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:
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:
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.
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.
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.