back to article Embracing the life-changing qualities of USB power packs and battery extenders

I'm far from picky when it comes to reviews. I like my tech in any shape and size; any tool has merit. Some days I'm playing with a supercomputer, others I'm testing consumer products. Getting to test ultra-high end gear is always fun, but in reality it's not something that everyone really benefits from. It seems as though the …

  1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

    Battery packs...

    Seem less than idea in comparison to extra batteries, better power usage, and removable or easily chargeable batteries.

    Still cool things to have, and no doubt very useful for long journeys and holidays.

    I have to wonder if the latest colour scheme to Android actually lowers battery performance, as the old grey/darker screen would theoretically use less power on an OLED display than the newer white style GUI.

  2. Missing Semicolon
    Thumb Up

    No substitute for a big battery

    You can get fat batteries with a replacement phone back for as little as £10 from FleaBay. I have one for my old S3. I actually found that the back disintegrated before the battery lost it's ability to hold charge!

    1. Steve Evans

      Re: No substitute for a big battery

      I used to think like that, but since getting the Nexus 6, which supports Qualcomm turbo charge, and the Aukey 10,000mAh USB battery (which also supports Qualcomm turbo charging), I'm rather glad the Nexus didn't have a bigger battery...

      That keeps the weight of the phone down, and 30 minutes tethered to the Aukey whilst I'm having my lunch, driving the car etc, and the Nexus is juiced up again.

      The USB thing looks interesting... At the moment I'm trying to find a site where they understand that converting a price from $ to £ involves a bit more than just changing the $ to a £.... *mutters*

    2. AndrueC Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: No substitute for a big battery

      I have one for my old S3

      Me too. The 4400maH kept my S3 going for three days with fairly light use (one hour of music playback over bluetooth+regular email checks is about all most days). Earlier this year(*) I dropped my S3 and replaced it with an S3 Neo. Now that same 4400maH battery is lasting a week between charges. Or was. The last couple of charges have only lasted six days so after two years it might finally be on the way out. Still - they are only £20 on Amazon.

      (*)A memorable day. Had two job interviews. First was in Banbury. Second was Milton Keynes. Thankfully I dropped the phone after the second one otherwise getting to that might have been tricky without sat nav. But then I had to work out how to get into MK centre and find a phone shop. And I normally use an app to pay parking charges but found 40p in the centre console which was the minimum I needed. And half way between my car and the shops it started snowing. Perfect weather for man in suit and posh shoes with no grip :-/

      I got the first job anyway so it all worked out well :)

    3. Bleu

      Re: No substitute for a big battery

      Burning iPhones give you so much more,

      burning iPhones give you so much more.

      As experienced by many!

    4. Bleu

      Re: No substitute for a big battery

      'the back disintegrated before the battery lost it's ability to hold charge!'

      I don't even ...

      Did you drop it many times, was the battery too hot, or was the back made from paper that you exposed to heavy rain?

      1. Captain DaFt

        Re: No substitute for a big battery

        "Did you drop it many times, was the battery too hot, or was the back made from paper that you exposed to heavy rain?"

        Probably similar to me, dependable phone, does what I need after nearly eight years of use*, and sees no need to change it.

        *Had a nice chat* with the provider about four years ago, when they tried to discontinue service due to it being an old model, no other problems since.

        **No, really! Rather surprising.

  3. kmac499

    Super Model fallacy

    Thin Phones are a bit like thin human super models, selected to display the creative ability of the designer and marketing dept by distorting the apparent ratios (height:width) of the body. Give me a thicker one with more oomph any day... (Cue song Whole Lotta Rosie)

    1. GregC

      Re: Super Model fallacy

      You get an upvote from me for the AC/DC reference alone :)

    2. Schultz
      Holmes

      The Super Model fallacy fallacy

      A slim supermodel rarely overheats and explodes, but Li-ion batteries do have that tendency. And a thicker battery is a better insulated bomb in your pocket, more likely to go off.

      But then there is Naomi Campbell. She is the fail of the Super Model fallacy fallacy.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Super Model fallacy

      "Give me a thicker one..."

      Free advice: With all due respect to the fairer gender, girls typically get thicker with age (as do we all, to some degree). So you have to, ahem, 'lead your target'.

      Start with a slender little waif, run a couple of babies through her, and she'll plump right up to normal. Guaranteed.

      Start with normal, and you'll probably end up with thick.

      Start with thick, ...don't even ask, but your future may include chain hoists.

      It's worth explaining that this approach is most suitable for those planning a stable, hopefully lifelong, relationship. Those seeking a short term fling can of course aim directly on target. So this 'lead your target' advice is actually far less sexist and rude than it first seems. Please excuse the indelicate nature of the topic.

