I have become a total battery power junkie, never leaving home without at least two portable chargers. Well, that’s including my charging case, to be fair. Partly it’s the dreaded iPhone battery drain that I’ve experienced more than I’d like, and partly it’s that I get twitchy just thinking about being out and about with 6% power left on my phone and hours left in my day.
So for years, I’ve been testing and trying and playing around with numerous portable phone chargers. Now, with holiday travel you may have coming up, it seemed like a perfect time to share the five portable chargers that I find I have really come back to over and over again.
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At the top of my list, there’s the Jackery Giant + Premium Portable Charger (on sale now for $29 at Amazon). I simply haven’t tried a portable charger that’s been better for me in any price range. Including ones that are twice as expensive. Pretty amazing, because when I paid $39 for it based on fervent recommendations from friends, I was expecting to lay out a lot more.
You’ve got two USB ports to charge two devices at once should you need it –there’s a a 1 amperage, then a 2.1A which charges twice as quickly and is ideal for tablets. And boy is the Jackery fast! I’ve brought my nearly dead battery back to the living in under an hour.
As Jackery promises, I get about 5 full charges of my iPhone 5s on one fully charged Jackery–and it holds its charge a good long time. In fact, I can forget about it in my bag for a week and it’s still got plenty of juice, even if there’s some drain. It can also get my iPad Air fully charged, and while I haven’t tried it on a Galaxy Tab 8, it claims to give you about full 1.5 charges there.
It’s not quite “giant” as you might think from the name, though it does have some heft to it at ten ounces. You’d notice the weight in a small purse, but not so much in a tote or messenger bag. And it’s easy to see how much charge is left by pushing a little button on the side.
Actually, you have to remember to push that same button to start charging; it’s not automatic with connection. On the other hand, that’s probably what helps limit the drain. Get a couple in two different colors, so you and your SigOth each have one without fighting over whose is whose. And don’t head to an airport without one.
BOTTOM LINE: Outstanding, affordable portable charger for plenty of power that lasts
The Anker 2nd Gen Astro2 Portable External Battery Charger ($25.99, Amazon) is not a name that rolls right off the tongue, but is also a winner. In fact, Anker is fast becoming a new favorite tech brand for me– I want to marry the Anker 5-port USB charger but I don’t think that’s legal in my state.
I like the Anker Astro2 because it not only keeps its charge and powers up my phone fast–about 1% per minute–but it’s a bit sleeker to carry around than the Anker. When you pull it out in a meeting and stick it on the table, it doesn’t look like you’re carrying a spare hard drive. In fact, you can stack your phone right on top of it and with that shiny black exterior, they blend right together. It even looks like a phone.
The Astro2 does hold slightly less of a charge than the Jackery, but for most people this is still plenty of power, unless you’re on a 16-hour flight and plan on going through your iPad Air battery more than twice. And at 8.16 ounces, it’s not a bad purse size–or jacket pocket size, if you’re one of our gentlemen readers. Plus I always appreciate any easy-to-read LED light system that shows me just how much juice is left. It puts me at ease, without even having to plug it in.
BOTTOM LINE: Sleek, powerful portable charger with a lot of juice for its size
MYCHARGE ENERGY SHOT
For an emergency jolt of power when you don’t need too much, I like tossing the myCharge Energy Shot right into a handbag. It looks nice and solid despite its AA battery size. And at 4-ounces, it’s small enough and light enough to tuck in even into a small evening clutch, especially if you use it with a very short charging cable.
It’s about the same price as the Anker Astro2 but then the benefit of this one is its small size. This is the portable battery I grab when I’m headed out for the night and only need a “just in case” spare with me that’s lightweight and unobtrusive.
My one complaint is that you shake it to light up the battery indicator, and then it’s not entirely clear just how much battery is left; there’s a red-yellow-green system that’s more vague than I like, anal Virgo that I am. On the other hand, you basically know you get one charge out of it so really, it’s either full and unused, or it’s not.
The myCharge Energy Shot actually makes a nifty gift, when you factor the clever packaging: It looks like one of those energy drinks you see at convenience store counters.
BOTTOM LINE: Conveniently small portable charger, for a quick hit of power of the go.
