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Lifewire / Andrew Hayward
Kills most bacteria
Can charge devices while cleaning
Holds larger and/or multiple devices
Useful for other household items
No visible proof of sanitization
Won't clean off smudges, dirt
Large, awkward angular shape
Feels like overkill on price and size
The PhoneSoap XL is useful if you want to sanitize more than just pocket-sized devices, but most people can probably do just fine with the smaller, cheaper, phone edition.
If you want to clean your device, usually a simple microfiber cloth will do the trick, restoring your device to peak glossiness, but there's more grime and filth than you can see with the naked eye. That's why there's been a wave of germ-zapping peripherals designed to eliminate those unseen invaders. However, most of them are compact and designed solely for smartphones and other pocket-sized gadgets. The PhoneSoap XL is the exception. As the name suggests, it really is quite large; big enough for an Apple iPad Pro, multiple smartphones, or even a baby bottle. We put it to the test to see if this bacteria-blasting peripheral really works at sanitizing your devices.
The company's standard PhoneSoap 3 is a modestly sized phone accessory, with just enough space to accommodate even larger phones—but not a whole lot more. It's like a smartphone tanning bed. The PhoneSoap XL is a much different beast. At 12.4 by 9.75 by 3 inches (HWD), it's like a walk-in closet for your smartphones, tablets, and other small devices you'd like to sanitize. It's very awkward-looking on, say, a desk, but you could probably squeeze it into a deep bookshelf without it taking up too much space.
The angular design stands upright and has a door at one end to access the roomy space within. You're free to stick in whatever might fit, whether it's a tablet (large or small), one or more smartphones, your keys, headphones, wallet, TV remote, baby bottle—seemingly anything you can imagine. The four lights within douse your devices with germ-killing ultraviolet blasts, impairing bacteria’s DNA and rendering them dead and useless. The cycle lasts for 15 minutes, at which point the light turns off and you'll have peace of mind about the contents within.
At 12.4 by 9.75 by 3 inches, it's like a walk-in closet for your smartphones, tablets, and other small devices you'd like to sanitize.
Your phone or tablet doesn't have to be cut off when inside the PhoneSoap XL, however. There's a small slot in the back to run a charging cable through and even a standard USB port on the outside to plug the cord into. That way, your smart device can just feed off of the power coming to the PhoneSoap XL via the AC adapter.
There is absolutely nothing to set up. The PhoneSoap XL is fully plug-and-play. Just connect the AC adapter cord, plug the other end into the wall, and you're ready to go. The device automatically begins its cycle every time the door is closed, shutting off about 15 minutes later. There's no power button or switch, so if you don't want it to activate at all, simply pull the plug.
Unfortunately, there's no way to see with the naked eye whether the PhoneSoap XL is actually doing anything. If you're really curious, you can grab some Petri dishes and run your own makeshift lab in a controlled environment to see if bacteria grows—or you can watch the test that Discovery Channel did with an earlier version of the standard-sized PhoneSoap, which showed a bacteria-strewn cocktail sprayed on two phones. The sample from the phone that spent some time in the PhoneSoap showed no bacterial growth, while the other was overrun.
After bathing your stuff with UV light, the PhoneSoap XL emits a funky scent that's not terribly offensive, but is actually a bit reassuring.
Visibly, you're taking a leap of faith that it really is killing the 99.9 percent of common bacteria promised by the maker. But there is an interesting tell that'll trigger another sense: smell. After bathing your stuff with UV light, the PhoneSoap XL emits a funky scent that's not terribly offensive, but is actually a bit reassuring. It tells you that germs and bacteria were just wiped out in that session—or at least makes you believe that.
At approximately $150 on Amazon, the PhoneSoap XL is twice the price of the PhoneSoap 3, making it a more significant investment for prospective buyers. It really boils down to this: do you want to sanitize a wider and physically larger array of items beyond your smartphone? And if so, do you really need to sanitize something like a tablet? Most people don't handle their tablet nearly as much as their smartphone, and in many cases, it's done at home instead of essentially everywhere.
Once the price hits triple digits, you might start thinking harder about what exactly you'll use this for—and how valuable those added abilities really are in the grand scheme of things.
Purely from a tech-sanitizing standpoint, the PhoneSoap XL feels like overkill.
Beyond price, the biggest differences between the PhoneSoap XL and PhoneSoap 3 come with physical size and the kinds of items each can accommodate within. The PhoneSoap 3 can do more than sanitize smartphones, but it'll only handle compact items—like earbuds or a smartwatch, for example. But that makes sense, since those are items that you'll also wield while navigating the real world.
Meanwhile, the PhoneSoap XL is significantly larger and can take on tablets, as well as things like baby bottles, TV remotes, and nearly anything else. It's more of an all-purpose sanitizer, while the PhoneSoap 3's compact size significantly limits what it can handle.
The PhoneSoap 3 will probably do the trick if you're serious about cleaning off your phone and other small, portable accessories—but serious germaphobes might see the value in something larger that will take nearly anything you can toss into it. If so, that's the PhoneSoap XL.
It's not for everyone.
Parents of an infant or anyone who works in a particularly germ-intensive environment might see value in a larger, more flexible ultraviolet-light sanitizer. However, purely from a tech-sanitizing standpoint, the PhoneSoap XL feels like overkill. It's twice the price as the PhoneSoap 3 and several times larger, but a tablet doesn't seem like something that needs to be sanitized often unless you're hauling it around everywhere.