      1. m0rt Silver badge

        Re: Super Model fallacy

        "Please excuse the indelicate nature of the topic."

        No.

        Twat.

        1. Captain DaFt

          Re: Super Model fallacy

          "Free advice: With all due respect to the fairer gender, girls typically get thicker with age (as do we all, to some degree). So you have to, ahem, 'lead your target'."

          /sarcasm And worth every penny paid for it /sarcasm

          "Please excuse the indelicate nature of the topic."

          "No. Twat."

          Upvoted

      2. Hollerith 1

        Re: Super Model fallacy

        And the lucky lady presumably keeps pace with the young fella who slowly becomes corpulent, then beer-bellied, and finally that old guy whose shirt doesn't meet his trousers at the front. Sadly seen on high streets everywhere on Saturdays.

  4. Gordan

    Has nobody heard of Synergy?

    "You can tell the Mac KVM Link software which border of your display to use to switch over, and simply dragging your mouse over that border switches any peripherals connected to the USB hub to the other device (your keyboard and mouse need to be connected to the hub, not your system)."

    Some of us have been doing this using Synergy between Windows, and various *nix machines for a very long time. And before that there was x2vnc. And all without any additional hardware required.

    1. Rusty 1

      Re: Has nobody heard of Synergy?

      Indeed, this simple software solution that is cross platform is really very useful. Doesn't need USB 3 ports or anything more fancy than a bunch of computers on a network (proper network mind you, Ethernet for example, not USB directly connected tat).

  5. toughluck
    FAIL

    This is why I prefer devices with removable batteries and veto those without in my buying decision.

    And that is why I bought a Galaxy Note 3. So there.

  6. Disgruntled
    Holmes

    elegant metallic finishing

    "Superspeed USB3.0 interface with elegant metallic finishing"

    Don't you just love marketing

    Makes me remember when windscreen wipers and rear-view mirrors were listed as spec features on new cars

    1. Bleu

      Re: elegant metallic finishing

      You have respect from my heart if you really recall those things.

      1. Alister Silver badge

        Re: elegant metallic finishing

        @Bleu

        It's not that long ago that cars only came with a driver's windscreen wiper, is it? Or maybe it is... My 1960 Land Rover Series 2 only had the driver's side - but then Land Rover were always a bit different. :)

        My Morris1000 from 1972 had a heater and all sorts of luxuries - even a cigarette lighter!

    2. Barry Rueger

      Re: elegant metallic finishing

      Ah yes. The days when US auto companies charged you hundreds of dollars for the "optional" automatic transmission on a car that couldn't be purchased with a clutch.

      Which, to think about it, is the business model for half of the companies on the Internet.

  7. IsJustabloke

    Lollipop

    Until the Lollipop upgrade I got great battery life out of my xperia z1 the lollipop upgrade has serioulsy degraded the battery performance, so much so that I'm planning on getting rid of it and going back to 4.4.4.

    Also I think that little KVM thingy is very cool, gonna get me a slice of that action.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Lollipop

      "Until the Lollipop upgrade I got great battery life out of my xperia z1 the lollipop upgrade has serioulsy degraded the battery performance, so much so that I'm planning on getting rid of it and going back to 4.4.4."

      I don't know about the Z1 but I have both Z1 Compact and the Ultra running Lollipop, and the battery life is a little better than on 4.4.4.

      Caveats:

      I don't use Facebook. I believe this is a common problem application, sucking both personal data and electrons.

      I only use push for gmail. I tried push for Outlook and it sucked juice on both versions, but a bit worse on Lollipop.

      The Z1 Compact uses about 25% - 30% a day, which ties in well with GSMarena's 65 hours.

      1. Brangdon

        Re: Lollipop

        My Sony Z3C is usually at about 80% when I retire for the night. And it charges via a magnetic port, so charging does not add wear and tear to the USB port (nor risk compromising the water-tight seal by uncovering it).

  8. The Original Steve

    Windows Phones...

    ... For all their flaws (well, personally I love them, but some app-tastic people may want more apps) Windows Phone is particularly good at battery life and power management.

    Get 2 days on my year old Lumia 930. My backup / spare 630 goes 3 days with a little left in the tank.

  9. Bleu

    My phone regularly runs out of electric power.

    I have one of those battery packs now. Have only used it once, my thinking is that I should be doing something more useful instead of reading crap on the phone, but it is the easiest thing to do when time between changing trains is short and one is standing.

    The battery is removable, but it is a process, I thought Android was crash-proof, all of the seven, eight or ten times I have removed the battery, it was to reboot the thing because it crashed. Albeit, this is over two or more years.

