once saw a strip cartoon in which a man is walking in the street carying two suitcases when he meets a friend. He explains that he is just back from a holiday abroad. He shows his friend the watch he bought while away. It is a marvel: it tells the time, acts as an alarm clock, has a GPS display, sends messages to other phones, etc. etc. He offers to give it to his friend. His friend grabs the watch and runs off in glee with it to show his friends.
“Wait!” calls the man. Pointing down at the two suitcases, he says “Don’t you want the batteries?”
This cartoon will rub a sore point in the minds of most of us with regard to that other essential of modern life, our mobile phones. Powerful as these remarkable devices are, they suffer from a tragic weakness: inadequate batteries.
Even with “normal” usage, an otherwise highly developed machine like the iPhone can hardly make it through the day without recharging at least once. I take “normal usage” to be something like receiving or making a couple of phone calls, sending a few texts and emails and perhaps checking the diary a few times. Even then, by the end of the day, the device will be gasping for a recharge. Someone jokingly remarked that his mobile spent so much time connected to a power point that he might as well use a landline!
When I started this blog, usage of my iPhone soared from”normal” to “exorbitant”. Writing and editing text as well as taking and processing photos exhausts the battery wonderfully well. The iPhone’s battery is quite incapable of lasting out the morning, never mind the day, at this rate of usage.
Fortunately, I had acquired the solution before the problem had even occurred. When out and about, I carry a shoulder bag in which there are a few essential items such as an umbrella, a yellow duster for rescuing bees or wasps trapped behind bus or cafe windows and a backup battery for my phone, together with appropriate cables for its use.
The power bank, as manufacturers of these devices like to call them, is big and heavy. I bought it online and when it arrived, I regretted that I hadn’t bought the smaller version. Events, however, made me glad that I had it. For example, when I was unexpectedly hospitalized back in May, I used my iPhone connected to the powerbank for three days without exhausting it. It takes a day of blogging and photography with the phone in its stride.
It is an Anker PowerCore 20100, rated at 20,000 mAh. Here is a picture of it with a 50p coin to give an idea of its size (16.8 X 6.0 X 2.0 cm). Amazon UK is currently selling it for £25.99.
The only disadvantage of using a power bank is that if you take power out, you of course have to put power back in and the more you take out, the longer it takes to recharge. The Anker, however, lasts me all day and can be charged overnight.
When out and about, I have my iPhone on a neck loop and the power bank in my hand bag. When the iPhone’s battery shows signs of exhgaustion I connect it to the power bank with a cable and carry on regardless. Don’t the neck loop, the cable and the straps of my hand bag and shoulder bag get into a tangle? Yes, they do! But this is nothing that a bit of swearing and untangling cannot sort out!
These days, too, one finds recharging points here and there. Typically you will find them in coffee shops, on trains and even on some buses. There are two sorts of public rechargers. Firstly, there are those which provide electric power points taking a three-pin plug and, secondly, those offering a USB socket into which you can plug your recharger cable directly.
The latter pose a small but non-zero risk. It is just possible that the socket is rigged to read data from your phone. That is why we bought a data blocker each. This is a 4.5 cm dongle with a USB input socket at one end and an output socket at the other. You simply plug it on the end of your usual recharging cable. This disconects the data line from the power source preventing the latter from reading your data or inserting a virus onto your device.
The ones we have are PortaPow Data Block + Smart Charge (£4.49 from Amazon UK). They have the side-effect of speeding up recharging so we use them even when connecting to an electric power point.