Recharge Your Electronics on the Go

By Carolyn Shearlock © 2015 • all rights reserved

A Portable Extra Battery for Your Phone, Camera or Tablet: I hate seeing the low battery warning on my phone, camera and more. An easy way to recharge on the go -- and inexpensive!

I love my electronic devices — number one is my phone with all its apps (lists, maps, photos . . . ), followed by the camera. And I hate it when I pull one out and see that “low battery” warning.

Yeah, we’ve just hiked to this amazing place . . . and I can’t take a picture of it? Just when we really need the GPS/map, there’s no power for it? I meet a reader and want to take a selfie, but can’t? And then there are those days that I’m frantically copying my shopping list off the phone before it dies!

My phone is about 15 months old and admittedly doesn’t hold a charge as well as it once did. And I’m using it for more. I’ve been known to forget to recharge the camera . . . and to forget to take an extra battery with me. Just the other day I grabbed the handheld VHF to take with me in the dinghy, then realized I hadn’t charged it when I went to call Dave.

The good news? Now I have a backup battery for all these (and the MP3 player and speaker, too!). For less than $20!

To back up a bit, before the Annapolis Sailboat Show I investigated getting an extra battery for my phone. At shows like that, my phone is in constant use taking photos of interesting products and people I meet, planning meetups with various people, making lists and so on. I can’t have it die in the middle of the day . . . and I really don’t have anywhere to recharge it halfway through, either.

In looking on Amazon, I discovered “external batteries” for phones and more, with USB connectors. Hmmm, works with all my devices and costs a lot less than just one phone battery? This is perfect!

One small device (about the same size as my smartphone) that can power anything that’s charged via USB. The one I got even senses the amperage required so that Apple products (and other high draw devices) can be charged (I do not have any Apple products but I had a friend test both her iPhone and iPad and it worked).

I discovered that there are lots of these devices out these and they are emphatically not all the same.

  • Capacity — mine is 6000 mAh. It’ll charge my phone from dead one full time and the second time get it to over 80%. You can get external batteries with 3000 mAh for just over $10 but that won’t fully charge most smartphones from dead. You can also get ones with more capacity, but they are more expensive and are larger.
  • Size — I wanted something that could slip into my shorts pocket or purse.
  • Form — related to size, form determines how it will fit into pants pockets, a tote bag or anything else.
  • Charging ports — this is a biggie! The best external batteries can charge themselves either from an AC outlet or a USB outlet, and can then output power via any type of USB cord (this may not be important if all your devices take one type of cord but mine use three different USB flavors). The length of the cord, whether it’s permanently attached (oops, got the battery but forgot the cord is just as bad as no battery) and where it plugs in (thus will it fit in your pocket/purse when charging) are also important.

These work fairly simply: you plug the external battery in to a power source (depends on the device: AC, DC and/or USB port) and it charges. Once charged, you can unplug it and take it with you (I haven’t found any that are waterproof, so take care in the dinghy or in the rain — I like a dry bag purse). Then, when the need arises, plug your phone/camera/tablet into the external battery and it will charge. You can even use your device as it’s charging.

Charging the external battery from a USB outlet (it also comes with an AC adapter) — here the “big” USB end is plugged into the charging device and the little end into the external battery beign charged. Note that there are five lights on the external battery to show state of charge, each one roughly equating to 20% charge:

A Portable Extra Battery for Your Phone, Camera or Tablet: I hate seeing the low battery warning on my phone, camera and more. An easy way to recharge on the go -- and inexpensive!

Then charging the phone from it — turn the cord around so that the “big” USB end is plugged into the external battery and the micro USB into the phone:

A Portable Extra Battery for Your Phone, Camera or Tablet: I hate seeing the low battery warning on my phone, camera and more. An easy way to recharge on the go -- and inexpensive!

Using that short cord or plugging your own cord into the “big USB” outlet will provide whatever amperage your device wants — this generally provides a faster charge and is the only way to charge devices (such as Apple’s) that require more than 1 amp.

You can also use the built-in (permanently attached) micro USB cord that provides a flat 1.0 amp if that’s compatible with the device you need to charge. The built in cord sits at a funny angle that’s not nearly as convenient if you’re trying to put the external battery and phone in your pocket or purse together to charge — or to hold both while using the device being charged. Since I almost never use the built-in cord (only in an emergency when I forgot the other cord), it’s not a big deal for me. You can use both charging ports at the same time, too, for different devices.

A Portable Extra Battery for Your Phone, Camera or Tablet: I hate seeing the low battery warning on my phone, camera and more. An easy way to recharge on the go -- and inexpensive!

The external battery is small enough that I can hold it with the phone, camera or VHF while using them, so I don’t have to wait for it to charge.

