A wall socket to take with you: Mobile phone power packs

  Most people charge their mobile phone using the power cord that came with it. Yet we’ve all encountered situations where there’s no socket within reach. Power packs are the solution.

Yet the external batteries in power packs don’t always achieve everything they promise.

Power packs are generally the same size as a mobile phone and cost between $20 and $40. Countless models are available on the market; several can even produce their own electricity using solar cells. Kai-Christian Moeller from the Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research in Wurzburg, Germany, sees them as little more than bells and whistles. “Solar cells of that size aren’t big enough to charge a mobile phone,” he says.

Solar power packs — and all other battery packs of this type — are filled with rechargeable batteries. Even under ideal conditions, it could take eight hours or longer, Moeller says. Owners of a solar cell power pack would ultimately end up relying primarily on the same wall socket as everyone else. Moeller has been researching single-use and rechargeable batteries for years. He isn’t particularly impressed by power packs without solar cells either: “To be completely honest: I’d rather just bring along a second battery.” But that’s not always possible, says Daniel Schaechter, editor at the online tech magazine CNET. “The decisive benefit of a power pack is that I don’t have to turn my mobile phone off to charge it,” Schaechter says. Furthermore, there are some devices, most notably Apple’s iPhone, whose battery cannot be removed without tools.

Cracking the case open to get at the battery typically voids the warrantee.

Power packs could be of potential interest for business travellers, Schaechter explains. “On some days I know in advance that I’ll be doing a lot of calling or e-mailing, such as at trade fairs,” he says.

In those cases a power pack is the more practical option. “I usually have to have the second battery in the phone to charge it. So that means I’ll have to be switching batteries ahead of the trip, during the trip, and afterwards,” he says. A power pack eliminates some of that complexity.

External energy sources can also be helpful for vacationers with a second mobile phone, MP3 player, or digital camera in their luggage.


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