Quick Review of Various iPhone External Batteries

I love my iPhone, but it can really suck down battery juice with heavy use. Most of the time I’m close enough to a computer during the day for me to use a USB cable to keep the battery topped off. But I decided to get a few external batteries for those other times.

The first battery was this one that cost under $10 shipped from a US seller on Ebay.  This looks very similar to a Kensington battery that retails for about $30 from a brick and mortar store.

Here are the specs on this first battery:

This essentially doubles the use time of the iPhone.  I was originally concerned that the phone would be unusable while using the battery, but I was pleasantly surprised that I could still text without too much trouble while the battery was plugged into the bottom. Another nice feature about this battery is that it is charged using the same USB cable for charging/syncing the phone. You can even have the battery plugged into the phone and the USB cable plugged into the battery at the same time, allowing both of them to charge simultaneously.  But while this is a great battery to carry around in your pocket, I didn’t think it would be suitable for keeping it plugged into the phone while running MapMyRide (or similar app which causes a heavy drain on the battery) while I was on the bike.

Another reason for wanting an external battery – and this is probably somewhat unique to me – is for multiday bicycle touring where access to electricity may not be available at the end of the day.  So battery number two has a built-in solar panel for charging.  This one was about $20 on Ebay, shipped from China.

Here are the specs on battery number two:

The quality on this one is a little shaky, but passable for the price and considering that I couldn’t find anything else like it.  In order to get all the shrink wrap plastic off the solar panel, I had to unscrew the two tiny screws to remove the metal case!  I don’t think this battery would stand up to daily use, but I think it should be good enough to hold up for my planned occasional use.  Another benefit to this battery is that there’s adapters for other phones, as well as an AC plug to charge the battery when you do have access to electricity.

Finally, the third battery of interest was the “Portable Power Station” for about $20 shipped from a Chinese seller on Ebay.

Here are its specs:

My interest in this battery was twofold. First, I had concerns that the first battery would render the phone unusable while charging, so I wanted to have this that “surrounded” the phone so that the battery wouldn’t fall off.  Also, I wanted a battery more suitable for using with MapMyRide while on the bike.

The seller had made an honest mistake and shipped me the wrong battery. In the meantime, I had figured out that (1) the first battery turned out to be much better than expected, and (2) the third battery wouldn’t be as useful as I thought because the available iPhone bike mounts only accommodate a bare phone.  (I suppose I could have used the third battery in my bike jersey pocket or on a bag on the bike, but if I were going to do that, I would be able to one of the other two batteries in the same manner.)  Furthermore, I’d have to remove the iPhone from its case every time I wanted to use the battery. Therefore, I ended up getting a refund rather than getting this battery and having a chance to try it out.

To sum up, something like the first battery (which has been also called a “Portable Power Station” by some Ebay sellers) would likely be sufficient for most users – although for some people it may be inconvenient if the goal is to charge the phone while its in your pocket.  So far, compared to the $30 version that friends have bought from retail stores, I’ve found no downside to the $10 version I ordered on Ebay.  I wouldn’t be surprised if they were the same battery on the inside!