Gifts that Will Extend the Battery Life of Mobile Devices

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Everyone wants a little power. It’s what makes the world go around. You’ll feel the absence of power when you want to call AAA after your car breaks down on the highway and you realize your phone just did a swan dive into shutdown mode, or your boss is on Skype, giving you explicit video instructions on how she likes her sandwich, when suddenly she’s cut off due to a power blackout in your tablet. We won’t even talk about when you’re sitting next to a very loquacious passenger on your eight-hour flight when you suddenly realize, in absolute horror, that your laptop and music player are bleeping and blooping themselves into oblivion.

"...the lack of power can mean the difference between enjoying your electronics and just staring at them in abject misery without a wall socket in sight."

Yes, power is important, and the lack of power can mean the difference between enjoying your electronics and just staring at them in abject misery without a wall socket in sight. There are ways to combat the power leaks that occur in everyday mobile products, but nothing says “caught off guard” like refusing to invest in some type of external battery to keep you juiced and jazzed for hours at a time. Without getting into a detailed technical breakdown of external battery supplies, we’ll take a look at several products that B&H offers that will help alleviate your power issues. So, the technical—and all you really need to know—is the mAh rating of your power supply. More mAh means more power. In other words, 6000 mAh is better than 3600 mAh. And thus ends the technical part of this discussion.

In fact, there is one more thing you should know about external power: just because an external brick has a USB port doesn’t mean it can sufficiently power up any USB-enabled device you attach. It depends on the Amp output of the port. Some are rated at 1 Amp of output, which can power up a smartphone or small USB-enabled device without a problem, but may not satiate a tablet’s thirst. A 2.1 Amp output can be used for tablet charging, but may not be enough for a laptop. Conversely, if you plug a smartphone into a 2.1 Amp output on an external charger, you won’t blow the phone up—it will simply charge faster.

That’s why an item like the mophie powerstation XL, which has a storage capacity of 12,000 mAh, features dual output ports; one at 1 Amp and the other at 2.4 Amps. You can charge two devices simultaneously, or charge a smartphone battery up to eight times on a single charge. The perfect companion on long flights, camping trips, and business meetings, you can even share your power with a friend or colleague before you have to worry about draining the battery.

Another high-capacity external power brick is the GearPower Ultra Capacity Mobile Power Station for Tablets and Smartphones from IOGEAR. It stores 11,000 mAh of power and contains dual output ports of 1 Amp and 2.1 Amps for charging mobile devices, including tablets. It has built in short-circuit, over-charge, and temperature protection, and comes conveniently with a micro-USB charging cable, wall charger, and carry pouch. All of that power comes in a case that weighs less than a pound and is less than an inch thick.

Another mophie item that caught our eye was the Juice Pack Powerstation Pro. It contains a 6,000 mAh battery capacity, but outputs 1 Amp, 2.1 Amp, and 500 mAh of power for various devices, including an iPad (but maybe not a complete charge). The feature that sets this apart is its rugged build—it’s dust and water resistant with an IP (Ingress Protection) rating of 65, and is encased in a rubberized shell with rounded corners. It weighs less than 13 ounces and is only an inch thick.  

While the PowerPack HD5000 1A/2.1A 5000mAh Rechargeable Battery from PNY Technologies doesn’t offer that kind of power, it does a substantial job of storing 5000 mAh of power to juice up your smartphone up to three times on a single charge. You can check your charge meter from the hidden digital display on the side of the battery. It also includes dual ports for charging two devices at once (1 Amp and 2.1 Amp output). It includes a micro-USB cable for both charging the PowerPack and charging any micro-USB enabled devices.

Laptops

Laptops need power lovin’, too. But finding a brick with enough of a power reserve to keep your laptop going can be a chore. For those who like their laptop use on the adventurous side, check out the Sherpa 50 Portable Power Pack from GOAL ZERO. Built for rugged adventuring, this sturdy and durable power pack also has the unique feature of being able to draw solar power to provide a charge to your laptop (solar panels sold separately). If you don’t need that option, you can wall charge the Sherpa 50 and then take it along camping or hiking. It can charge a GoPro camera 9 times, or a smartphone 7 times, but it can also charge a 50Wh laptop completely.

Looking for something to charge your MacBook while you’re away? Sanho has the HyperJuice 1.5 External Battery with Magic Box Kit, which provides up to 24 hours of extended battery life for your MacBook or MacBook with Retina laptop. The HyperJuice 1.5 was upgraded with a higher power output and two 12W USB ports to deliver the maximum portable power for the latest MacBook and two iPads (or any two USB devices) at the same time. The Hyperjuice requires a little technical knowledge—it comes in a kit that allows you to modify your MagSafe power adapter so that you can use your MacBook with the HyperJuice or via your car’s power supply.

You can also look into the Energizer XP18000A Rechargeable Power Pack, which has an 18000 mAh capacity and not two, but three output ports at 2.1 Amp, 2 Amp and 3.5 Amp to charge three devices at once. With this much power, you should be able to charge almost any laptop for a complete cycle. Smart LEDS show you battery levels and charging status and it also contains temperature and short-circuit prevention to keep your laptop safe. It includes not just a USB charging cable, but also an Apple 30-pin charging cable, a green 12V charging cable, and a blue 19V charging cable, along with various phone tips and laptop charging tips.

Phones

External phone batteries are a dime a dozen—okay, a little more expensive than that—but you can find an external battery from almost any phone manufacturer around. There are a few, however, that stand out and give you a little something extra.