JUNOPOWER KONNECT PLUG
I was so excited to discover the Juno Power Konnect Plug 600 mAh External Battery with Built in Cable (Now on sale for $16.99. Amazon) because anything that doesn’t require me to carry around a cord–i.e. remember to bring a cord–sounds like something I need. While others have this feature, I appreciate the sleek, very lightweight design of the Konnect Plug and the slightly rounded ergonomic sides make it comfy in your hand, if a little less compact for dropping in a shallow pocket or laptop case flap.
To get a bit technical on you, the difference between Juno Power and other portable chargers is that these use Samsung lithium ion cells instead of generic lithium, making it much lighter while retaining power and quality. Though the same size as the Anker, the Konnect Plug weighs just 6.1 ounces, or about 20% less.
This is an especially great portable battery option for you Android users, since it comes with an attached Micro-USB cord, and promises about 15 hours of talk-time on a Galaxy S3/4, and between 20 and 30 on other phones including the HTC One, Moto X, and Lumia. That said, I am an iPhone gal, which means this is fine for charging my Mophie case or any other Micro USB gadget, but for my phone I need to carry the cable with me, like with my other options. That does kind of defeat the primary benefit of the Konnect Plug for me, but at least with the 2 USB ports, I have options.
I think that also makes it a terrific portable battery charger for a multi-platform phone family.
BOTTOM LINE: Lightweight portable charger with a built-in Micro-USB cord that saves a step; nice for families with Android and iOS devices.
CHARGING CASES: WITH AN UPDATE
I once loved my Mophie Juice Pack Air ($99.95 with discounts often available). And yet, I hate my Mophie. There is so much that’s genius about the design: It slides on and off easily, it looks great, it provides really terrific protection (my phone hasn’t broken yet on falls, even if the case gets a little banged up) and the power indicator is spot-on accurate. I especially love the easy flip-switch to toggle it from charging to not charging.
And yet, to be frank, it just doesn’t seem to keep its charge.
I’ve had several Mophie charging cases and I do find after about a year, and sometimes less, you really need a new one. While they guarantee 500 full charges with it, I think that’s incredibly optimistic. Their own website even says we cannot guarantee that you will receive a 100% battery boost. The amount of additional battery you will receive depends on a variety of factors that are different for every user.
Additionally, the charging port can get a little borked after a lot of use, and suddenly you don’t have a tight connection, so your case isn’t charging when you think it is.
UPDATE SEPT, 2017: Because I can’t give a raving Mophie recommendation any more, what I do highly highly recommend — like, highly highly HIGHLY recommend — is the Apple iPhone Battery Case for you iPhone users.
I have now used it for nearly two years on my iPhone 6S with no problems at all. It more than doubles my charge, the rubbery silicone holds up really well, even dumped in my handbag of doom and offers great protection. Best of all, you can use a regular old lightning cable to charge it either on or off your phone.
Yay for not carrying two cables!
If you’re an iPhone user, I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t get one, if practicality is your number one concern. Even though it does add some weight (I mean hello, it’s a charger), what a relief to know I always have enough battery power to get me through the day.
Bottom Line: The Apple iPhone Battery Case is definitely the best battery charging case, hands down.
HONORABLE MENTION: OTTERBOX RESURGENCE
While it’s not currently on my own phone, another phone charging case to check out is the Otterbox Resurgence Power Case ($99.95). It charges super fast, comes in four nice colors and looks quite sleek, with phenomenal protection as you’d expect from Otterbox. It also has a handy feature which automatically stops power from flowing from the case to your phone when it’s fully charged.
However my main issue (besides a LED power display that could be a little clearer) is that I nearly killed myself getting it on–but it was harder getting it off. Let’s say, it’s not a case that’s made to be taken on and off the phone easily. For my needs–as in, I review phone cases–that’s pretty inconvenient.
The other watchout is for those of you who use headphones a lot; know that the Resurgence case requires you to plug your headphone into the jack through a small adapter that extends through the bottom of the case. In my world that means one more piece to lose. I suppose it wouldn’t be such an issue, if only I could get the case on and off easily like the Mophie, which easily allows me to pop the bottom off. But then, maybe Otterbox wouldn’t have quite the protection if that were a feature.
All this said, I love Otterbox cases inordinately, and if protection is your number one priority, and you don’t plan on taking the case off, this may actually be perfect for you.