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External Batteries

Perhaps one of the most often-heard gripes about smartphones is their short battery life. Phones have been getting larger batteries, which has certainly helped, and STANDBY times have been on the rise. However, when smartphones are really put to use (with apps that get the multi-core processors running hard) the battery will drain in short order, no matter what sort of standby time we get when the phone just sits in our pocket.

For example, when I go cycling on my mountain bike I use my smartphone to track my ride using SportsTracker Pro and I broadcast my location using Glympse. The latter is an especially big killer of the battery, because it has to transmit data at a fairly constant rate. If there’s one aspect of a smartphone that uses a large amount of battery power, it’s the transmitter.

Now even with a heavy drain such as that I can still get around 3 to 4 hours on a fully-charged battery in my Samsung Galaxy S4, but some of my rides far exceed that and the internal battery on my phone would be dead long before I finished.

One approach to increase runtime on a phone is to buy a high-capacity battery. This can sometimes double the capacity in your phone and provide the extra oomph you need for heavy phone workout like the one I described above. However, this only works if you own a phone that has a removal battery. There is a trend toward making phones with built-in batteries that can’t be removed or replaced with one of higher capacity. iPhones have NEVER had removable batteries.

Another alternative is to buy a case that includes a battery built into it, but you have to find one that is made for your specific model. This is easy for some makes and models, but not for others. If you’re lucky enough to own a phone that can...



use this approach, it certainly works, but the total amount of extra battery power you can gain through this approach is limited.

A much better approach, which doesn’t depend upon which phone you own and allows you to choose the amount of extra power you get, is to buy an external battery. These are usually small boxes with USB ports on the side. All you need to do is connect a standard USB cable to one of the ports and plug it into your phone as though it was a wall charger. To charge an external battery, you merely connect it to the same wall charger you already use for your phone.

The available capacity of these batteries ranges from small (2,000 mAh) to very larger (greater than 12,000 mAh). Of course, the larger the capacity of the battery, the physically larger (and heavier) it will be. However, they all work with all smartphones and can even charge or power other types of devices, so long as they use a USB charging system. I’ve used my 5,500 mAh external battery to power my DOD LS300W dash cam so that I can use it to record things other than what traffic in front of me is doing. Many automotive GPS devices also use a USB port to charge and/or power them. All GoPro cameras can be kept running much longer using an external battery.

Prices have been tumbling over the last year or so, and you’ll find these batteries are surprisingly inexpensive. They are available through many online stores, as well as large box stores like Best Buy. They can provide your phone with a week or more of standby, and well over a day of constant high-drainage use. They don’t require any modifications to your phone and you can leave them at home if they aren’t convenient in a given situation. They are well worth your consideration.

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