Mobile devices needing frequent power-ups often spawn cradles, docks, and stands to make charging more convenient and pleasant. This has long been true for the iPad and the iPhone (for our most recent roundup, see “Apple’s new iPhone Dock Versus the Competition,” 24 June 2015), and the iPod in its various incarnations before that.
So charging gear for the Apple Watch was all but preordained. Third-party accessory makers, upon learning about the smartwatch’s magnetic charging system consisting solely of a cord with a circular power puck, rushed to augment this minimalist arrangement with charging stands in a dizzying array of sizes, shapes, prices, and materials.
Some of these stands emphasize mobility, for use on the go as well as at home, while others are intended for the desk or bedside table. Some attempt to offer value by giving users additional functionality, such as making room for an iPhone as well as an Apple Watch. And while some stands look and feel chintzy, others attempt to match Apple’s design efforts with clever approaches and luxurious materials; they’re practically works of art.
After trying a bunch of stands, I’ve found a handful of favorites.
But buyer beware: the ultimate Apple Watch charging accessories are yet to come. The current selection tends to be problematic in a couple of ways.
First, existing charging stands are useless without Apple’s own watch charger, which must somehow be accommodated. This is often executed awkwardly. In some instances, the charger’s cable is jammed in so tightly as to make me fear it will get damaged.
This problem will go away eventually because Apple recently gave accessory makers the go-ahead to build charging surfaces into their Apple Watch stands. This will enable users to keep their Apple chargers in reserve, much as users of iPhone cradles with built-in Lightning prongs are able to do.
The other problem is related to the Apple Watch’s new Nightstand Mode, a feature of the still-in-beta watchOS 2. The new mode adds a landscape orientation to the watch’s screen when the device is placed on its side, much like iPhones and iPads, which can be handy at the bedside if using the watch as an alarm clock. It also makes it so pressing the side button dismisses the alarm and pressing the Digital Crown snoozes.
Nightstand Mode had not been announced when the first wave of Apple Watch charging stands hit the market, and not all are designed to accommodate landscape orientation. Second-generation stands are certain to be more Nightstand Mode-friendly.
Fortunately, a number of existing watch stands are Nightstand Mode-friendly. This was one of my criteria when deciding which stands to test for this article, though it was not a requirement, and a couple of my choices won’t work with Nightstand Mode.
I also searched for elegance and ingenuity, and I gave nods to stands that are somehow iPhone-friendly.
Pad & Quill -- This company, located in Minneapolis just across the border from my St. Paul stomping grounds, has long offered iOS and Mac accessories. Now it also provides a growing line of Apple Watch accessories that includes wood charging stands.
Its Luxury Pocket Stand for Apple Watch (starting at $79.99) is a compact, highly portable wooden slab with a fold-out piece that flips around to become a lightweight but sturdy charging stand.
The flip-out portion, which sits at an angle when deployed, has a carved-out circular cavity for the round Apple charging puck. An adjacent groove feeds the charging cord away from the puck and to the rear of the accessory, and there’s a notch below the charger through which to tuck the band.
The Luxury Pocket Stand is hewn from a single piece of hardwood, with a choice of cherry or mahogany. It’s a great choice for travelers.
P&Q’s Timber Catchall (starting at $99) works on roughly the same principle as the Luxury Pocket Stand, but on a larger scale. The tray-like accessory has a flip-up watch stand on the left, with a big, shallow compartment on the right for placing your iPhone or anything else you like.
The Luxury Pocket Stand and Timber Catchall both allow the Apple Watch to be placed on the charging pad vertically or horizontally – with the latter necessary for Nightstand Mode when that becomes available. Since the watch adheres magnetically to the charging pad, it won’t slip off regardless of the angle or orientation.
Griffin WatchStand -- I was prepared to dislike this charging stand because it’s made out of plastic, but it’s a winner.
The WatchStand has a heavy, square base with a non-skid rubber bottom. One of the stand’s four edges has a raised lip for holding an iPhone in landscape orientation. A stalk rising from the base is topped with a sharply angled surface that builds in a circular cavity for the charging puck. The watch clings to the puck, magnetically and securely, despite the steep angle.
The seemingly simple stalk hides a couple of nice features. It can be lifted from the base and repositioned in any of the three other directions, which can be nifty at the bedside to get a better look at the watch screen. It also conceals a rubber core with a canal for winding as much excess length of the Apple Watch’s crazy-long charging cord as you’d like, hidden from sight.
The stand is Nightstand Mode-friendly, and at $29.99 is the cheapest of this collection.
HiRise for Apple Watch -- Many who use Twelve South’s fine HiRise for iPhone and iPad mini (see “Apple’s New iPhone Dock Versus the Competition,” 24 June 2015) will likely regard the HiRise for Apple Watch as a must-buy. They’re nicely complementary.
Both have sturdy metal bases with device holders jutting upward at a slight angle.
