Chargers and Batteries

By Will Sullivan on November 18, 2010 1 Comment Ideas

Mobile Journalism Reporting Tools Guide

The Basics
  Mophie Juice Pack Boost Mophie Juice Pack Air - iPhone 4 Case-mate Extender - iPhone 3G/S Griffin Reserve Battery
Cost $59.95 $79.95 $24.99 $59.99
Size 2.03 x 3.70 x 0.63" 5.07 x 2.51 x 0.68" 2.6 x 2.64 x 5" 1.81 x 1.61 x 0.59"
Weight 16 oz. 2.5 oz. 2.1 oz. 6.72 oz.
Power Source USB USB USB USB
Battery Capacity (mAh) 1,500 1,500 850 500
Mobile Platforms Supported iPod and iPhone iPhone 4 iPhone 3G/S iPhone 3G/S and less, iPod
Recommended? Recommended Highly Recommended Recommended Not Recommended
Where to buy
Manufacturer Mophie Mophie Case-Mate Griffin
The Basics
  Freeloader Solar Charger Juice Bar Solar Charger Solio Solar Charger
Cost $49.99 $49.99 $99.95
Size 4.84" x 2.44" x 0.68" 0.5" x 3.75" x 1.6" 4.7" x 1.3" x 2.5"
Weight 6.53 oz. 2.5 oz. 5.57 oz.
Power Source USB, Solar USB, DC USB, Solar, DC
Battery Capacity (mAh) 1,000 mAh, 120 mAh crystalline solar cells 1,500 mAh, 80 mAh multi-crystalline solar panel 1,650 mAh
Mobile Platforms Supported Mobile PhonesDigital Cameras,PDAsiPodsSony PSPs Mobile Phones, Nintendo DSs, Sony PSPs iPhone, Blackberry, iPods, GPSs, Digital Cameras
Recommended? Highly Recommended Recommended Recommended
Where to buy
Manufacturer Solar Technology International Juicebar Solio

Mophie Juice Pack Air and Mophie Juice Pack Boost

Review by: Amanda Heisey

The Mophie Juice Pack Air keeps your phone going
The Mophie Juice Pack Air keeps your phone going for a pretty extreme amount of time while in use. We definitely like.

Mophie Juice Pack Air

I think this is the best battery to use when you're on the go. All of the external charges need to be plugged in so they can charge, so that's something you need to do before taking it to report. But this particular tool saved me when we went to cover an event once. Let's say you completely forgot to charge your phone and now you need to go out and report. Or you have been using your phone all day and then a breaking news story erupts but your phone might die at any moment. This tool comes to the rescue.

The Juice Pack Air is light and fits right onto the phone. It's not distracting or annoying to try and store.

The Juice Pack Boost is efficient, but awkward to hold.
The Juice Pack Boost is efficient, but awkward to hold. Try using this while idle so you don't have to worry about it detaching.

It basically just feels like you have a case on your phone, but it's really a battery. Certain external batteries get in the way when you're trying to use the phone to capture audio and video, but this one does a good job of being mobile. It's secure and you don't need to baby it or hold the phone a certain way. Just leave it on your iPhone until it's charged, or keep it on until you're done with your assignment. It can really be a lifesaver.

The Boost is something you'd use if you didn't bring your charger. It's not really a mobile battery, it's something you'd plug into your phone and leave in until it's ready to go. It's just another option. It's useful if you don't need to actually do any work right away. They both charge the iPhone within a couple of hours. If you leave the Air on, it doesn't really matter how long it takes to charge because you can use the phone while it's doing its job.

Casemate Extender

Review by: Andrew Dumas

The Case-mate Extender
The Case-mate Extender is an average external battery,but affords phone protection and enough charge to make it worth your while

The Case-mate Extender is right about in the middle of the pack as far as our recommendations go. The version we have was made for the iPhone 3G or iPhone 3GS, so I can’t speak to whether the Extender for the iPhone 4 works better. I'm not saying that it was a waste of money, but it could have performed better.

