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Lifewire / Andrew Hayward
Kills most bacteria
Can charge phone while cleaning
Compact, durable design
Also fits earbuds, watches, and other devices
Provides peace of mind
You can't see the results
Doesn't clean smudges, dirt, etc.
The PhoneSoap 3 is an easy-to-use, bacteria-slaying machine that might save you from illness—or at least provide peace of mind.
News headlines love to talk about how your smartphone is potentially several times dirtier than a toilet. It sounds exaggerated, but given how many things we touch, it's no surprise we're racking up untold numbers of germs on our hands and spreading them to our phones.
The realization that our sparkling-clean smartphones might house hidden dangers has led to a wave of devices that promise to eradicate unseen threats. The PhoneSoap 3 is one of the most prominent options, bathing your smartphone in ultraviolet lights and purportedly clearing away 99.99 percent of everyday contaminants. But do you really need something like this? We put it to the test to find out.
The PhoneSoap 3 has a clamshell design, opening up like a laptop or briefcase to reveal the cleaning zone within with UV lights on the top and bottom. There’s a sizable space within, allowing for devices up to 6.8 by 3.74 by 0.78 inches (HWD) to be sterilized in a matter of minutes. That's more than enough space for even the largest phones on the market today—we tried the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 and Apple iPhone XS Max, for example, and neither was a tight squeeze.
When plugged in, the PhoneSoap 3 automatically begins its ultraviolet cleansing cycle once the lid is shut (it has a slight magnetic pull), and it lasts for about 10 minutes. There are no buttons to press or settings to fiddle with. It runs until it's done, and then the little lightning bolt logo on the top turns off once it's finished.
It's more than enough space for even the largest phones on the market today—we tried the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 and Apple iPhone XS Max, and neither was a tight squeeze.
If you want to charge while sanitizing, the PhoneSoap 3 also has a small opening on the right side that's just large enough for a cable to run through. The device has USB-A (standard-sized USB) and USB-C ports on the back, so you can run the cable right to the PhoneSoap 3 and not have to utilize an additional charger or wall outlet. It's ideal for tossing your phone into the PhoneSoap 3 before bed and letting it sit in there to charge even when the sanitizing cycle is complete.
While advertised to clean smartphones, the PhoneSoap 3 can also sanitize seemingly anything that fits securely within the charging area with the lid closed. This can include smartwatches, wireless earphones (like Apple's AirPods), credit cards, and wallets.
As mentioned, there's really nothing to set up. When the PhoneSoap 3 has power, it'll automatically begin a cycle once you close the door. It runs for about 10 minutes, with or without anything inside. There's no configuration on the device itself or with any kind of companion app; it's about as straightforward as can be. Don't want it to run at all? Pull out the cord.
Does PhoneSoap 3 work as advertised? It’s hard to tell from just looking at your phone after it has been inside. Despite the name, the device doesn't actually scrub visible dirt, fingerprints, and smudges off of your phone. Instead, the PhoneSoap 3 targets the microscopic germs and bacteria that might be sitting on your phone without you even knowing it.
Does PhoneSoap 3 work as advertised? It’s hard to tell from just looking at your phone after it has been inside.
There's no visible indication of that, unfortunately. However, surprisingly enough, there is a scent. Often, when taking a phone out of the PhoneSoap shell, there'd be an odd odor alongside it. That's apparently from the UVC lights killing bacteria en masse. It's not a terribly offensive or long-lasting odor, in fact, it's reassuring that something happened in there.
The science behind ultraviolet light's bacteria-fighting power is long proven, however, and independent testing has shown off PhoneSoap's abilities. A Discovery Channel segment on the original, smaller PhoneSoap device showed a complete lack of bacteria remaining on a phone that had been sprayed with a cocktail of nasty bacteria; the control phone, of course, showed a smattering of icky invaders.
At approximately $80 on Amazon, the PhoneSoap 3 might not be cheap enough to fall into the impulse-buy category for many prospective users. However, given how expensive some smartphone accessories can be—such as high-end cases and wireless earbuds—it hardly seems extravagant, especially for something that might help you avoid getting sick at some point. You'll never know that it happened, of course, but if you can avoid the copay of even one doctor’s visit in the future, it’s already paid for itself.
Even though you can't see the results, the ultraviolet benefits are well-established and the aforementioned testing has shown clear benefits to the device
The PhoneSoap 3 is ideal for sanitizing your phone when you're at home or the office, but what if you're on a trip, or you're out and about a lot in your daily travels? In that case, you might consider the PhoneSoap Go instead. The dimensions are absolutely identical both inside and out, but the difference here is that you can charge the PhoneSoap Go and then use it anywhere.
A full charge can provide up to 45 sanitizing cycles, or you can siphon off some of that 6,000 mAh cell's charge to top up your phone while sanitizing. That's a versatile addition, but it comes at a $20 premium. Still, if you think you'll ever want to use the PhoneSoap on the go, it might be worth the added cash.
There are other versions available, including the PhoneSoap Go and another that can wirelessly charge a compatible phone within—as well as the enormous, tablet-friendly PhoneSoap XL. However, the PhoneSoap 3 seems to hit the sweet spot of price and most essential usability.
Wash away your worries.
If you're at all concerned about the invisible germs and bacteria sitting on your smartphone, earbuds, and smartwatch, then the PhoneSoap 3 is a pretty sensible purchase. Even though you can't see the results, the ultraviolet benefits are well-established and the aforementioned testing has shown clear benefits to the device.
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