Review: TouchstoneMods Seidio 2600 back conversion 24
When the Pre was released in June 2009, there were two power-related features that made users particularly excited. First was the Touchstone, the inductive charger whose system-level integration with webOS (automatic speakerphone, clock display, etc.) and thoughtful design (sticky back, magnets for easier and more secure placement) put it well beyond the third-party solutions available for competitors. The second innovation, at least when compared to the iPhone, was Palm’s choice to make the Pre’s battery easily replaceable. Once users found out how quickly a Pre with all radios on (WiFi, data, GPS, Bluetooth) could go through its standard 1100 mAh battery, the ability to swap out batteries was both appreciated and crucial for long days, although Palm’s spare batteries were no better than the originals.
A number of battery vendors stepped in with additional capacity for the Pre. One popular option was Seidio’s 2600 mAh battery (with its own custom back, since it didn’t fit under Palm’s standard battery back) which more than doubled the Pre’s battery life without significantly adding either to size or weight. (Some, like me, actually preferred the way the extended back fit in larger hands over the Pre’s svelte size.) Unfortunately, though, the Seidio back was not Touchstone-compatible, nor did the company agree to make the necessary modifications, meaning those of us who chose the extra battery life had to give up on the coolness and convenience of the Touchstone.
Happily, just as the homebrew community stepped up to allow users to customize and enhance their webOS software environments beyond Palm’s official versions, creative hardware modder Steven Burlbaw (sburlbaw in our forum) took on the Seidio/Touchstone challenge and found a solution.
As he first reported in our forum in December 2009, Steven figured out how to remove the Touchstone charging contacts and magnets from a standard Pre back and successfully graft them onto a Seidio 2600 back. After refining his initial procedure (and in response to numerous demands), Steven then launched a business, TouchstoneMods.com, to do the modification for other users. He has continued to improve and expand his techniques and offerings, from supplying backs for those users who didn’t wish to sacrifice the ones they had to the conversion, to selling the Seidio batteries, to offering stronger rare earth magnets in place of Palm’s standard ones to enhance the grip for vertical mountings of the heavier Seidio battery.
I have been eagerly following Steven’s progress in this venture for months, and have been considering getting the mod done for my own Seidio-equipped Pre Plus (I bought the battery as soon as it was available last fall, and love it). The reviews by Steven’s customers in the forum have been stellar, making me more comfortable trusting him to do this for me. When the Touchstone prices dropped so precipitously recently, I decided it was time to take the leap, and placed an order for a conversion of my existing back ($40) with the heavier magnets (an additional $10), since I wanted to mount my Pre Plus on my car’s dashboard.
Per Steven’s instructions, I paid in advance via PayPal, and he immediately sent me shipping information for his New Mexico location. I packed up my Seidio back and a spare Touchstone-compatible back (he will provide either or both for an additional fee), and mailed it off. (Full disclosure: when Steven received my Seidio back, he discovered it had a crack of which I had not been aware. He knew I was a PreCentral writer, and offered to swap for a new Seidio back he happened to have at no charge, in hopes that I would cover the modification for the site. I had already intended to write this up, and told him so, but also did not promise that my piece would either be positive or that it would be run on the homepage. He nonetheless made the swap.) Within a few days, he finished the mod and sent it back to me with a tracking number. Very quickly, I had my new Touchstone-compatible Seidio back in hand and ready for use and testing. Other than a brief moment of concern when I had some difficulty getting the slightly-bulkier back to firmly snap to my Pre Plus, the installation went perfectly.
I’ve been using it now for a couple of weeks, and I’m thrilled to report that the modified back works flawlessly with both home and car Touchstones. It registers the Touchstone link almost instantly, triggering the standard Touchstone clock if the screen is off, and seems to charge about as quickly as does my USB connection, without undue heat buildup. My Pre Plus actually more consistently recognizes the presence of the auto Touchstone than it does some third-party car chargers. I have installed a vertical mount in my car, and my Pre Plus has held firm and charging so far over rough pavement and speedbumps:
(Steven does point out that the stronger magnets could cause a problem if placed in proximity to credit cards and other magnetic-strip objects, but as I keep my Pre Plus in a belt pouch or in a pocket separate from my wallet, I’m not concerned about that. I have, though, found small screws and other metallic objects stuck to my Pre’s back, but that might also happen with a standard Touchstone magnetic back.)
About the only potential negatives associated with this modification (other than the cost, which comes on top of the purchase price for the Seidio 2600 battery itself) are possibility that the modifications (which are, after all, hand-done) will not be reliable in the long-term, that Steven won’t be in business to fix any problems, and that if there’s ever a problem with the battery or the Pre Plus, Seidio and/or Palm could point to Steven’s modifications to refuse warranty service. Also, if (when!) Palm releases another smartphone, it may not use the same battery or back size, making this modification untransferable. To me, those risks are both minimal and more than made up for by my finally being able to take advantage of the Touchstone (especially now that Palm has announced that webOS 2.0 will offer the new Exhibition Touchstone functionality for 3rd party apps) and the reduced wear and tear on my USB port (among the most fragile parts of the Pre Plus), while still benefitting from the Seidio 2600’s great battery life.
In short, I heartily recommend Steven’s TouchstoneMods service (as I have the Seidio battery itself), to any Pre or Pre Plus power (pun definitely intended) user.
Bonus video: Steven's demo of the extra-strength magnets he uses: