Totm+Travl and Outweighing First-Party Luxuries

A product called “Totm+Travl” showed up on my Apple News feed yesterday. It’s an Apple Watch charging dock. I always felt that most of these docks only offer purely aesthetic value, something that does nothing more than looking nicer on a bedside table. Considering how expensive these docks can get, I never considered purchasing one.

Totm+Travl is a charging dock that’s finally different. The Kickstarter page touts a few key features that were compelling at first and really clicked for me after thinking about it.

  • It, of course, hides your cable and acts as stand, like any dock
  • It also has a built-in battery that lasts up to 7 days of recharge
  • It connects to your iPhone via Bluetooth 4.0 and supports automation via IFTTT with three triggers: docking, undocking, and fully charged
  • It shows up on your iPhone’s battery widget

It’s a portable battery bank for your Apple Watch, an automation trigger, and a dock. If you think about it, these three features make a lot of sense to have in one product.

Anchoring to Existing Habits

A watch is one of the few things, other than clothes or glasses, that’d be with me for longer than my phone is. Taking off my watch to charge is practically a stable nighttime routine. For a lot of people, whether that would be closing the curtains, arming the security systems, or whatever other fancy sequences they have, charging your watch before bedtime is the perfect trigger to start them all. It makes more sense to me than saying “good night” to a soul-less software system, and probably more reliable, too.

Battery + Cable vs Cable + Charger

“Totm” is the pure dock part, nothing more than a hollow wood stand that tucks your unsightly cables inside. I suppose the name is a hipster take on “totem.” Yes, because your Apple Watch has spiritual significance and is worshipped as an emblem of your life.

The “Travl” part is an automation-capable, battery-powered base that snaps onto the Totm piece with strong magnets. Both come together seamlessly to form a Japanese tea-cup sized, portable dock and an awkward name: “Totm+Travl”.

Bringing around an extra charger for your Apple Watch isn’t hard, but bringing a Totm+Travl would make more sense. Their Kickstarter page claims that the battery lasts up to 7 days, or 3 full charges (assuming you end your days at 40-50%, which was my typical results when I had a Series 2). With an LTE-enabled Series 3, that number would probably drop to 20-30% on average. Based on that, Travl would probably charge my Watch 5 nights. That wouldn’t be so bad for something this small. And when Travl battery runs out, you can charge it via a standard USB-C port.

The bottom line is, if you have to bring a charger and cable for trips, you might as well bring a Totm+Travl, which already has your cable inside, a built-in battery.

AirPower vs Totm+Travl?

Apple’s own take on wireless charging, AirPower, is undoubtedly very Apple-like. It charges exactly up to 3 devices at a time (since it’s designed with iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods in mind). When your iPhone, Watch, and AirPods sit on the same AirPower pad, your iPhone communicates with other two and shows the charging progress of all three on the display. The added value here over other wireless charging pads is clear: integration among Apple-designed gadgets.

Of course, Totm+Travl won’t have that first-party luxury. When considering the value of a 3rd party app or accessory, it always comes down to one question: will the additional value of this outweigh the loss of integration offered by its first-party equivalent? For example, if a 3rd-party timer app only does the timer part, why would I use it over the stock one that’s also conveniently accessible via Control Center, custom-tailored lock screen, and Siri? But if you offer me a timer that scans tea labels and automatically sets the optimal timer and offers temperature suggestions, I’d give up the niceties of the stock timer in a heartbeat. I think that’s one of the goals of first-party apps and accessories in general: to promote innovations beyond basic features.

My order of Totm+Travl won’t arrive until March 2018. That’s half a year from now. When it does arrive at my doorstep, it’ll be time to test it against the conveniences of AirPower.

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