While Apple and Samsung are hard at work engineering sleek smartphones, the experience of charging most phones is still less than elegant. In my case, it means plugging my phone into one of several wall outlets around my house, connected to ugly power strips and a jumble of cords. It’s enough to ruin the entire feng shui of a room.
Courant, a newly launched startup, is working to give the humble phone charger a makeover. Monish Sabnani and Evan Moskal launched Courant out of a Brooklyn-based incubator called Assembly Brands that focuses on creating tech-forward consumer products. The brand makes high-end wireless charging pads that are wrapped in Italian leather for you to proudly display in your home and office. Sabnani and Moskal say they were inspired by products from the world of luxury fashion. In other words, they wanted the products to be more than just functional: They wanted consumers to covet them the way we might covet the latest “it” bag.
Courant currently makes two wireless charging pads in three colors: cream, gray, and black. The $80 “Catch: 1” is a square shaped charger, while the $175 “Catch: 3” is a rectangle that features the charging pad on one side with an accessories compartment for your jewelry, watch, or wallet.
That’s far more expensive than other wireless chargers on the market, but Sabnani says it reflects the materials: “We’ve sourced our leather from the same Italian tannery that many luxury brands use when they make handbags,” he says. “We wanted to create something that was more than just a functional electronic device. We designed these products to look beautiful in your home.” The chargers are only available on the brand’s website right now, but will soon be available to purchase at retailers like Need Supply, Goop, Nordstrom, and Neiman Marcus.
Wireless charging products have been around for several years, and there are now dozens of options available from brands like Belkin, Samsung, and Mophie, starting at about $20. They generally consist of plastic stands or docks that will charge your phone upon making contact with it. Wireless charging is growing exponentially: In 2016, 144 million wireless charging devices were sold, but analysts predict this will go up to 2 billion by 2025.
What’s unique about this new form of charging is that it is a universal platform that can be used across all smartphone companies. Until this technology came along, each company used its own method: Apple used lightning cables, Android used Micros USB, and Samsung used USB C. This consolidation is a product of an organization called “Qi” which certifies charging devices by testing them for safety, compatibility with different phone companies, and energy efficiency. Qi launched back in 2011, but only became mainstream in 2017.
Next up, Sabnani and Moskal are working on the next generation of electronic charging: Far-field charging. These devices will allow you to charge several devices through the air. Since this is still an emerging technology, it’s unclear when this new device will hit the market. But one thing’s for sure. Courant’s founders will make sure it will look at home sitting next to your latest handbag or watch splurge.