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Circuit Breaker

This battery pack / thumb drive / stylus pen is trying too hard

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Jack of all trades, master of none

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I usually like multipurpose devices. After all, why carry two things when you can carry one that does two jobs or more? That’s just good common sense. But for some reason, the ChargeWrite pen has me uneasy. It’s a $29 device that has a pen, a stylus, and 1,000 mAh battery pack with a universal Lightning and Micro USB jack. A more expensive $39 ChargeWrite+ lowers the battery size to 650mAh, but adds 16GB of flash storage. Those are all good things. But how well do they work when crammed into a pen? And even if they work well, do you necessarily need them all in a pen?

It’s obvious that there are compromises in the ChargeWrite’s design. The primary purpose of a pen is to write stuff down. The ChargeWrite has a standard ballpoint pen, with what seem to be proprietary replacements (although the ChargeWrite team will be offering those for free, plus shipping, to Indiegogo backers.) So it’s probably not terrible for writing, but there are certainly nicer pens out there. A battery pack is supposed to charge your phone, but neither ChargeWrite is big enough to fully charge most smartphones. And while the universal Lightning and Micro USB plug is certainly nice, there’s no way it has Apple’s MFi blessing.

As always, the usual crowdfunding warnings apply — ChargeWrite is a new company shipping its first hardware product — although it seems that it already has several production units manufactured and ready to ship.

I don’t mean to just point out flaws. It is kind of cool that the ChargeWrite manages to fit all this stuff in. But for me, I’d prefer a great pen, a great battery pack, and a great flash drive than a single device that tries to fit all of them together. Or, as the old saying goes: "Jack of all trades, master of none."