By Mark Isaiah David
Aside from your wallet, the one thing you don’t ever leave home without is your smartphone – and with good reason. As smartphones have transcended beyond being just a tool to call and text other people, they have grown to be essential devices that provide us with entertainment, information, and endless functionalities through the bajillion apps out there.
But that functionality comes with a price: power. Gone are the days when we would charge our Nokia phones at night and do a repeat a week after. Today, it would be highly unusual for your smartphone to last the whole day. This, of course, birthed another must-have whenever we leave the house: the indispensable powerbank.
When I first bought a powerbank, I did everything wrong: it was unwieldy, it had low capacity, and I paid waaaaaaaaaay too much for it. If you’re in the market for a new powerbank, here are some things you should take note of:
Measured in milliampere-hour (mAh), the powerbank’s capacity approximates how many charges you can get from it for your phone. If you have a phone with a 2000mAh battery, for example, and you have a powerbank with the same capacity, you can get one full charge from it – on paper, at least. In reality, power loss due to voltage conversion, circuit resistance, and even the quality of your charging cable can leave you with less than what you require.
When buying a powerbank, check your phone battery’s capacity first so you know what you need to buy. Or if budget permits, get the largest capacity powerbank that you can get your hands on. If you’re stuck in the bus for hours due to the city’s horrid traffic and you’re draining your phone’s battery like crazy with your mobile games and video streaming, you’ll be thankful for the overabundance of power you have in your pocket.
If your powerbank’s output current tops at 1Ampere, charging your new smartphone would take a long time. Look for a model that has a 2.1A output and you’ll be happier for it.
Your powerbank’s input current is also something that you should mind. If you have a high-capacity powerbank (say, 15,000mAh), you’d probably need the whole night to charge it.Remember: the higher the capacity, the longer it takes to charge.
Do you usually carry multiple devices that would need your powerbank? Will you need to share it with someone who’s with you most of the time? Waiting for someone to finish charging while your own device drains can be infuriating. Save yourself from stress and get a model with multiple ports.
Some powerbanks also come with a built-in USB cable that wraps around the case – a genius idea, especially for people like me who tend to leave the USB cable at home inadvertently.
You’re going to carry your powerbank wherever you go – in school, in your check-in bag for the airplane, even in your bike pouch when you’re hitting the trails. So make sure your device will fit in your various bags. You might want to snag the highest capacity model you can, but if it’s too big for you to carry, you’d have no choice but to leave it at home.
Also, mind the weight. You might think it’s not really a concern for you because your bag just sits on your lap when you commute, but you’d think otherwise when you’re already exhausted hiking or when it’s been hours at the bus line at your queue hasn’t moved an inch. Powerbanks are supposed to be portable – don’t just look at the numbers (capacity and current); consider the look and feel of it too.
One of the worst mistakes you can make when buying a powerbank is automatically going for the cheapest one available. Look for one made by reliable manufacturers. Buying a powerbank made with refurbished batteries is a headache-in-waiting. And of course, don’t forget that faulty batteries can explode – so be a little more astute when choosing a powerbank. Usually, if it looks too good to be true (high capacity/low-price), the manufacturer probably took shortcuts and you’d be in danger of over-charging, faulty temperature protection, or even short circuits.
Having said that, it’s also good to note that just because a powerbank is insanely expensive it doesn’t mean it’s top-quality. Marketing plays a major factor in pricing, and so does location. Buying one at tourist-trap areas is never a good idea.
Before you buy, spend a few minutes googling reputable reviews of the powerbanks you’re eyeing. Finding the right balance between capacity, portability, and price can be tricky – it wouldn’t hurt to listen to those who have taken the time to compare and contrast the options out there.
Buying something – even a device that looks as simple as a powerbank – still needs some thought given to it. After all, you wouldn’t want to spend thousands for something that will ultimately disappoint. With a little research and a little forethought, you can find the powerbank that will serve you well.