    Why they didn't include an external reset button, accessible by toothpick or pin, I never understand.

    I really preferred my TRON mini-brick in many ways. It *never* crashed. Still hasn't.

    Off topic, I saw a lady on the train today who had decorated her iPhone with marker pen, I thought 'That's the spirit!' She'd written 'OH MY' with nice balance on the top, and G and D! on either side of the round button in the lower centre.

    Applying marker pen to a sillyphone, very stylish IMHO.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: My phone regularly runs out of electric power.

      Holding down power/power + volume up/power + volume down for 10 seconds usually gets you a reboot if it's frozen.

      1. Bleu

        Re: My phone regularly runs out of electric power.

        Thx, I may try it next time.

        Would guess it doesn't work everywhere.

        I never thought of those as volume buttons, but can see that is the intention.

        If I listen to music on headphones, it is from my DS.

        Since my pre-paid card is unusable and Google chooses not to offer any kind of help service to tell me why (they sure don't reply to 'Feedback'), can't download the programs I want (for making sounds, not listening to them).

    2. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: My phone regularly runs out of electric power.

      "I thought Android was crash-proof..."

      I have eight tablets of pretty much all the major OS ecosystems. iOS, Android, Win 8.1, Win 8 RT, Blackberry. More than a few phones too, iOS, Win 8 Phone, Android.

      Android is significantly worse than the others. Worse in the sense that the Chrome browser under Android can't deal with quite a few websites. Seizes up, crashes, etc. Worse in the unmanageable file system. Worse in many ways. Crash-prone is more accurate. Amateur coders. Bad management. Lack of attention to detail.

      An exception is that Blackberry has too many horrifyingly bad apps. Their apps are the worst.

      Apple is the worst for all the well known reasons. Evil DRM power cords that cost $20. Sleaze bags.

      MS is doing okay, mostly. Nice gadgets for the most part. Not perfect.

      Your opinion may vary. Which is fine.

  10. D@v3

    rugged cases with batteries vs usb battery packs

    the thing that puts me off cases with batteries, either as replacements to removable batteries, or ones that plug into the charge port, is that when you inevitably get a new phone, you are left with a case / battery that is no good to you, and you need to buy a new one.

    With a USB battery pack, I change my phone, and it still works with the new one, it can also be used to provide emergency power to more than _just_ my phone.

    1. Bleu

      Re: rugged cases with batteries vs usb battery packs

      ... but it does defeat the purpose, the combined weight is in ultra-light laptop territory.

    2. Shadow Systems Silver badge

      At D@v3, re: external batteries.

      I agree. I purchased an extended capacity battery for my phone & that helps it to last nearly a week of regular use between charges. I've got an external USB connected battery pack I can connect to the phone which nearly turns it into a month between charges. I didn't go for a battery-equipped case for that *very* reason, because if I switch phones then the battery case is rendered worthless. Give me a phone with a removeable battery, replace the stock battery with an extended capacity version, and keep a fully charged external in a pocket. By the time your phone drains both the extended battery AND the external battery pack, even the most power guzzling phone & hard core user should be able to last a few days.

      NB: I've got a Dumb FlipPhone not a SmartPhone, so the normal useage doesn't include web surfing, app grabbing, game playing, email sending, photo viewing, Social Media updating, time wasting drek. Voice calls, Text Messages, & recording voice notes to remind me to do stuff, yes. YMMV.

  11. This post has been deleted by its author

  12. Keir Snelling

    The consensus of the global Ingress community (ex google augmented reality location based game) is that Anker battery packs are the ones to go for.

    Field tested by thousands of Ingress agents - who run around cities with their phones screens constantly lit, GPS constantly active, and high data consumption - An absolute tax on any device's battery capabilities - The vast majority of Ingress agents swear by Anker.

    The product works really well, and on the odd occasion that one fails, their customer service is second to none.

  13. W Donelson
    FAIL

    I hate USB3 -radiates like crazy in the same bands as lots of other stuff

    The fecked-up part is that Intel KNEW it was going to be a mess :(

    Goodbye WiFi and wireless devices if you try to use USB3 -- Intel's OWN report here --

    http://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/io/universal-serial-bus/usb3-frequency-interference-paper.html

    My own stuff I have to wrap in tin foil and copper shield grounded :(

    1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: I hate USB3 -radiates like crazy in the same bands as lots of other stuff

      If you're adding external shielding, that implies that there's no shielding and that shielding helps.

      Cables come in shielded varieties.

      Buy shielded cables.

