After researching scores of Apple Watch charging stands and travel chargers, and testing about a dozen of the most promising models over the past year, we think the best option for most people looking for a consistent and stable place to charge their Apple smartwatch is the Spigen S350 Apple Watch Stand.
The S350 is surprisingly inexpensive (it uses your Watch’s stock charger to keep the price down), but it’s compact, stable, and easy to put your watch on and take it off of; it also holds the Apple Watch in landscape orientation to let you use Nightstand mode. That said, most charging stands we tested worked fine, and the best one for you depends on whether you see a charger as a utilitarian add-on that should cost as little as possible, or as an accessory designed to show off the best smartwatch for iPhone owners. We have a number of favorites, from basic to premium to combination watch/iPhone docks, below.
Depending on which Apple Watch features you use, you’ll need to charge the smartwatch at least every couple days, but more likely daily. For most people, that means on the nightstand while you’re asleep, on the vanity while getting ready in the morning, or on the desk while you’re working. You can use the Watch’s included USB charging cable on its own, but the cable’s charging puck can slide around your desk or nightstand (or, worse, fall behind it), and the watch can accidentally disconnect, leaving you with less than a full battery. A stand or dock gives you a stable and reliable location to charge.
Our main requirements for a good charging stand are:
Beyond these criteria, we prefer stands that can hold the watch in landscape orientation for Nightstand mode (which turns your Watch into an alarm clock while it’s docked), but because not everyone uses Nightstand mode, this isn’t a requirement.
To find the best inexpensive models, we filtered the scores of offerings down to roughly 10 by looking for stands under $30 that meet our criteria, get overwhelmingly good reviews (professional and/or Amazon), and look good enough that we wouldn’t mind having them on our own nightstand. Because these models have no electronic components, or even moving parts, and they’re very inexpensive, the brand name isn’t as important here as the overall fit and finish, but we did prefer known companies with good reputations.
For the premium models, we looked for models that meet our criteria, come from a company with a good reputation for product quality and customer support, and are MFi-certified to ensure that the charger will work with, and won’t damage, your watch.
We found that extended use is really the only way to evaluate Apple Watch stands. It’s tough to tell from even a few nights’ worth of charging if a particular model has minor flaws that will increasingly annoy you over a longer period of use—for example, if you have to nudge the watch just to get it to firmly contact the charging disc, or remove your phone from a dual-device charger before you can pick up your watch, you’ll eventually get frustrated. So we used every tested stand for at least a month, every night, unless a deal-breaking flaw became obvious sooner.
Inexpensive charging stands put your Apple Watch’s own charging puck in a simple, convenient enclosure that gives you a convenient place to charge on your nightstand or desk. We’ve used about a dozen of the most promising models, and our overall favorite is the surprisingly affordable Spigen S350 Apple Watch Stand, one of only two basic models we tested that met all of our criteria and had no significant annoyances. (The other, a similar model from Moko, hasn’t been consistently available.) The S350 accommodates any Apple Watch band, closed or open, and has a nanosuction pad on the bottom to keep the stand from sliding around. Plop your watch onto the stand, and the S350 holds it in landscape orientation—perfect for watchOS’s Nightstand mode, which turns your Watch into an alarm clock while it’s docked at night—just above the surface of your bedside table or desk. The low profile makes it easy to put the watch on the stand and remove it, and we had no issues with the watch losing contact with the charging pad.
As with other inexpensive stands, the S350 achieves its crazy-low price (just $7 at the time of publication) by using your watch’s own charger, rather than including its own MFi-certified charging puck, as more-expensive models do. But it’s quick and easy to install and remove the puck, so you don’t need to buy an extra if you plan to travel with your Watch—and the stand is small enough (about 2 inches tall) that you can opt to bring both charger and stand along in a pinch.
The S350 has a small ledge on the front that supports the bottom of the Apple Watch while the watch is docked. The ledge makes centering the Watch on the magnetic charger easy, and keeps it from falling off the charger or moving when you press the Watch’s buttons—especially useful in Nightstand mode, where the watch’s side button doubles as a Snooze control. (The body of the 38 mm Apple Watch is slightly narrower than that of the 42 mm model, but Spigen includes a thin “bumper” that adheres to the bottom of the ledge to ensure the smaller Apple Watch still sits perfectly against the charging disc.)
