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Need more juice? We look at 3 portable batteries

by Joe Levi on

Since many of today’s smartphones and tablets don’t have removable batteries, and staying tethered to an electrical outlet isn’t a viable option, there’s got to be another solution. Hold tight as we look at three portable batteries that you can use with your Android, iOS, Windows, or BlackBerry today!

As our smartphones and tablets become a more powerful part of our every days lives, we seem to keep finding more things that we can do with them. My smartphone has become my calorie counter, pedometer, music player, TV, portable WiFi hotspot, primary email machine, turn-by-turn GPS and navigation device, and more. During times of emergency, my smartphone not only lets me get in touch with people by text and voice, but I can also use my HAM radio license to hop on repeaters half-a-world away, and I can listen in on police scanners from almost anywhere. The more I do with my phone, however, the more power it needs.

For those of you who don’t know, I’m really into Ingress, a game for Android that uses your device’s GPS and data connection to let you capture various geographic points of interest, upgrade and connect them, and defend them from the other team — which is trying to do the same thing. The game requires a lot of screen-on time, keeps your geo-location running constantly, and has to stay in continual communication with Google’s servers. Saying it uses a lot of energy to run would be an under statement. Many players report less than 2-hours of in-game time from fully-charged to fully-depleted. To remedy the situation I started asking around about portable batteries. Everyone seemed to have a favorite, but they didn’t seem to know what the options were, or why their choice was¬†“better” than all the others. To help answer those questions, I went hands on with three portable batteries. Here are my results.

iGo Charge Anywhere

This little charger has an advantage over the other two that I tested: it has a fold-out plug built-in. This configuration allowed me to simply pocket the charger and a micro USB cable, and I was all set. The device itself is quite small and fairly light-weight. On the bottom are two unlabeled USB ports. This allows you charge two devices simultaneously, or leave one port empty. Nowhere on the device or what little documentation that it came with addressed if there was a difference between the two ports, and I didn’t notice any difference in my testing.

The pocket-sized battery pack contains a 1,800 mAh battery inside it, which is good for around 1/2 a charge on the smartphones that I tested it with. This is good for an emergency boost of power to get you by until you can find a wall or car charger to plug into. Do yourself a favor and recharge your iGo portable battery at the same time.

For around US$25.00, this little battery could help out in a pinch, but don’t rely on it to get you further than the next outlet.

Anker Astro 3E External Battery

Coming in at just a little larger (and probably noticeably heaver) than your smartphone itself is the Anker Astro 3E External Battery. When I set this item on my desk many co-workers confused it with a new phone. It has a certain “look” to it. It’s big and it’s heavy, but it’s got a 10,000 mAh battery inside it.

In practical use the Anker was able to recharge my Nexus 4 or Galaxy S 4 at least twice, and usually three times. Charging is relatively quick, but you’ll want to make sure you’re using the right USB port at the bottom: one is for Apple products, the other for Android.

Recharging the Anker took quite a while, with overnight charging being the preferred method. Unfortunately, unlike the iGo, when you recharge the Anker you’ll have to supply a wall or car charger — it doesn’t have any built-in prongs like the iGo does, you’ll have to plug it into a charger via micro USB.

You can pick up an Anker Astro 3E from US$40 to $90, and it’s well worth every bit of it — if you don’t mind your battery being mistaken for a “mystery phone”. It’s not too big, and it isn’t much thicker than your smartphone, so it easily fits in a pocket.

Just Mobile Gum Max Duo

If you need even more juice you’ll want to look at the 11,200 mAh Gum Max Duo from Just Mobile. This thing is huge. It’s thick. It’s fairly heavy. It doesn’t fit well in a pants pocket (but is right at home in a cargo pocket, purse, or backpack).

On the bottom of the Gum Max Duo are two USB ports: 2.4A and 1A. Your phone or tablet may not like being charged at a higher amperage, but if it does, it will charge much faster on 2.4A than on 1A. I was able to recharge my Nexus 4 or Galaxy S 4 at least three times, and charging was every bit as fast from the Just Mobile battery as it was when connecting to a wall outlet.

The Gum Max Duo is also recharged via micro USB, and as you’d expect, it takes quite a while to recharge it after you’re done recharging your devices. Overnight is a good rule of thumb. The Gum Max Duo has a few advantages over the others. First, it’s got a more accurate charge indicator on it featuring 8 very small, but bright LEDs which you trigger by pressing the button the battery. Second, the shell is made up of aluminum on the top and bottom which helps it feel solid and durable. Lastly, as its name implies, it comes with a Gum cover that adds very little weight nor bulk, but gives you extra grip and seems like it adds an extra layer of protection from accidental drops and bumps. The cover is also available in various bright, bold colors to suit your tastes.

The Just Mobile Gum Max Duo is the most expensive of the three I tested, reselling from around US$110 – $130.

More

Each of the three companies we mentioned make portable batteries in other capacities and with other features, so make sure you check out all the offerings before you make a decision. Overall I was quite impressed with each of the three portable batteries that I tested, but each has distinct advantages and disadvantages when compared to the others.

Do you use a portable battery that we didn’t mention? Do you have experience with one of the three that we did? We’d love to hear your thoughts! Join the conversation in the comments below!

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