      1. W Donelson

        Re: I hate USB3 -radiates like crazy in the same bands as lots of other stuff

        I tried MANY different USB3 cables from thick to thin, expensive to cheap. None of them have sufficient shielding and are grounded at the PC, not the environment.

        Try it. See if your PC "ground" actually goes to ground!

        1. Suricou Raven Silver badge

          Re: I hate USB3 -radiates like crazy in the same bands as lots of other stuff

          Actually grounding the ground at both ends isn't always a good idea. It can do weird things when long cables are grounded at both ends, or when the who-knows-how-it-is-wired UPS is involved.

          It's a hazard well-known to electronics engineers: The non-obvious ground connection that burns out the input stage on your £600 oscilloscope. It's why they keep an isolation transformer on a little altar next to the workbench and offer up a prayer to it before getting out the probes.

        2. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: I hate USB3 -radiates like crazy in the same bands as lots of other stuff

          Grounding and RF...

          I've often said that RF would be less 'magical' to most people if it was bright purple, instead of invisible.

          Assuming for the moment that you're talking about noise emitted in the 2.4 GHz wifi band, then you must understand that the wavelength is 12 cm. So a lovely perfect ground, feel free to imagine it anywhere you like (even if it's not true); just one quarter wavelength 3cm up the ground wire will be the peak of a standing wave. The pattern repeats all the way up your ground lead to the source of the noise.

          Grounding is important for several reasons. Conducting microwave noise away isn't one of them.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Who goes all day without charging?

    I sit at a computer for most of my day. I instinctively pull my phone out and put it on my desk when I sit down since I might want to use it for something. And I keep a charger cable right where I usually set my phone down, so it's a no-brainer to just plug the phone in while I'm at my desk.

    So when I leave work in the late afternoon or evening, my phone is almost always 100% charged.

    So when I hear people talking about how their phone barely has any charge left at the end of the day, I wonder what's going on in their lives that they don't charge their phones _during_ the day. Do you guys work construction, or what?

    Similarly, I keep a car charger cable right where I set my phone down in the center console when I'm driving, and I just plug it in as normal routine when I get in my car. Most of the time when I arrive somewhere my phone will have 100% charge, even if I've been using satnav, etc.

    Charging at my desk and in my car means that I rarely have less than 70-80% charge at any point during the day, and I'm frankly bewildered that so many people are always running low and need solutions like these enormous battery cases etc.

    1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Who goes all day without charging?

      Yep.

      "My phone battery lasts three days."

      Yeah? I'm not homeless. Where I sleep there is electricity.

      It'll be the right time to buy an electric car when people stop talking about their phone batteries.

      ^- candidate for QotW?

  15. jason 7 Silver badge

    Three year old Nexus 4

    I can still go over two days if I don't use it like a Gameboy (I'm 44 so slim chance).

    Just delete off all the crap you don't use.

    1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Three year old Nexus 4

      Battery Life advice "Just delete off all the crap you don't use."

      How does having things sitting in nonvolatile memory consume energy?

      Does the Android OS constantly go through every installed app one by one to shake them out?

      Or is there an assumption that most apps are doing something in the background?

      1. jason 7 Silver badge

        Re: Three year old Nexus 4

        A lot of people install apps they don't use. If you check through the App Management you will see in the 'Running Apps' often several of those unused apps sitting in the background and also showing up in the Battery Logs.

        Therefore, if they are running in the background,using battery and not being used, you delete them.

        Plus also if you have 50 apps that you don't use then those 50 apps will have a constant stream of updates which will also be consuming battery, wi-fi, resources etc.

        Cutting down unnecessary activity.

  16. Joe Gurman

    Clearly, it depends

    On how much you use your mobile, whether you're near cell repeaters or on the fringes of the coverage area, and whether you work in a place with WiFi. For what it's worth, my LTE smartphone has an 1810 mAh battery, and usually lasts three days, unless one or more of the above "normal" conditions in my life is missing.

  17. David Roberts

    More than one device?

    External power packs come into their own when you have more than one device.

    Say, two phones and a tablet between a couple.

    You can also offer emergency support to others if you have the comprehensive connector pack.

    YMMV.

    However not everyone lives their life chained to a desk or car seat.

    Walking or cycling all day and using your phone as a satnav can benefit from spare juice sources.

    As can international travel.

  18. crayon

    What I would like to see in a phone are hot-swappable battery. USB power packs have their uses but are no substitute for removable batteries.

  19. Siskris

    Battery packs

    Stuck on Eurostar for 3 hours outside Calais with no power to the onboard sockets the battery pack came into its own for both phone and tablet. Well worth the few quid it cost compared to the cost of a reliable replacement battery which would have only worked on the phone - and they don't make battery cases for my phone.

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