Yesterday, after a day out on-site working, I return to my office desk to find a small parcel sitting in front of my iMac. I cannot recall what I bought online because it has been a while and I totally forgot I did purchase a pledge on Indiego – the Nonda ZUS Smart Car Charger and Car Locator!
I was one of the supporter for the Hub+ from Kickstarter when they cancelled and refunded, in full, all the backers money, and they introduced me to this ZUS cigarette jack charger. I have heaps of in-car charger laying around already. I was not going to need another charger, smart or dumb type. I thought these guys at Nonda are honest and forthcoming and maybe I will support them one more time.
And here it is – the Nonda ZUS Beta!
Over a cup of morning coffee I unboxed the ZUS.
The first impression was the ZUS is quite sophisticated, nicely packaged. It looks and feels like any other IT products you get off the shelf.
The box contains nothing but the ZUS device and a simple booklet (which as usual I did not bother to read).
After removing the unit from backing (and scrapping off the sticky tape that took some effort to remove) the ZUS felt a little light in my hand. But that was not a concern anyway. It is going to be plugged in permanently in my car.
The contact metals are all matt black making the ZUS more sophisticated NAVY SEAL like. Two USB ports spread out from the side, and a row of white LEDs sit below the logo.
Next step was to get the APP from the app store. I had no idea what kind of connection will the device use to connect to my iPhone, most likely via bluetooth, but there was no pairing authorisation being asked.
Installation was a breeze. Then came the message “Allow “Zus” to access your location even when you are not using the app?”.
In most app, I would simply deny access to location even when not using. Most apps that require this will suck the juice out of your phone. But in this case I guess I had no choice but to allow it.
After two days and 1 night, the impact on battery was literally nil. In the last 24 hours, the Zus app merely used 1% of battery. It was ranked like 19th, even lower than Messages and Apple Watch App which I seldom use these days.
So how it works is, when you plug the Zus into the car lighter socket, it will tell the phone that it is now receiving power. And when you have reached your destination and turn off your engine, the unit will stop receiving power which is when the APP on the phone will stop receiving connection from the unit. This will in turn instruct the phone to capture your current location and save it.
When you return to your the car park where you parked your car, the APP will then try to help you navigate to your car. It is no rocket science here. There are a lot of APPs in the market the can do this trick. The only difference is that there is totally no need for any interaction between the user and the phone. All these are done for you without you having to touch your phone. And if you have an Apple Watch, the app will also push a notification to your Apple Watch to inform you that the location has been saved. Neat.
The first test I did was at a HUGE shopping mall which I regularly have problems locating my car. The mall has four wings and one convention center covering almost 1 million square feet of retail space. I was really hoping Zus can help me out here. The only problem with this mall is, the parking is all underground. The parking is located in the basement and spans two basement.
I whip out my iPhone and ran Zus. Waited for it to give me the direction.
Locating failed it said. I was not expecting it to work in the first place anyway since it is underground and there was no GPS signal.
The next day, I had to travel to the city and remain there for the whole day. As parking was really expensive in the city I decided to parked my car at a carpark just outside of the CBD and took a subway. It was the first time I used the carpark.
Upon returning by subway, I had no idea where I parked my car, not even the general direction. And out came my iPhone and into Zus app right away. After a few spins of the radar it gave a direction and the distance to head to. I was quite skeptical initially to follow the recommended direction. I saw a sign that stated I should head right but the app was telling me to head straight. I activated Google Map and the Walking recommendation also states GO RIGHT!
I thought since I am going to write a review about Zus I might as well follow its instruction and should it gave me the wrong recommendation I would write about it.
So I walked, and walked. And half way I decided that I should follow what Google Map. The app told me I was walking away from my car. Yet I kept on walking.
And in the end, Zus was right! I would have reached my car should I followed the direction it has given me! But! But… I had forgotten exactly on which floor I have parked my car! The carpark has 7 floors of parking space. On a X-Y coordinates I am correctly standing, but it lacks a Y coordinate.
From where I am, Singapore, where land is expensive and carparks are either built upwards or down into the earth. I thought this device will be different. Maybe it can tell me should I go up until I have reached the level my car was parked. Since iPhone 6 elevation measurement is now possible to detect. So maybe in the future if Zus can tell me on which floor my car is parked, that will be awesome! I bet you half the drivers here will want to get one.
Also what I felt the device can be improved is to have a small built-in battery enough to power bluetooth transmitter to continue transmitting even when the engine is cut. And this bluetooth strength will be used to calculate proximity. When bluetooth is in range and picked up by the phone, a proximity tone will be played. The closer you get to your car, the closer the ping will be, just like the “Heartbeat sensor” in Alien.
And maybe the Zus App can also have a panic button built in. While I was trying out the app, I noticed that I stood out like a sore thumb, holding my phone in hand looking completely lost. This can be a potential target for crooks. And an Apple Watch navigation right from the wrist will be sweet!
The charging function was the last to be tested as most of the time when I get into the car my phone is almost always fully charged, except on weekends. On a normal routine work day, I would charge phone before going to bed so when I get into my car it is still fully charged. When I leave office, my phone will also be fully charged, after sitting in a dock.
So l did not charge my phone last night just for the testing purpose. This morning when I got into the car, my phone was showing exactly 50% battery level! Hmm. Plug it into the Zus using a 2.4A certified lightning cable and “Berng!” it was charging. Upon reaching the office after a 40 minutes drive, my iPhone 6 Plus is already at 87%! Wow.
And I believe the Zus is capable of handling much higher Ampere than 2.4A. Maybe Nonda will start selling THICK 3A certified quick charge cable.
Later tonight I will try to attempt to charge my 12-inch retina Macbook. Let’s see how fast this one will charge. Stay tuned!
[7 Nov 2015] Update: Today I left the engine running and left the car to pick up something froma shop and Zus kicked in and saved the location of my car. So apparently it is not activated by the stop in power supply to the unit. Proximity too plays a role in the device.