Take the mophie 32GB space pack for iPhone 5s/5. What mophie did was fill the need for storage on an iPhone 5s/5. When you purchase the iPhone 5s/5, you have the option of purchasing a model with either 16GB or 32GB of storage, and that’s it. The iPhone has no slot for extra memory cards. Mophie comes along and makes a case that serves two purposes: it provides a high-quality case with an external battery that doubles the iPhone battery life, providing an additional 8 hours of talk time, 10 hours of video playback, and 40 hours of audio playback, along with 32GB of storage. That’s an extra 28 hours of video or 18,000 extra songs. The extra space is not accessed by the iOS; you have to download an app and add the files by dragging and dropping, but you can download any file, including documents and spreadsheets, and AirDrop them to any device in your network.

Energizer shows up once again on our list with the XP8000A Rechargeable Power Pack. Like its big brother, this 8,000 mAh unit can charge up to three devices with two output ports that supply 2.0 and one that supplies 2.1 Amps. It has a four-hour recharge time and comes with a USB charging cable, Apple 30-pin charging cable, a green 12V charging cable, and a blue 19V charging cable, along with various phone tips and laptop charging tips. It only weighs half of a pound and adds up to 16 hours to a smartphone (depending on usage).

There are those of us who are against adding any bulk to our phones, and phonesuit has the answer: the Flex XT Pocket Charger, a plug-in extra battery that you can clip into your iPhone 6 Plus/5s/5c/5, iPod Touch 5th-gen and iPod Nano 7th-gen iOS devices. This smart and attractive power source holds a 2600 mAh battery with a built-in Lightning connector, which can fit through the opening on most protective cases. It adds an amazing 150% of battery life to your iPhone and includes an LED status meter. It charges in two hours, and is small enough that you can keep it in a pocket without distorting the sleek line of your jeans.

Want something even more inconspicuous? Check out the LINEARFLUX line of LithiumCard Batteries for both Apple Lightning-enabled and Android micro-USB enabled devices. The credit-card-thin 1200 mAh battery has a flip-out USB port to charge the device, and an integrated cable with the Lightning or micro-USB connector for your device. You can even do pass-through charging—when the LithiumCard is drained, but plugged into a USB port for charging, you can still attach a device and charge that as well. Each card also includes a rinse-able, NanoStik pad, so it sticks to virtually any surface—minimize losing this super-thin battery by sticking it your phone.

That wraps up our review of external batteries for this holiday season. Whether giving a gift or just buying a productivity-boosting extra battery, you need something from this list. Don’t get caught powerless—empower your devices with a portable charger.

With Great Power Comes a Smidge of Responsibility

A few tips to help you keep your tablet, laptop, and smartphone battery in check:

  • Know Your Power Leeches

There are apps in programs that will let you monitor your power leaks, telling you what applications, programs, and processes are taking up computer power. I found that Intel® Rapid Response was cycling my laptop for power usage without knowing what it was, and I kept scratching my head when my laptop died after four hours of unplugged use.

  • Chill Out

Try to keep your laptop as cool as possible without depositing it in the refrigerator. A cool laptop is using less heat to run its internal processes, and less run time means less battery drain.

  • Dim the Display

You should never use the laptop’s automatic brightness settings. Many laptops don’t have an accurate ambient light sensor, and you’ll find yourself draining the battery just to keep your visuals sharp in dim light. If you’re in a room with limited light, dim the screen as much as possible—do you really need 100% brightness to read a Word doc? No, you do not.

  • Look For Haswell Processors

Haswell processors run faster and use less energy. Laptops with Haswell processors are becoming more and more mainstream, and the power and battery difference is significant—almost a 50% gain, in some cases.

  • Turn off Live Tiles, Animated Wallpapers, and Widgets

All of that is fun stuff to play with, and all involve computer processes that can drain your battery. Seeing the water on your screensaver ripple calmly is going to give you heartburn later when your email putters out at 0% battery life.

  • Delve into Your Power Option Settings

Delve deeply, I say. Some laptop manufacturers put a lot of research into their power settings, and give you a bevy of options that may suit a specific set of tasks you’re performing (like, “Power down your computer when idle after making a smart-aleck remark to your boss”—some are very specific). On the other hand, some battery-power options are not specific enough (like “Power down your display on days that end in “Y”), and you may benefit from changing them manually.

  • Shut off Anything You’re not Using
    Down to a bar of battery and no plug in sight? Try turning off anything you’re not using: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, USB mice (they still drain some power) and you might just make that one bar last an hour.

Tablets

  • Auto Sync

Turn off auto sync on everything. Facebook will survive another hour without you checking it or notifying you of what your Mee Maw had for lunch. Same goes for Pandora, games, and anything else you don’t need.

  • Dim Your Screens

See above—also applies to phones, by the way.

  • Know Your Leeches

Android is much better at finding leaks in your power grid. Use the tablet’s internal app to see where power is sneaking off to. Most likely your screen is the culprit, but you’d be surprised at what else can pop in there.

Phones

  • Extend Phone Battery

Cut out Twitter, Facebook, and email notifications. You can wait an hour to see if anyone liked your selfie at the Lincoln Memorial.

  • Know Your Modes

There are various power-draining modes in your smartphone that can be turned off to save that last bar of power. LTE, GPS, Wi-Fi, NFC, and Bluetooth do not need to run 24/7. Do you even use your NFC? Do you know what NFC stands for? Then turn it off.

  • Turn Down for What?

The brightness, that’s for what. Automatic brightness settings on smartphones are set way too high at the factory. Turn it down. You’ll see the difference in power draining.

  • Signal Envy

Having trouble getting a signal? Guess what? Searching for a bar or two actually drains the battery. If you’re somewhere where you know you won’t be getting good signal reception, turn off the Wi-Fi and go into airplane mode. We just saved you a couple notches of power right there.