The Case-mate Extender charges via USB cord and USB cord only, which makes me automatically knock it down a few pegs. I prefer to have multiple ways to charge. That being said, it only takes about an hour to and hour and a half to fully charge this battery. Once that's done, fitting it to your iPhone is fairly simple. It's a snug fit, though, so make sure you line up all the grooves correctly.

After it's on, it doesn't begin immediately charging, which is a positive in my book. In fact, you can have your phone already in it while it charges up without it wasting battery keeping your phone alive. Because it's a pretty sturdy case, this means that you can use it as a protective device for your phone when your phone doesn't need charging.

However, once that battery goes into the red, just press the button on the back of the Extender until it begins to charge the iPhone. From there, it will keep charging (even if you are actively using your phone) for about two hours, at which point it will die. However, it does give you roughly 70% battery power back before it does that, so the tradeoff is pretty good.

As far as usability goes, two hours isn't great. The Mophie Juice Pack Air will give you more time and is also a case. However, if you're looking for a fairly inexpensive way to keep your phone protected and charged, you won't go wrong with the Case-mate. It's also pretty light and slim, which helps keep your phone comfortable.

Griffin Reserve Battery

Review by: Andrew Dumas

The Griffin Reserve Battery looks great, but performs quite below average
The Griffin Reserve Battery looks great, but performs quite below average

When I was in high school playing football, and there was an athlete who looked like an all American but couldn't really play ball, my coaches had a saying. "Looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane". Griffin reserve battery? You look like Tarzan, but you absolutely play like Jane.

The exterior is sleek. Its high gloss black and all the lines fit together. Even when it's in the charging dock, it fits so it looks like one solid piece. It connects to either of its chargers via magnets, making it seem that much cooler. Needless to say, I was psyched when I had it all charged up (you can tell by pushing the button on the top, and seeing how many lights light up). I let my battery drain to 10%, plugged in the Griffin, and then let it sit. It charged for nearly exactly 1 hour, while sitting idle, before it ran out of power. When I checked to see how much battery I now had, I was shocked to find that I had slightly less than 25%.

The Griffin Reserve Battery is just what the name says, a reserve. As I discovered, it will not be filling up your battery any time soon. It's enough to keep you going for about half and hour more than you would have, and that's it.

That's not to say it's without its positives. It charges through a all outlet or in your car through the AC converter in your cigarette lighter. Ostensibly, you could head out on assignment using the reserve to keep your battery full, put the battery in the charger and go report, and then use the Reserve to keep you going on your way back. But honestly, for the money, I think there are better options out there.

Freeloader Solar Charger

Review by: Andrew Dumas

The Freeloader was an awesome external battery, and performed quite well.
The Freeloader was an awesome external battery, and performed quite well.

The Freeloader Solar Charger is a pretty cool external battery charger. It doesn't look like much, but it definitely gets you what you're looking for, which is a ton of battery. It's not really on the scale of the Casemate or the Mophie Air, but it does power your phone up quite a bit.

A drawback of the Freeloader is that it takes quite a while to charge. It took three or four hours for mine to get to maximum charge, and that was using the USB power cord. Using the solar panels takes even longer. But once it was charged, it boosted my power total from 10% battery to nearly full in about an hour and a half. And it still had some power left in it to give to me.

Using the solar panels, you can't make more power than you spend as you use it, even on the shiniest day (and it better be bright, or you won't get anything out of it). Still, it slows down my power loss as I used my iPhone, so it definitely has an impact on your usage. The battery itself, once charged, is good enough for me to recommend, but adding the solar panels to cut back on how quickly you use battery as well as power back up in the field makes me consider the Freeloader a must have for most journalists toolbags. The fact that it has an adaptor that fits nearly any dock, be it a mobile phone, digital camera or other portable handheld device only sweetens the deal.

The only real drawback to the Freeloader is the fact that it can only be charged by solar power or USB connection, no car charger or wall plug. Still, if you're using the external battery, chances are you have a computer nearby, and it will charge even if your laptop is shut, so keeping it powered up isn't typically too much of an issue.

