If you’re constantly on the move or away from mains power for extended periods, you’ll probably have experienced the worry of seeing you smartphone’s battery slowly dying. It’s the same with every smartphone on the market today – whether you’re at a music festival, on vacation or just not able to get to a port socket.
Until we see breakthroughs in battery technology and the smartphone war focus shifts to battery life (you can read about why I think battery life should be the new smartphone battleground here), it’s most likely we won’t see much of an improvement in the next few years.
Battery backup cases for smartphones are very popular, integrating a portable battery into a standard third party protective case. However, they only offer 50-100% of the capacity of most original smartphone batteries – great for a quick top-up but not much else. The next option to consider, especially if you’ll be away from power for more than day are portable power packs.
These are ideal to store in your rucksack and can offer many times the power capacity of your smartphone or tablet’s battery. In other words, you’ll be able to charge your device several times over before needing to find a mains socket again – perfect for camping trips, music events or beach holidays.
Mobile accessory company Yell has been in the portable power pack industry for a while and its latest range of gadgets cater for tablets such as the Apple iPad and Samsung Galaxy Tab as well as smartphones.
Starting with the Energy Bar BPS66, this is a compact high capacity power pack, which sports two USB outputs so you can charge two devices at once using your own USB cable but also includes adaptors for LG SonyEricsson, Nokia, PSP and Samsung too.
Its capacity of 6,600mAh meant in my testing it charged an iPhone 5 four times over from flat – a remarkable achievement from a device that’s so small. Four lights on the top of the Energy Bar illuminate when you shake the device and show you how much power is remaining. To charge it you’ll need to use the included mini USB cable and does inevitably take a while but the Energy Bar is perfect for extended periods away from mains power.
Next up is the smaller Energy Stick. The Energy Bar is just about pocketable but the Energy Stick is barely any bigger than a couple of C-size batteries end to end. It has less capacity, though at 3,000mAh, but still managed to charge my iPhone 5 nearly twice over from flat.
The Energy Stick has a single USB output for connecting any USB charging cable in addition to a host of adapters, and by twisting the two sections in opposite directions, you pop up a standard USB charging port one way or a 30-pin Apple connector the other to plug straight in to older iPads or the iPhone 4S and below.
One issue we did find with the charging port is that you’ll need a port flush with a PC case or mains power adapter – many hubs and even laptop ports saw it not quite connect properly to charge. Also, with a 1A limit on the current output, it’s unlikely to work with many tablets, including the iPad.
Finally there’s Ye!!’s Energy Pocket. This comes in two flavors – one with an Apple Lightning connector and the other with a micro USB connector – popular on most other smartphones. You simply sit your device on top, plug it in and with 6,000mAh available, I saw my iPhone 5 charge four times over from flat.
As with the Energy Stick and Energy Bar, you can shake the Energy pocket to illuminate the charge status lights and it has a single USB port for charging other devices – this has a 2.1A output so will work fine with tablets too. The Energy Bar is small but chunky, but the Energy Pocket is certainly thin enough to be pocketable, is a little thicker but otherwise similar size to an iPhone 5 (which is a small smartphone too) and only weighs 150g.
All of Ye!!’s products are available in a range of funky colors. Price-wise, the 6,000mAh Energy Bar is the most expensive at $64.95, with the 6,000mAh version of the Energy Pocket retailing at $59 while the Energy Stick costs a more modest $33. The Energy Bar and Energy Pocket are my favorites despite their higher price; you get up to four full charges of an iPhone 5 – perfect for vacations away from power sources, plus they’re very compact, easier to charge and can both charge multiple devices at once.