What to look for when buying a portable charger

The smarter our phones get, the quicker the battery life seems to go. My iPhone  5 can struggle to make it through a day, especially when late nights at the office are involved. Fortunately for me, and my fellow smartphone users, a number of very entrepreneurial organisations are making portable smartphone chargers, perfect for those times when an power outlet just isn't available. These have become incredible popular, to the point where I've seen them in a vending machine in Pitt Street Mall.

By Alex Choros

The smarter our phones get, the quicker the battery life seems to go. My iPhone  5 can struggle to make it through a day, especially when late nights at the office are involved. Fortunately for me, and my fellow smartphone users, a number of very entrepreneurial organisations are making portable smartphone chargers, perfect for those times when an power outlet just isn't available. These have become incredible popular, to the point where I've seen them in a vending machine in Pitt Street Mall.

Given that portable chargers all technically do the same thing, you could be mistaken in thinking they're made all equal. This can however lead to disappointment; I've seen countless reviews from customers shocked that their portable charger wouldn't power up their iPad. To help you avoid these kind of surprises, here's a quick guide on what to look for when buying a portable charger, as well as a few recommendations of proven devices.

The most important factor to consider is the battery capacity of the charger. This is measured in Milliamp Hours, or mAh. For example, the iPhone 5s has a 1560mAh battery built in, while the Samsung Galaxy S5 has a 2800mAh battery. This means a 3200mAh portable charger would theoretically give your iPhone 5s up to two full charges, while it would only provide your Galaxy S5 with one. Fortunately, there are portable chargers available that boast batteries with over 10,000mAh capacities, but a battery of this size means an increase of both weight and size. Ultimately, your ideal capacity will be determined by what you want to use your portable charger for. Are you looking at a charger for a week long camping trip? Or do you want just something to give your phone a bit of a quick juice up at the end of the day? 

The second most important factor to consider is charging speed. The three most common charging speeds on devices are 500mAh, 1A, and 2.1A. iPads and most other tablets require 2.1A charging speeds in order to charge at all. Any portable charger with 2 USB ports will probably have 2.1A charging speeds, but it is a feature definitely worth double checking if you want one specifically for your tablet. Conversely, most small, "lipstick-sized" chargers will only charge at 500mAh or 1A, making them unsuitable for anything other than a smartphone.

Other features are mostly a matter of personal preference, and these mostly come down to whether you want one USB port or two, a particular colour, or a particular size. In general though, the higher capacity battery you're after, the bigger and heavier the portable charger will be.

Here are four of CyberShack's recommendations:

Device Price Capacity Charging Speed Description Image
Jackery Mini From $41.00 3200mAh 1A The 3200mAh Jackery Mini is a small “lipstick-sized” portable charger that is great for when you just need an extra bit of battery to get through the day. While 1A charging speeds mean it’s a no-go for tablets, the Jackery Mini can provide an iPhone with up to two full charges.
Mophie Powerstation Duo From $99.95 6000mAh 2.1A Mophie’s dual USB port, 6000mAh is a good middle-of-the road portable charger. It’s not too heavy, it’s not too bulky, but it can still charge a phone and a tablet at the same time.
IOGear GearPower Ultra Capacity Mobile Power Station From $143.00 11,000mAh 2.1A This device’s 11,000mAh battery dwarfs even its name, and can provide your iPhone or Galaxy with up to five full charges. However, the GearPower is bigger than most phones and weighs about the same as an iPad mini. With two USB ports, its perfect for that camping trip though!

Mophie Juice Pack From $79.95 From 1500mAh N/A Alternatively, if carrying around a portable charger seems like too much of a hassle, Mophie make cases that have an extra battery built in. Toggling a switch will turn on charging. The case is available in 1500mAh, 1700mAh and 2100mAh varieties for iPhone 5 and 5s, and 2300mAh varieties for the Galaxy S3 and S4. A Galaxy S5 model has yet to be released.

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