The New York Times reports on Newer Technology’s Power2U outlet with built-in USB ports for charging USB-powered things.
It’s an interesting idea that I’ve been following for a while. But even though I’m renovating my home office right now, I need to buy new outlets for it next week, and I’m a huge geek, I’m still not buying these.
- They’re about $26 each, which is about 5 times as much as a decent standard outlet. And the Amazon user reviews are pretty bad, citing what sounds like a lot of quality issues with the USB ports.
- Outlets are semi-permanent household fixtures, yet these are made with today’s quickly-changing technology in mind. They would replace 50-year-old outlets in my house. How useful will a pair of USB charging ports be in even 10 years? Will they even charge next month’s iPad?
- These require a non-standard faceplate. If I ever crack or accidentally paint the plate and want to replace it, I presumably need to buy a whole new outlet to get another one. With a standard outlet, I can probably go to any hardware store for the next hundred years and buy a new plate for less than the price of a cup of coffee.
There are some alternatives that avoid some of these downsides. But even if I could get a perfectly executed USB-outlet combo, I don’t think it would solve a problem that I really have.
The biggest problem is most outlets’ location: it’s not very convenient to plug a USB device into an outlet that’s near the floor. Many USB cables, including Apple’s, are barely long enough to reach an outlet from a desk. This would make a lot more sense for outlets at desk or countertop height.
But I’m also just not very bothered by USB power bricks by themselves. You still need to keep the USB cables around, after all, so these USB outlets are only saving you from dealing with half of each device’s charger. How many USB-charging bricks are you really likely to be saved from over the lifetime of these outlets before you get devices that can’t be properly charged by them?
If these still make sense to you, by all means, go for it. But I just don’t see the appeal in practice.