If you can, order one of these, or borrow it from a friend and don't give it back, because it's a worthwhile investment and you'll find ways to use it.

Juicebar Solar Charger

Review by: Andrew Dumas

This solar charger is powerful, but not convenient while conducting interviews.
This solar charger is powerful, but not convenient for using while conducting interviews.

The Juice Bar Solar Charger holds a ton of power, holds it for a long time, and gives it out quickly. However, for all the good that it does, there are some negatives that go along with this particular charger that make me wary to suggest it to anyone.

Like several other external batteries we've tested, the Juice Bar charges via USB cord. It's not a quick charge, but it's not entirely too slow. Just don't expect to have a full battery in an hour or two. You'll need probably 4 hours of solid charging to get every bit out of this thing, which can be a long time to drain your computer, if that's what you're connecting to for charging purposes. It also has a solar panel on the top of the device. Like every other solar charger, it's slow. However, it's another way to charge, and it does make the power you put into your mobile device last longer, if you're using your phone in sunlight.

Once it's fully charged, however, the battery will keep filling up your phone for well over two hours of use. When I used it, my phone sat idle for only a few minutes, and it still took my iPhone from 20% battery to full.

Now we get into the drawbacks. Like many other devices we've tested, this is an external battery that has to be toted along with the mobile device. It's attached via cable, giving you a little more leeway, but your phone is still tethered to the Juice Bar. Luckily, it's slim and lightweight, otherwise this would be a serious issue. However, this isn't my biggest problem with the Juice Bar. This battery, when it's being used, gets hot. I'm not talking like, put it in your gloves in the winter to keep your hands warm hot, I'm talking painful to keep your skin on it hot. Which means you've got to be careful where you put it while using it. You can't leave it on something vulnerable to heat, and you definitely don't want to have it in your pocket where you might accidentally put your hand only to get a little bit of a shock. Trust me on that one.

In all, this battery isn't bad. If you can figure out a way to insulate the battery so you don't burn yourself and also a way to charge while still being able to effectively use your phone (because of the connection), then this battery is great. Having a solar panel to accentuate your charging capabilities and expand the category of areas where you can use this device is also a bonus. But I feel like there are better choices for you to purchase.

Solio Solar Charger

Review by: Jennifer Elston

The Solio not only looks sexy, but performs like a beast.
The Solio not only looks sexy, but performs like a beast. As a hybrid, this charger does everything, and does it well.

As far as hybrid chargers goes, this is probably my favorite - for several reasons. First of all, it comes with a bunch of adapter plugs and pins so that you can charge virtually any mobile device. According to their website, it is compatible with over 3,200+ devices. They are constantly cranking out new pieces, so if you cannot find the one you need, simply email them. Not only do you get a handful of adapting plus for the mobile device end of the cord, but you also get several pieces to suit almost any wall unit. You can charge the device through a wall socket or through a computer via a USB port. While researching this device, I came across a bold statement - that this charger will hold its charge for up to one year. This could be extremely handy for unexpected situations. Just charge it up and leave it in your backpack or car for emergencies, or use it year-round.

Another reason I love this hybrid is that there are three large panels for a lot of light energy intake. This is a very nice feature because charging this device only with solar energy can take a long time and most devices have smaller panels or maybe only one panel. According to the introductory booklet that comes with the device, it can take up to 48 hours to charge the device if it is cloudy or you are not in direct sunlight. This eco-friendly option may be time consuming, but if you can afford to wait, or you are on vacation (or simply just can't find a plug), this is a perfect solution. When you are done with it, just slide the three arms up. It is compact, which is perfect for a backpack journalist carrying many devices with them.

No votes yet


Sexist analogy is inappropriate

I appreciate your equipment reviews and find them quite useful. However, the "looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane" analogy is offensive and sexist; it seriously detracts from your article. I'd love to see a rewrite deleting this language.

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