No, it’s not the thing that Pac-Man eats. Or the drugs that Roger Ramjet was (allegedly) on. Instead, it’s a converter for charging devices from underpowered USB sockets.
Before I start, I’ve got to get these out of my system, because every time I pick the PowerPill up, I think of both of them.
iStyle PowerPill: On the plus side
Keeping mobile devices charged can be a real challenge, especially if you spend a large part of any given day away from handy power sockets — and even then, you’ve got to remember to carry a charger with you, and hope that the prongs don’t skewer something else in your bag in the meantime. Most smartphones and tablets (outside the really cheap and nasty brigade) charge via USB these days, so it’s often tempting to use one mobile device — a laptop — to charge others. Which is all fine and dandy when it works, but when it doesn’t, because the USB socket in question doesn’t supply enough steady power for actual charging, it’s a pain.
That, in essence is the problem that the iStyle PowerPill claims to solve, converting an underpowered 500mAh USB port into one that’ll pump up to 2,100mAh of power out to connected devices. Operation is simple enough; you plug the PowerPill into a USB socket, select the mode (Blue/iDevices, Red/Samsung Galaxy Tab or off if you just want passthrough for some reason) and plug in the cable you’d already use with the device. iStyle’s claim is that you can speed up charging times, or simply make them feasible in sockets where they otherwise wouldn’t work. From my testing, that’s a fair estimation; it was certainly able to make some non-charging sockets into charging ones for iPhone and iPad devices during my test period.
iStyle PowerPill: On the minus side
There’s a couple of catches with the iStyle PowerPill, although most of them are pretty obvious. Firstly, it’s not as though it’s magically rewriting the laws of physics by creating this energy out of nothing. Use it for long enough to charge your tablet or phone, and your laptop battery life is going to suffer an equal amount. Actually, probably ever so slightly more once you take into account the light on the iStyle PowerPill and a little bit of heat loss over the transfer.
Secondly, while it’s portable and flexible, in that it’s small and can take any USB plug you throw at it, this also means it’s easily lost, and it’s functionally not that useful if all you have is the PowerPill but no connecting cable. Contrary to the hype of the video above, you’re still looking at a fair amount of tangle if you’re travelling with devices that use different charging cables, such as if you cross iOS device generations, or use other custom cables.
iStyle PowerPill: Pricing
Finally, there’s the asking price. The RRP of the iStyle PowerPill is $29.95, which is reasonably pricey for what is still a charging solution. By way of comparison, Apple’s own branded 12W USB Power Adapter currently lists at $25, and there are no doubt cheaper alternatives still out there.
iStyle PowerPill: Alex’s verdict
The iStyle PowerPill is designed to solve a very specific problem, and to be fair to it, it’s perfectly adequate at solving that problem in its own way. The only value challenge here is the fact that it’s not the cheapest way to provide power to your gadgets, and as such you’d want to find yourself in the position where you had charging cables but no wall sockets and an underpowered USB port a lot for it to be really worthwhile.