By Daniel Rasmus on Fri, 06/07/2013
We all need power. We aren't sure how much, but a constant stream certainly makes us feel better than an unsteady one. If you are going somewhere without power or if a storm or other natural disaster is heading your way, you may want to consider an external battery for your iPhone and iPad to make sure you stay covered. Check out these collections from Lenmar and Powerocks
Before I review my collection of external batteries, let me digress. Recently, I watched the 1979 television show Connections with James Burke. The first episode, called "The Trigger Effect," chronicled the 1965 Northeast Blackout that started in a Niagara Falls substation and cascaded throughout Northeast Canada and the United States. Burke examined the power failure from a 1979 perspective, a year with no mobile computing, very few personal computers, and a handful of primitive game consoles. In 1979 social media hadn’t been invented—people dialed up computer forums with 300bps modems.
So as Burke showed the patrons of a subway car calmly lighting candles and singing songs, he had no idea that by 2013 those patrons, in perhaps that same car, would not consider such an outage localized. If their smartphones worked, they would know within seconds the extent of the outage, and if their phones were disconnected, they would know for certain it wasn't just their line or just the subway system. The trap that Burke explored, the trap of the need for constant electrical power, is now deeper and wider than anything he imagined in 1979.
And that takes us back to batteries. When humans anticipate a trap, they plan for survival— for themselves and their comforts. So for mobile device users, the solution, at least in the short term, is extra power. And we must now add terrorism and catastrophic weather systems to random mechanical failures. So if you are planning for the next outage, be it a few hours or several days, here are a few batteries from Lenmar and Powerocks you may want to consider.
If you are looking for a small, cool looking, almost weightless battery option, consider the Lenmar 2400mAh Portable Power Pack with 1 USB for Mobile Phones. I would go as far as calling this battery "cute." It even ships with a nylon cord so it won't get away. This battery doubles battery life for most smartphones.
One step up from the relatively tiny Portable Power Pack for Mobile Phones is the 7000mAh Portable Power Pack with 2 USB ports for Mobile Phones and Tablets. It is powerful enough to give your iPad a good boost (overall recharge depends on how depleted the battery is) and lets your phone operate as much as six times longer. That's potentially six days of phone off-grid. And if you want to split the difference, you can charge both devices simultaneously.
The sleek, rubberized exterior with chrome highlights isn't as light as its smaller cousin, but it is just as stylish and wildly more powerful. The only downside is weight, but if you're worrying about power, carrying around slightly less than half a pound for six days of power is a good trade-off.
3. Lenmar PowerPort Wave 11000 ($99)
If you really need a battery on steroids, consider the PowerPort Wave 11000. This $99 bad boy comes with a 3-USB port that will fully charge most mobile phones up to 4-times. That may be a bit confusing compared to the six times longer mentioned for the previous unit. This measurement refers to full charges, not just time, so those full charges may last considerably longer depending on use. This unit will also charge an iPad one time completely.
At .62pounds, this unit is a bit heavier, and its takes awhile to charge: about 8 hours when connected to a 2.1A charger.
All Lenmar batteries charge via included micro USB cables. LEDs indicate charge and discharge progression. The Lenmar units, as do most external batteries, require a charging cable to connect them to the phone.
You've probably seen iPhone battery cases in the past. It took awhile for Lightning compatible cases to arrive. One of the first certified ones is the Meridian from Lenmar. The 2300mAh Li-Polymer Battery Case offers low-profile styling and a charge roughly equivalent to its low-end external battery, which means about double the capacity. Unlike external batteries, you can't lose cases as easily, and they don't require extra cables, bags, or pockets to hold them while charging.
5. Powerocks MagicCube ($74.99)
I just said most external batteries require charging cables. A notable exception is the Powerock MagicCube, which includes charging cables and a micro-USB for discharge under its smokey plastic hood.
The MagicCube ($74.99 for 6000mAh, $89.99 for 9000mAh units) comes in a variety of colors. They weigh in at 5.29oz or 7.76oz depending on the units size.
The MagicCube is attractive and comes in several colors, but is not as style-oriented as its Lenmar competitors. The battery can charge most iPhones using an Apple compatible cable through the available USB port, or most other models of smartphones with the built-in micro-USB.
I found my 6000mAh model to about double my iPhone's life.
6. Powerocks Stone 3 ($99.99)
The $99 Stone 3 is Powerock's 0.8 lb multiple unit charger. It has 7800mAh and two USB ports. Charging is facilitated through micro or mini-USB cables.
The Stone 3 is a big battery, and unfortunately, its design makes it feel like one. It's bulky, and it weighs more than the even larger charge of Lenmar's PowerPort Wave 11000. In using the Stone 3, I found it effective and well executed from an engineering standpoint, but I just wish the engineer's had opted for a sleeker design. When the power's out, however, aesthetics always give way to practicality.
Powerock does give a nod to style with its soft cloth bags provided for each battery, which helps keep them scratch free in a gear bag full of stuff.
External Battery Tips
- Always carry the USB charging cable you need for your device with your battery (wrap it around it so they are inseparable - without a cable the battery does you no good);
- When traveling, bring enough travel charging capacity to charge your devices and your batteries. You don't want to get up in the middle of the night to switch the charger from your iPhone to your external battery. This also ensures everything is fully charged with you set out;
- Consider a battery back for your iPhone, along with an external battery. That makes the cable you charge your phone with the same one you charge your battery with (at least the same type) so you don't have to carry as much stuff;
- Don't assume a fully charged battery not used on the last trip is ready for the next one. Always recharge the batteries before a trip as they drain even when not in use;
- Keep your batteries in a safe, dry place;
- Bring a shoulder bag or other type of carrying case because when your phone is charging, you'll want to store it someplace that doesn't have the cable running out of one pocket and into the next (though the ScotteVest is designed to do that).
One Final Charge
Overall, Lenmar and Powerock both make useful external batteries. If size is a constraint, or style is a priority, look to Lenmar. If you want more charging and discharging flexibility built-in, look to Powerocks. These batteries aren’t just intended for major outage events. Heavy data users often complain of depleted batteries before the end of a day. All of these options are designed to boost your devices' power, regardless if it’s from a day of surfing, a long conference, or from loss of power during a storm.
Consider buying a fully charged Lenmar Meridian iPhone battery complemented by the PowerPort Wave 11000. That's likely about a week's worth of power for less than a pound.