Spend any time in an airport, and you’ll witness the electrical outlet acting as the 21st century’s fire pit. Armed with their smartphones, travelers huddle around outlets, hoping to warm their portable devices with some extra power before flying.
But smart travelers have learned that they don’t need to compete, as long as they carry some spare energy with them. That’s easily accomplished by using an external charger that can double the battery life of your device.
Before getting a charger, though, make sure you’re buying it for the right type of device. Most recharging products indicate on their packaging whether they are for smartphones or tablets. If the packaging doesn’t say, look at the amps delivered through the output – one amp for phones, two for tablets. Trying to charge a tablet with a smartphone accessory will result in glacially slow charging, or none at all.
Charging a phone with a two-amp device won’t damage the phone, but the phone will use only one amp of the possible two. In addition, external batteries are rated in terms of mAh, or milliampere hours. The rating is analogous to the capacity of a car’s gas tank; the higher the number, the bigger the battery capacity and the more devices you will be able to charge.
Once you know those measurements, it is time to decide which type of charging device is best for you. One of the most convenient ways to charge a smartphone is to use a case that includes an external battery.
Mophie makes its Juice Pack line for several iPhone and Android models. When the case is attached to the phone and plugged in, the phone and battery charge simultaneously. When the phone runs out of juice, a push of the button sends power from the case’s battery to recharge it. The iPhone 6 case starts at $100 for 2,750 mAh, which should at least double the amount of power available for your phone.
More options are available for earlier iPhone models. For the iPhone 5 and 5S, for example, there is the Leaf from Jackery. It is about $40 for the iPhone 5 and comes with a 2400mAh battery. It is available in black or white, and each option comes with an orange bonus case.
Duracell’s Powermat Power Case, about $120, is also available for the 5 and 5S; a version for the iPhone 6 will be available later this year. It includes a 2000mAh battery and an additional case, taller than its competitors, that also allows an iPhone to be charged wirelessly. To do so, you place the Power Case-enclosed phone on the included Powermat wireless charging pad. Starbucks has said it will install wireless charging pads throughout stores in major American markets by the end of 2015.
Cases with external batteries may be convenient, but they have one main drawback: They add significant size and weight to your phone.
If you don’t want to always carry a bigger and heavier phone in your pocket, consider an external battery that you can keep in your bag or car. Tylt’s Energi 2K resembles a charging block. Plug its retractable electrical prongs into an outlet, then plug the smartphone’s USB cable into the Energi 2K. Both charge simultaneously. When you need to recharge, a push of the button on the $40 unit sends power back to the phone through the same USB cable.
Jackery, maker of the Leaf product, says it will offer a much larger 5,000 mAh external battery called the Jackery Air in March, for an undisclosed price.
MyCharge offers two new All Terrain external chargers for smartphones and tablets. The $40 Plus model outputs 2.1 amps, while the $60 Max version, meant to be able to charge two devices at once, outputs 3.4 amps. Both are dustproof and waterproof, and the company states that each device can retain 60 percent of its charge for up to one year and recharge an iPhone up to 30 percent faster than Apple’s standard charger.
But what do you do when you’re nowhere near electricity and even your external battery has died? Don’t worry. Juno’s $100 Junojumper can be charged while connected to a car’s cigarette lighter. Its 6000mAh battery can even be used to jump-start a four- or six-cylinder vehicle, not to mention charging smartphones and tablets.
And if you’re in the wilderness and every device is dead, you’re still in luck. The PowerPot from Power Practical is a lightweight cooking pot that, when heated, will cook your food and power up your smartphone as well, via the pot’s attached USB cable. The $150 PowerPot produces enough electricity to charge a smartphone.