The stand’s rigid, rubbery polyurethane is plain and utilitarian, but it’s available in black, white, blue, or pink. Given the price, the S350 looks pretty good, and when your watch is docked, you barely see more than a little of the front ledge and a bit of the top edge of the stand. Our only real complaint is that the S350 routes the charging cable out to the side, where it’s always visible, instead of out of the back where the stand’s body would largely hide it.
The Spigen S350 works perfectly, but it’s about as plain and unobtrusive as you can get. If you want something with a bit more personality, Elago’s W3 Stand turns your charging puck into a cute-as-a-button miniature classic Macintosh, yet is still functional, quite stable, and affordable.
The W3 Stand is made entirely of flexible silicone, in black or classic-Mac beige. (Go with beige for the best retro effect.) Once your Watch’s charging puck is installed in the stand—the cable routes out the back of the stand, at the bottom, so it looks like a computer’s power cord—you just slide your Apple Watch in between the “screen bezel” and the body of the Mac, where it rests perfectly, turning the watch into the mini computer’s screen. (Fun fact: The 42 mm Apple Watch has a 312×390 display, compared with 512×342 for the early all-in-one Macintosh models.) In this position, Nightstand mode makes the little Mac a great alarm clock. The open top edge leaves the watch’s side button accessible, so you can still hit the snooze button if you must.
The W3’s silicone body generally stays in place on your desk or nightstand—it doesn’t have a sticky pad on the bottom, so it’s not as stationary as our top pick—and the stand works with both open and closed watch bands. One nitpick: With the 38 mm Apple Watch, if you’re looking up at the “computer screen” from below, you can see a tiny bit of daylight along the top edge of the watch’s body. In normal viewing positions—looking down at it on your desk, or at eye level on your nightstand—you won’t notice this.
Apple’s own Apple Watch Magnetic Charging Dock is our favorite premium stand because it looks great, works well, and has a versatile design that lets you use it anywhere, even when traveling. The body of the Charging Dock is a nicely weighted four-inch disc with a grippy, leatherish material on top and a soft bottom that won’t scratch whatever it’s sitting on (the weight keeps it from moving much). In the middle is a charging puck that, in its default position, lets you charge any Apple Watch with an open band by laying it flat on the charger.
But that charging disc sits in a polished-metal ring that flips up vertically, turning the Charging Dock into a stand that works with any band, open or closed, and supports Nightstand mode. It’s easy to put either watch size (42 mm or 38 mm) on the Charging Dock, and the charger’s magnet is strong enough that your watch remains firmly attached even when using its buttons. (As with most Nightstand-mode chargers we tested, the 38 mm Apple Watch models “jiggle” a bit when pressing buttons in Nightstand mode, but never enough to dislodge the watch from the charger or interrupt charging.)
This design makes the Charging Dock great for travel—it’s a bit heavier than some cheaper stands at 5.5 ounces, but with the charging disc folded flat, the Dock is easy to slip in a bag or suitcase. We also like that the Charging Dock uses a standard USB-to-Lightning cable, so you can charge your watch anywhere you already have a charging cable for your iPhone, and you can bring a single cable to charge both your iPhone and your Apple Watch when traveling. (Apple includes its $19 Lightning to USB Cable with the Charging Dock.)
We do wonder if closed bands with sharper edges, such as Apple’s Milanese Loop and Link Bracelet, will eventually eat into the leatherish top of the Charging Dock’s body, but after a couple months of testing, we didn’t see significant wear.
If you’ve got an Apple Watch, you’ve also got an iPhone, so a charging station that handles both devices is a luxury worth considering because you’ll have one less thing cluttering your desk or nightstand. Belkin’s Valet Charge Dock for Apple Watch + iPhone (available in matte silver, black, or rose gold) is expensive, though not that much more expensive than buying separate premium charging docks for your phone and watch, and it’s the best dual-device charging stand we’ve found. This premium dock charges both your phone and your watch from a single wall outlet; and unlike many competitors, it includes MFi-certified chargers for both the iPhone and the Apple Watch—which partly explains the dock’s high price.
The weighted metal base is 5.25 inches wide by 3.5 inches deep, and just shy of three-quarters of an inch tall. A rubber pad on the bottom helps keep the Valet in place. One of our favorite features is that the Valet’s Lightning-connector phone dock, on the left, has an adjustable plug that can accommodate most iPhone cases: A smooth-turning dial on the back of the Valet extends the plug higher for thicker cases, or retracts it for thin cases and naked phones. The plug also freely tilts forward and back so it never puts strain on your iPhone’s Lightning-connector port.