A Portable Extra Battery for Your Phone, Camera or Tablet: I hate seeing the low battery warning on my phone, camera and more. An easy way to recharge on the go -- and inexpensive!

I bought the external battery basically for the boat show, but I’m finding this to be really useful on an everyday basis. I just tuck it into my purse whenever I leave the boat, along with the short USB-micro USB cord that I leave plugged in all the time, which works for both our phones, the tablet and our handheld VHF, and the other cord for my camera. We also use it on the boat when we want to call or text (or Instagram!) and the phone has a low battery — that way, we don’t have to be tethered to the outlet!

I’m sure various electronics stores — both brick and mortar and online — have similar external batteries, but I have to say that Amazon has a huge selection for whatever combination of features you need.

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Comments

  1. Everyone in our family who has a mobile device has one. My daughter who lives in NYC has a large capacity one and the rest of us have smaller ones – enough to charge the phone 1.5 times. What a difference having enough power to charge up the phone makes when you’re out and about!

  2. I bought one to use for multi day backpacking trips. Can charge my phone about 3 times. Also brought it to the boat show and used it. A friend recently gave me a similar one that’s a solar charger.

  3. Ernie Lorimer says:

    These have become more or less a necessity with smartphones barely able to get through a day, and have displaced replaceable batteries. I don’t understand the desire to get ones with more than 1 or 2 charges, though. Larger ones are for outages or camping trips where you don’t have access to USB charging sources (no laptop, no car, no boat).

    A very useful feature of some of them in the 2-3000maH, $7 range is an LED flashlight. I used to carry a small flashlight and a pack, but now only need one. They are regularly on sale at Newegg. The light is an easy way to test it, too.

    • Ernie Lorimer says:

      Oh, and for outages, etc., look for the small folding solar charger/battery solutions. They will go indefinitely, charging themselves in daylight and the phone when the sun goes down.

  4. Great for portable use, like when you are at the Boat Show.

    One of your pictures shows something of incredible importance: charging stations on the boat. On Auspicious we have a locker-top shelf where two handheld VHF radios charge and there is a bank of USB ports to charge phones, iPods, cameras, and other electronics. There is a smaller secondary charging station at the nav station for laptops (the boat computer is hardwired) and one on an outer chart table for use when sailing.

    If you use a case on your phone make sure the external battery works through the access ports. There are very few that work with my waterproof Lifeproof case on an iPhone 6.

  5. Great for portable use, like when you are at the Boat Show.

    One of your pictures shows something of incredible importance: charging stations on the boat. On Auspicious we have a locker-top shelf where two handheld VHF radios charge and there is a bank of USB ports to charge phones, iPods, cameras, and other electronics. There is a smaller secondary charging station at the nav station for laptops (the boat computer is hardwired) and one on an outer chart table for use when sailing.

    If you use a case on your phone make sure the external battery works through the access ports. There are very few that work with my waterproof Lifeproof case on an iPhone 6.

  6. We’ve also got one and bought a small fold up solar panel that recharges it.

  7. I bought a Poweradd Pilot Pro 32000mAh Monster Capacity Multi-Voltage Portable Charger External Battery Pack It is bigger, but I have been able to recharge my i-phone 7 times and my I-pad once on one charge of the battery. it will also run laptops, but i haven’t tried that yet. Comes with a bunch of different adapters.

  8. Hi,

    It looks like you have an iphone 5? We replaced the battery in ours at apple for about $80. It took a few days but its like having a brand new phone.

  9. I bought a second phone Identical to the one I use.
    (I’ve had charging sockets replaced, and been without a phone for a few days.). The identical phone doesn’t .red to be relearned if I break my usingprimary

    • If I break my phone, I have a spare now. They stay charged for weeks at a time.

      If I’m going To be going away from being able to charge, I just take an extra charged battery in a zip lock bag along in a pocket.

      Another thing I keep some on hand is

      • I keep extra 3 meter charge cords. I can use my phone when charging while laying in bed.
        And the little micro cords tend to wear out when you use them

        • My apologies for the spelling and many post trying to use big fingers on a small phone.

          I just acquired a large tablet with the same charge cord, but now I need three charge cords,
          one for phone, one for tablet, and one for Bluetooth keyboard.

          • lamarrharding says:

            When your phone battery gets old doesn’t hold a charge and needs replacement.
            I have found that that Radio Shack, or Ebay often have new batteries less than $20. Just be sure it’s a new not used one on Ebay!

  10. My wife and I are huge fans of Anker brand external batteries. They might be a little more expensive than others, but the cost to capacity comparison is striking. They also have several other charging and hub products.

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