Extended smartphone batteries: A love (or love-hate) story

They are ugly. They change the look and feel of your slick cool smartphone. But when extended batteries give you hours more of performance, you learn to love them.

They are ugly. They change the look and feel of your slick cool smartphone. But when extended batteries give you hours more of performance, you learn to love them.

We do love our smartphones these days: so powerful, so pretty, so sleek. If only the batteries would last longer . . .

Because we want our phones to be pretty, manufacturers accommodate us by giving us the tech equivalent of a Fashion Week model. To give us the battery life we really want, we would be using less sleek or, dare we say, chubby phones.  Oh, the horror.

Get over it.

If you want the greatest use from your cell phone, look into replacement batteries, battery packs, and battery cases that extend your phone’s usefulness.  Some battery upgrades are invisible; some add bulk. Investigate the options available to you.  You may not be fond of searching for techno stuff, but when it comes to batteries you’ll be glad you did.

The one tech note you do have to learn is how to measure a battery’s capacity to provide power over time.  In battery-speak, it’s called "mAh," or milliamperes per hour. While there is no absolute measurement of how long your battery will last in operation, the bigger the battery’s mAh capacity, the greater potential exists for you to extend your mobile power before recharging.

Nothing is perfect in the tech world, however.

Here’s an example. My Motorola Droid X phone comes with a standard 1500 mAh-rated battery which allegedly provides users with more than 7 hours of continuous use, according to one tester.  Amazon.com sells this Motorola-branded battery for $5.95.

In practical use, I've never gotten even close to that usage. so I’ve continuously scouted for extended batteries that fit nicely in the same battery compartment without changing my phone’s shape.  So I was overjoyed to find a Motorola replacement battery with a 1800 mAh rating for only $29.98: a bit more power, but every mAh counts.

Then I found the really good news: a third-party battery 2900 mAh for only $16.95: nearly double the original battery’s capacity. 

I bought it and tried it.  It gave my phone a middle-age paunch: no longer quite so pretty, but at least it promised to deliver more power because of that magical mAh specification.

The sad truth is that the humpback battery didn’t work. It faded faster than the first replacement battery, which I’m now using again. At least I tried.

Don't be discouraged: There are extended power solutions for virtually every type of phone. Keep in mind what you gain, and lose, by exploring these choices.

First, determine if your phone has an easily replaceable battery.  As in my Android example, some may fit into your phone case without substantially changing the phone’s appearance; some will not.

If you own an iPhone, any extended power has to come from a slip-on case or similar solution.  The Mophie line of chargers is both a protective case and a rechargeable external battery: a slim addition that adds little bulk to your phone. It's a 1500 mAh battery and sells for $79.95.

If it’s long battery life you crave above looks, however, the FastMac TruePower IV is the iPhone battery of choice for you. It offers a 3100 mAh recharger for your needs as well as a USB outlet that charges an additional low-power device like a BlueTooth headset at the same time. The pack is definitely not pretty, but it could triple your iPhone time. Fastmac is also coming out with a Mophie-like case but it only offers 1400 mAh.

Another power-up category includes separate battery chargers that provide you with backup power when you need it, but are separate units to carry.  Most are lightweight, but require both a unit and a USB cable specific to your phone. Examples of this genre include Mophie’s $99.95 3600 mAh JuicePac Powerstation; Kensington’s 1.7 oz. 1200 mAh Pocket Battery for Smartphones; and the super-powerful 7200 mAh Socket Mobile Power Pack  that sells for as little as $76.78.

There are also short-fix chargers from Duracell such as the Energizer.

And don’t forget about a car charger.  But I’m sure you’ve already thought of that.


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