Your phone leans against one arm of a chrome-covered, T-shaped post. The other arm, on the right, holds the Valet’s Apple Watch charger: Place your watch on the magnetic disc and it sits nicely in place; the “floating” charger design works with both open and closed watch bands. (Belkin includes a plastic “wrist” loop—shown in the first image above—that attaches to the back of the watch charger so you can fasten your band while on the stand. This piece gives you a cleaner look, but makes it more of a hassle to charge your watch, and isn’t necessary—two Wirecutter staffers tested the dock, and neither felt the need for it.) Our only beef is that the Valet doesn’t support Nightstand mode—the watch can sit on the charger only in portrait orientation—but because your iPhone is right there, you can use the phone as a much more visible alarm clock.
Like our recommended USB chargers, the Valet’s iPhone dock can provide 2.4 amps of charging current, which means you can charge any iPhone as fast as possible.
If Belkin’s Valet is too much metal for your nightstand, we also like Studio Neat’s Material Dock for iPhone + Watch, which similarly works with any Lightning-connector iPhone. Its round base is cut from solid walnut and nicely finished, with microsuction pads on the bottom to keep it from slipping around—the pads stick well enough to smooth surfaces that you can remove your phone with one hand by simply pulling it off the dock. The two vertical sections that support your phone and watch—the latter in landscape orientation, with either a closed or open band—are made of cork.
The Material Dock is really attractive, though several staffers wish the phone and watch supports were also made of wood. However, the softer cork means that the dock won’t scratch your phone or watch, and it makes docking the phone a bit easier, because the cork “gives” a bit.
It takes a few minutes to assemble the Material Dock, but once you have, it’s stable and fits both watch and iPhone well. However, unlike our top dual-device pick, the Material Dock requires you to supply your own Lightning-connector cable (specifically, an Apple-branded cable because of the precise fit) and Apple Watch charging cable, as well as a USB charger for each. This means that if you travel, you’ll need extra cables and chargers because you won’t want to disassemble the Material Dock every time. So you should probably consider the Material Dock to be a $100 accessory, like the Belkin Valet, rather than a $70 one. (For your extras, we have USB charger and Lightning cable recommendations that are better—and less expensive—than Apple’s bundled versions.) On the other hand, because it uses USB cables for charging, the Material Dock is the only dual-device dock we’ve yet seen that also lets you sync your iPhone with iTunes on your computer via USB, if that’s how you prefer to manage data and backup—most docks are power only.
During assembly, you choose how high the Lightning-connector plug protrudes from the base, and how far the iPhone support sits from the plug, so the Material Dock should work with almost any iPhone case, though as with most adjustable docks we’ve used, thinner cases work better than thick ones. (One of the two Wirecutter staffers testing the Material Dock found that the Lightning-connector plug would occasionally get pushed down into the base, requiring them to reposition the plug and tighten the screw holding it in place.)
One other minor drawback to the Material Dock’s compact design is that the phone’s home button and the bottom of its screen are difficult to access while it’s docked, because they’re right behind the watch.
We’re currently looking at a number of portable Apple Watch chargers, batteries, and travel cases. We’ll update this guide with any additional picks when we’ve completed testing. We’ve also got a few new models, such as Insignia’s Charging Stand for Apple Watch, on our list of models to evaluate.
We really liked the MoKo Premium Scratch-resistant TPU Charging Dock, which looks very similar to the Spigen S350 but adds two nifty cable-management grooves—instead of sticking out the side, like on the S350, the charging cable routes neatly out the back. The only other noticeable difference is that on the MoKo stand, the charging disc is slightly more recessed into the stand, so your Apple Watch doesn’t sit quite as flush with the disc. The MoKo stand was a contender to be our top pick, but we decided against it because of inconsistent availability. (At one point, the company told us that the stand was no longer available, though at the time of publication it was on Amazon again.) If it’s available when you’re shopping, and you prefer its aesthetics, the MoKo stand is a very good alternative to our top pick.
The ElevationLab NightStand is similar to the Spigen S350, but it’s made of soft-touch silicone and available in an array of colors: black, red, or blue directly from the company, or in Sport Band-matching hues in Apple retail stores. It looks and feels a bit nicer than the Spigen stand, and an included adhesive pad lets you mount the Nightstand on the side of your desk or nightstand, a nice option if you prefer to keep your charging station out of sight. The ElevationLab stand also hides the charger’s cable by routing it out the back of the stand. However, it has no support ledge, like our top pick, so your watch can fall off the stand if you press the Snooze button too firmly in Nightstand mode, and it’s quite a bit more expensive than our pick.
