A battery pack is one of the best ways to charge your phone in an emergency, but knowing which pack to buy isn’t that easy. If you need help, these portable power banks might be just what you need.
A Few Numbers Before We Start
Not everyone needs a high capacity battery pack, unless you want something that will charge both a phone and a tablet. Just for reference, the Samsung Galaxy S5 uses a 2,800 mAh battery while the iPhone 5s uses a 1,600 mAh battery. The iPad Mini with Retina Display packs a 6,500 mAh battery while the bigger iPad has an 11,600 mAh battery.
mAh denotes milliampere-hour, and is an important determine exactly which battery pack you should buy. Figure out your own needs in accordance with how much charge the battery pack offers and pick one accordingly. If you travel a lot, you might need a higher capacity power bank, which is bulky and expensive; but if you only need something to ensure you can juice up your phone’s battery is flat, then it would make sense to go with a lower capacity battery pack with a more pocketable design and is less expensive.
No matter which battery pack you pick, it’s still a good idea to employ good practices to improve battery life on your mobile device.
myCharge Hub (3,000 mAh – $66, 9,000 mAh – $130)
Generally, charging your phone with a battery pack requires a standard USB cable, which one more thing in your pocket or bag. And if you happen to carry an iPad and an Android smartphone, then you will need to bring two different cables with you! It’s just additional clutter. Instead, the myCharge Hub is the most ingenious solution I’ve seen. It has an Apple Lightning Cable and a standard microUSB cable built in, plus a USB slot for a third cable of your choice. That’s right, you can charge up to three devices at the same time, including a tablet like an iPad! And as a kicker, the myCharge Hub is among the few power banks to come with a built-in 2-pin socket (on 6,000 or 9,000 models only) and plugs directly into any electrical outlet for charging. Indeed, this is the only battery pack which can work without any additional cables. Plus, it’s good-looking and not too bulky, although it can’t be called slim either. This is the complete package and is available in 3,000, 6,000 and 9,000 mAh capacities, so take your pick.
Satechi Energy Station 10000 (10,000 mAh – $60)
A slim and sexy profile coupled with a high capacity battery and priced reasonably, the Satechi Energy Station is the best battery pack around, according to most product reviewers. And there’s good reason for that — at $60 for 10,000 mAh, that’s a bargain most power banks can’t beat. Plus, a power bank should not be something you think twice about carrying because of its weight or bulky shape. It should slip into your pocket just as easily as your phone, and Satechi gets that right with a slim and long design as opposed to the fat-but-compact form factor other battery packs have. It has two USB ports to charge two devices simultaneously and supports large capacity ones like the iPad.
Of course, if you want a truly compact and portable option, you could look at battery cases instead. There are some great iPhone 5 battery cases and the ZeroLemon cover will double your battery life on Samsung Galaxy models like the S4 and Note 3.
Energizer XP18000A (18,000 mAh – $180)
This one is for those who need some serious power on-the-go. The Energizer XP18000A is a tried and tested performer for charging any smartphone, tablet and even some notebooks! It comes with a wide range of wires and ports which allows it to connect to almost any type of device adapter. With laptops, it acts as a go-between power adapters so that you can charge the battery while you work, with your laptop siphoning off as much juice as it needs. It’s big, bulky and expensive, so make sure you need this kind of backup — it’s probably best for the traveller who can’t get to power points in time to charge up.
Solar Joos Orange (5,400 mAh – $150)
When you’re on a camping trip and need a solar-powered charger, the Joos Orange is a no-brainer pick. It works with all kinds of devices, of course, but there are two things that set it apart. First, it has fold-out legs to keep it upright or facing in the right direction — too many solar packs ignore this small but crucial aspect. Second, it uses a 5,400 mAh lithium-polymer battery as opposed to a lithium-ion. Lithium-polymer batteries retain their charge longer than lithium-ion. One hour of direct sunlight is apparently enough for 2 hours of 3G talk-time, but real-world experience may vary. The more critical number is that it takes 12 hours of direct sunlight to charge it fully. It also works underwater, if that’s something you would care about.
ADATA DashDrive Air AE400 (5,000 mAh – $48)
A battery pack needn’t be only a battery pack. The ADATA DashDrive Air makes more use of this additional device you’re carrying with you by turning it into a wireless memory card reader or expandable storage, as well as a Wi-Fi extender. The 5,000 mAh battery and single USB port takes care of your charging needs, but the cool part is that you can throw in a standard SD card and connect to this device wirelessly. Plus, 3 to 5 devices can connect to it simultaneously to access this storage, depending on the type of content you are accessing. Finally, the DashDrive Air connects to Wi-Fi and acts as an extender so more devices can connect to the same network. All in a nifty little package. Neat!
DigiPower Charge Card (680 mAh – $13)
The DigiPower Charge Card is a tremendously helpful tool. You see, there’s a good chance you won’t always carry your power bank with you, but you always have your wallet in your pocket, right? Well, the Charge Card fits into one of your credit card slots — it’s roughly the thickness of 10 business cards. It’s a tiny battery, just 680mAh, but that’s just what you need to power up your phone enough to make one or two calls. Due to the size and design, it only has a flip-out microUSB connector and no other option. That means this one is only for devices that use a microUSB cable, so iPhone users, look away.
But there is some good news. A KickStarter campaign for a new product called the TravelCard could be just the thing for iPhone and Android users who value this “wallet-friendly” option in power banks. It’s already funded, so it’s hopefully just a matter of time.
Big Battery Or Power Banks?
If you were buying a new phone now, would you buy one with a larger battery, or are you okay with sacrificing battery for great design and other features? There are handsets out there with 4,000 mAh batteries, like the affordable Android smartphone Lenovo P780. But well, power banks can do more than just charging too, like we saw with the ADATA DashDrive Air. What’s your call?