come. If that's exciting to you, you've found a kindred spirit. If, however, brand new technology is too much drama for you, you should hold off until Aira perfects its charging matrix system, or wait to see what Nomad's second-generation Base Station Pro will be.
I'm excited about Nomad finally bringing the Base Station Pro to market. The technology is game-changing. The design is elegant, and it works incredibly well with as many as three iPhones at the same time.
This is a first-generation product, however. There are a few expectations that will have to be curtailed a bit, like the free-positioning doesn't work edge-to-edge and it takes a few seconds to connect to charge.
Overall, I thing the Base Station Pro is exciting new technology that has made my life more pleasant every single day. I no longer have to worry about whether I managed to place my iPhone in the correct spot to charge. I can just toss it onto the pad (and I literally did this many times, trying to stump the connection) and it'll charge up.
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