Review: ChargeKey microUSB
The world of accessories fascinates everyone, of course, the drive to make everything smaller and smaller, yet still doing the same job. In this case, the ChargeKey microUSB, a full data and charging cable (i.e. all pins are connected through) that cuts bulk to the nth degree and fits nicely on a key ring. It's even shaped like a key and is a really neat accessory, albeit a little pricey.
The scenario is common enough - you're out of power while mobile or you need to transfer a large file (e.g. a movie or batch of photos) using USB, and your data and/or charging cable is back at home. "Does anyone have a microUSB cable I could borrow?" is the cry that goes up. And, if you needed data capability, you might get loaned a cheap one and then discover that only the 5V charging pins are connected through.
The premise here is a fully specced microUSB-to-USB miniature 'cable' that can be securely and robustly secured to your keyring. The ChargeKey is ultra flexible (see the last photo below) and is partly hard plastic (the two connectors and keyring attachment gap) and partly rubber, but all very neatly moulded together.
The packaging presents the ChargeKey very nicely, and it's all slim enough to fit through the thinnest letterbox, which could be handy.
You'll notice that the USB side of the 'key' is just the connector blade, an approach taken by some other minimalist accessories in the past, e.g. USB disks. The advantage is that the bulky metal outer shroud is absent, in keeping with the key form factor here, the disadvantage is that you have to take slightly more care when inserting the connector into a 'female' USB port or jack. Though, in fairness, the worst that might happen is that nothing will happen. Definitely a good tradeoff to make here, especially when compared to other 'short' microUSB cables on the likes of eBay and Amazon, almost all of which have the full USB shroud, a longer cable and fiddlier keyring attachment.
So far so good then. On the keyring, the ChargeKey is an almost identical size to a standard Yale style door key and it's easy to forget that the accessory is 'there'. Perfect for an emergency.
Build quality is top notch, and I'd expect the ChargeKey to last on the average keyring. The only weak point is the internal pin structure of the microUSB end - it's conceivable that something metal and awkward might get wedged inside and damage the pins, but this is something of a very long shot.
In use, I was delighted to discover that all the data pins were hooked up as well as the charging ones (despite the accessory's name) - meaning that this can be my emergency cable for all uses, and not just charging.
I tested the ChargeKey with both Symbian and Windows Phones, with no issues. I did find that the microUSB plug was a little tight in most Nokia microUSB jacks, but then this was a brand new accessory and doubtless it'll fit more easily after a bit of microscopic wear and tear. Trying it in some Samsung devices was a perfect fit from the outstart.
There aren't many products that make their way onto my day-to-day inventory after only an hour of testing, but the ChargeKey is small enough and convenient enough that there's almost literally no downside to adding it to your key fob.
Aside from cost, of course. Retailing for $29 (about £17), the ChargeKey falls on the 'premium' side of the pricing spectrum, but then it's also fairly unique, at least until some Far East manufacturers start cloning it.
Perfect for any gadget fan though, perhaps as a present, should a certain someone's birthday be approaching....
Reviewed by Steve Litchfield at