With the watch stand, an angled metal slab has a circular cutout for the charging puck, and a notch for tucking the watchband away. The charging cord is fed through a canal in the back of the slab, down into and through the base, and out the back. The cable canal in the base is hidden by a leather lid, which is a nice touch.
The HiRise for Apple Watch is available in black and silver for $49.99. The stand is Nightstand Mode-compatible.
DODOcase -- This is a prominent San Francisco maker of iOS-device cases and covers, competing directly with Pad & Quill since both specialize in wooden cases with book-like covers. DODOcase has now also entered the watch-stand market.
Its Apple Watch Charging Stand is my favorite stand so far. It’s a lovely wooden pedestal with a stainless-metal base, and looks terrific on a desk or nightstand. It’s made out of walnut.
The compact stand is also a good mobile option because it has a thin profile that allows the charging cord to be wrapped around it for transport without having to remove the Apple puck from its cutout compartment atop the charging stand.
My one worry is that the charging-cord canal in the back puts the cable at sharp and tight angles, which may be damaging over the long term, especially since Apple is not known for the durability of its cables.
This stand is Nightstand Mode-ready. It’s $99.95, but boasts a gorgeous, functional design.
DODOcase has another Apple Watch product called the Dual Charging Dock that looks like a book, as its iPad cases do. Flipping open the “cover” reveals a hollow wooden slab with a round cutout for the Apple charging puck, and slot to use as a phone stand.
The watch lies flat over the cutout (meaning this isn’t a good Nightstand Mode option), but the wooden platform is angled slightly when the front book cover is tucked underneath it.
Cords are hidden from view in the hollow belly of the wooden piece, which has grooves and a couple of metal pegs for cable management. The wooden slab attaches to the book-like cover with magnets.
At first blush, the Dual Charging Dock would appear to be a good mobile option since it folds flat for easy transport. But getting those cables arranged properly is a bit of hassle and not something I’d care to do repeatedly on a trip. I do like this product’s quirky design. The Dual Charging Dock costs $79.95.
Nomad -- This maker of smartphone accessories has two Apple Watch entries, one outstanding in its minimalism and simplicity, the other unusual in its functionality.
The Stand for Apple Watch couldn’t be simpler: it’s a single elongated slab of aluminum that has been twisted in such a way that one end of the slab becomes the base and the other the elevated surface upon which the watch rests. The watch platform is angled sufficiently for Nightstand Mode compatibility.
Added touches include a non-skid bottom, a canal cut into the back edge for the charging cable, and the usual circular cutout for the Apple charging puck.
This all works splendidly, though I would have made the canal a smidgen deeper to better accommodate the cable, which is hard to seat properly. That quibble aside, I love this stand. It’s $69.95.
Nomad’s other Apple Watch charging device, the Pod, has a vague resemblance to a hockey puck, and incorporates a battery that makes it a mobile watch charger – which is an unusual, but welcome, feature.
Pod setup is trickier than I would like, but worth the effort. First, I removed the Pod’s aluminum cover. Its interior incorporates a USB port into which I jacked my Apple charger, and a path around the edge for tightly winding the Apple cord.
This all took a bit of trial and error. I struggled to get the USB prong properly seated in cramped quarters, and I needed a couple of tries to wind the cord properly, with enough room left for the lid. Finally, I positioned Apple’s charging puck into a cavity atop the Pod’s inner base, and I put the lid back on.
The lid has a round cutout through which the puck can be accessed. To start a charging session, I tapped a button to wake the Pod, and placed the watch on it.
Four white LEDs beside the activation button show how much battery power remains. A fully charged battery should yield about three full watch charges while on the go.
The Pod itself is recharged via USB, but Nomad doesn’t provide a Micro-USB charging cord – only a key-sized Micro-USB NomadKey. You might also want to get a Micro-USB cable (or a USB extender for use with the NomadKey) since it would enable you to use the Nomad Pod as a wall-powered charger, not just a battery-powered mobile charger.
Because an Apple Watch lies flat on the Pod, it is not a Nightstand Mode-friendly product. It also presents difficulties for those using closed Apple Watch bands, such as the Link Bracelet or Milanese Loop, since these would have to wrap underneath the Pod, where they could potentially get scratched.
But for those with open Apple Watch bands, the Pod is a tempting option for $69.95.
Both of Nomad’s products are available in dark-gray and silver variants.
Wrap-up -- Accessory makers have shown their usual penchant for creativity with their initial wave of Apple Watch charging accessories.
DODOcase’s Charging Stand is my top choice due to its beauty and versatility, with good looks for home use, and high portability for those on the go. Nomad’s Stand is alluring in its sheer simplicity. I’m surprised at how much I like Griffin’s WatchStand with its plastic construction, as well, and its low price is a big plus.
Accessory makers are scrambling to redesign their Apple Watch stands with built-in charging pads and Nightstand Mode compatibility. Now is not the ideal time to buy one of these products, since better offerings are in the pipeline. But if you want an Apple Watch stand right away, you will find some good options at a range of prices.