Orzly’s Compact Stand for Apple Watch looks like a nice combination of the best features of the Spigen and ElevationLab stands, though it’s a bit larger than each. Unfortunately, instead of a nanosuction bottom or silicone feet, it uses a 3M adhesive base that’s essentially permanent, making it difficult to recommend. In addition, the Orzly stand disappeared from Amazon on multiple occasions while we were testing, and we couldn’t get a response from the company about the product’s status despite multiple inquiries. This doesn’t bode well if you should ever need support.
Elago’s W2 Stand is made of a similar material as the W3 Stand, but has a very different design. It puts the watch in landscape orientation for Nightstand mode, but the front ledge on which your watch rests is curved, so the watch sometimes slipped off the charger when we pressed the side buttons too firmly.
The iClever e7 Stand doesn’t support Nightstand mode for closed bands, the external cable-routing groove is unattractive, and the tall design tips over too easily.
The Actionproof Bozon Charging Dock for Apple Watch is pricey for a silicone stand that requires your Apple Watch’s own charger. It has a cute design, but it’s bulky. We also found that our watch sometimes slipped off the charger if we pressed the side buttons too firmly, and the stand’s design requires you to bend the charger’s cable severely.
MoKo’s Stand for Apple Watch and iPhone looks nice for an inexpensive stand, and has a ledge on the front to set your iPhone (though you’ll then have the iPhone’s cable also sticking out the side). But it holds your watch with the screen facing the ceiling, making it difficult to see the screen while charging; the design of the cable groove makes it too easy for the charger cable to slip out; and if you have a closed watch band and you use the ledge for your iPhone, you have to move your phone out of the way to take your watch off the stand.
Belkin’s Watch Valet Charge Dock for Apple Watch is basically a watch-only version of our phone/watch pick—its base is smaller, and available in only white, but it has a similarly attractive polished-chrome arm with a built-in charger. However, it’s bulky and pricey, and doesn’t support Nightstand mode. Lack of Nightstand-mode orientation is a big omission.
The Mophie Watch Dock doesn’t support landscape orientation with all bands, and it requires you to use your watch’s own charging cable/puck despite a hefty price tag. We also don’t think the Watch Dock looks as nice as other comparably priced models.
Twelve South’s Forté for Apple Watch is attractive and stable, thanks to a heavy, leather-covered base and chrome-covered hardware. Its curved arm lets your watch sit in either portrait or landscape orientation. However, despite its high price, it requires you to use your watch’s own charging cable/puck, and the cable isn’t firmly attached to the stand—you just press it into a groove in the back of the arm—so the cable works its way loose over time.
Twelve South’s HiRise for Apple Watch is one of the nicer-looking models that uses the watch’s own charger, and it’s very stable thanks to its wide base. However, the HiRise doesn’t support Nightstand mode, and the watchband slot in the HiRise’s pedestal looks somewhat unsightly without a band threaded through it. For $40, we’d rather spend a bit more for something like Belkin’s Watch Valet, below, which looks even nicer and includes its own charger.
Like the HiRise, Nomad’s Stand for Apple Watch is an attractive, metal stand that uses the watch’s own charger. And like the HiRise, it doesn’t support Nightstand mode and costs $40—too much for a stand that doesn’t include its own charger.
The Griffin Technology WatchStand for Apple Watch is less expensive than many premium stands, but its plastic body looks less expensive, the stand requires you to use your own charging cable/puck, and we didn’t like how high (nearly 6 inches) it lifts your Apple Watch off the stand’s base.
Twelve South’s HiRise Duet (unavailable at the time of publication, but a current product, according to the company) takes Twelve South’s HiRise 2 Deluxe (our pick for best iPhone dock) and raises the iPhone dock an inch or two to make room for a built-in Apple Watch charger at the base of the pedestal; the base also has a nice padded-leather covering to protect your watch. The Duet worked well in our testing, and it has all the features we like in the HiRise 2 Deluxe. However, your iPhone sits really high due to the taller pedestal, and if you have a closed watch band, you can’t put your watch on—or remove it from—the charger without first undocking your phone.
The Belkin PowerHouse Charge Dock for Apple Watch + iPhone is similar to our top phone/watch pick, using the same MFi-licensed phone and watch chargers, but we like the look of the Valet better. If you prefer the PowerHouse’s white-plastic design, it’s a solid option that costs a bit less.
(Photos by Kyle Fitzgerald.)
Originally published: April 13, 2017