It's inevitable at some point that your smartphone will run a little low on juice. Which strategy is best for keeping your power topped up?
Whether you buy a budget handset with a tiny battery or a pocket-dwarfing monster with multi-day battery life, it's likely that you'll find yourself at one time or another facing a "low battery" message.
There are a number of ways to deal with this problem, each with its own upside and downside. The reality is that there's no absolute "best" strategy for keeping your phone's power supply topped up. Here's the basics you need to know to pick the power strategy that works optimally for you.
Upside: The classic solution is a battery pack, and there are plenty to pick from. What you need to balance is cost, size and above all capacity. Smaller, cheaper battery packs may only provide a single recharge to a power-hungry device, but a bigger pack could charge multiple devices at once, which can be very handy.
Downside: You've still got to keep the battery pack charged for it to be useful, as well as keeping cables handy for whatever your device actually is. That can quickly lead to plenty of cable clutter.
Upside: A battery case combines a battery pack with a custom case that fits around your phone. Cases for iPhones are the most common, although some vendors have offered Samsung Galaxy cases as well. Because it's your case, it's providing protection as well as power, so you never accidentally leave it at home. For most cases, when you charge your phone you're also charging the battery in the case as well.
Downside: In order to keep bulk down, the battery capacity of most cases is typically low. Unlike regular cases, battery cases are quite large, often weighing nearly as much as the phones they're charging. They're also size-specific, so when you change phones, you'll most likely need a new battery case.
Upside: Charging without cables seems like magic the first time you try it. There are a couple of competing standards out there, but the Qi standard is the one you'll most likely find in smartphones on sale in Australia, which includes many Lumia models as well as Samsung's Galaxy S6. Being standards-based means that you only need to buy one charger for any Qi-compatible device.
Downside: There's a small amount of power loss with inductive charging. It's also a lot slower than charging via direct cable charging. It's handy to drop your phone onto an inductive charger, but if you don't place it just right, it won't charge at all.
Upside: You don't have to spend anything on a regular charger, because there's one in the phone box, along with the right cable. For some phones, it's even a rapid charger that can boost your phone's power quickly. You can also use higher capacity chargers to increase charging rates if you have other devices with a higher amperage.
Downside: You're going to need a power point to get any power, and, like using a battery pack, there's the prospect of a little cable tangle to deal with, amplified by having a pointy power pack sitting in your bag or pocket all day.
Charge via USB
Upside: Charging via USB only needs a computer with a USB port that has some power to offer, which means you can probably charge your phone at your desk with just the cable that came with your phone
Downside: It's a slow process, because in USB host mode, the power draw to a mobile device is typically low. If you're charging from a laptop not tethered to a power supply, you're also naturally limited to however much power it has left.
Upside: It's certainly very cheap, and the last resort if you've left every other power source at home. Some phones have specific low-power/limited feature modes — Sony, for example, refers to this as "Stamina" mode — that can significantly extend smartphone battery life at the expense of some features. If that doesn't suit, you can always dial back features such as GPS, Bluetooth or Wi-Fi to further expand your battery life for a limited period of time.
Downside: You're fighting a losing battle, because at some point you're going to have to plug your smartphone into some kind of power supply, even if it's a rather ad-hoc one.
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