In this era of ultraportables, smartphones, and minimalism, carrying more around is passe. Doing so defeats the whole purpose of simplicity, and at least for me, it’s a burden that we should be able to get rid of entirely. Great products like the Wally Case help make that a reality by minimizing the wallet. So adding on to what we carry around daily sounds like a curse.
What we carry with us, however, may be really helpful or necessary. Most of us aren’t going anywhere without our car or house keys, or our wallets, or our phones, or a ton of smaller things. Some go together (health insurance card + wallet), some don’t (keys and smartphone = lovely scratches). But as a greater and greater reliance on smartphones and smart devices comes into play, we may find ourselves one day carrying nothing but our phone. What happens when that dies?
Say hello to the Kii, a nifty little USB-smartphone connector in the shape of a key, made just for your keychain. Three versions — Lightning, 30-pin, and MicroUSB for iOS and Android devices, respectively — latch onto your keychain and disconnect whenever you want a charge. Bluelounge was kind enough to send one each, for iPhone and Android, and I’ve been testing them for the last few months. And they are a lifesaver.
Depending on how heavily you use your smartphone, it may last all day or it may die within a few hours. A day ago I used my iPhone 5s for three hours straight and was down to 30%. Android phones with much larger batteries sometimes do better, and sometimes do worse, depending on the device and use. My experience is that unless you’ve got a phone like the Motorola Droid MAXX, it won’t last all day, and even if it does, that’s assuming that you charged it overnight and that you don’t care about the 50% charge rule.
No matter the case, we’ve all been there, with a phone discharged or close to it, and no cable. Cables are big and bulky and terrible for travel. MicroUSB is much easier to handle since it’s around for so many different types of devices, but cables are just a mess. So a simple USB to smartphone connector is the most practical solution.
I tested the Lightning and MicroUSB Kii’s and both are exceptional. I didn’t like either on the keychain, but I also hate keychains; my own carries one fob to get into my office, one car control (that has keyless entry, phew), and one physical key for my office locker. I’ve carried both of the Kii’s on my keychain, and it added significant bulk; they’re thicker than most keys, but also won’t scratch anything. Of course, if you have real keys on your keychain, the fact that these won’t do any damage is of little consequence.
However, I’ve kept both Kii’s on my bag’s keychain and they are excellent there. Since they are USB powered, the best use of the Kii is with a laptop, which is what the Kii is designed for. It’s flat and extends well off of a seated laptop. And if you need to transfer some data or backup the phone, the Kii is much easier to handle than a cable.
There are some obvious limitations with the design, namely that it’s not made to fit anything but a laptop. If your monitor has USB ports, unless they’re flat on the desk, the Kii won’t work. Wall charger? Na-uh.
Specifically with the MicroUSB version, getting it in and our of the key is surprisingly hard. The Lightning model will snap in when pushed, and when you pull the lock, slides out easily. The MicroUSB model requires the strength of Hulk to unlock, and Hercules to push in.
For the price, they’re actually a pretty good deal. The 30-pin model sells for $20; the MicroUSB for $25; and the Lightning for $40, which is surprisingly pricey, though not so surprising when you consider the cost of an Apple Lightning cable ($30). For $20 and $25, it’s an easy price to pay for the convenience. For $40, it’s tough to swallow, but the fact is that the Kii is ridiculously convenient. Once you don’t have it, you realize how much you need it.
Bottom Line: The Kii is an exceptionally simple way to keep your smartphone connected and charging on the go.