How many times have you been out and about, and you go to make a phone call, and your battery dies? Even if it is once, I bet you remember it. That’s because, in today’s life, we need our phones more than almost anything else we own. We have had it happen to us more than once, and it prompted us to write an article about portable phone chargers.
Portable phone chargers, power banks, power packs, whatever you want to call them, can be a literal lifesaver if the situation requires it. So much so, that I have one whenever I go out hiking, walking, or just long journies in the car. They are relatively small and compact ways of charging your phone when the time requires. Although there are not many different aspects that you need to look for in a mobile phone charger, there are still some key features.
In this article, we will look at those features and see if we can help you decide which portable phone charger is best for you.
- 1 Portable Phone Chargers
- 2 Phone Batteries
- 3 Battery Output Terms
- 4 Low-Capacity Portable Phone Chargers
- 5 Low-Capacity Replaceable Battery Chargers
- 6 Non-Replaceable Batteries
- 7 Single-Use Portable Phone Chargers
- 8 Rechargeable Portable Phone Chargers
- 9 Medium-Capacity Portable Chargers
- 10 High-Capacity Portable Phone Chargers
- 11 Portable Phone Chargers Features
- 12 Multiple Charging Ports
- 13 Battery Display
- 14 Torches
- 15 Solar Panel Charging
- 16 Wireless Charging
- 17 12v “cigarette output”
- 18 Waterproof
- 19 Handwarmers
- 20 Car jump starter
- 21 Portable Phone Charger Power Claims
- 22 Conclusion
Portable Phone Chargers
There are three main types of portable phone chargers, they are:
While there are many types of chargers on the market, they often only differ in size, style, and added features. Before we look at the specifics of style and features, we will look at the size. In this case, bigger size often relates to capacity too.
Depending on the situation that you are going to be in and need a charger, it will determine which type of charger pack that you require.
I think that a lot of the sites I have seen neglect the fact that we are talking about charging phones. I don’t mean that they say these are only good for other things, but I mean that they do not look at phone batteries first. Therefore, let’s have a look at what sort of batteries you are likely to have on your phone.
Of course, I can not list every phone and battery, because that will take up too much time. But, what I will do is give you an idea of the highest and lowest end, popular phones and tell you their battery capacity first:
- iPhone 11 – 3,110 mAh – 17 hours Talktime
- iPhone 7 – 1,960 mAh – 14 hours Talktime
- Galaxy Note 10+ 5G – 4,300 mAh – 35 hours Talktime
- Galaxy A80 – 3,700 mAh – 19 hours Talktime
- Huawei Mate 20X 5G – 4,200 mAh – 24.6 hours Talktime
- Huawei Y6 2019 – 3,020 mAh – 35 hours Talktime
As you can see, there is quite a differing amount of battery size and life, depending on which phone you have. Knowing the battery for the phone you have will help you decide which charger is best for you. Therefore, ensure that you find that out first. A simple Google search of: “phone model battery specs” should be sufficient to find out if you don’t know it already.
Battery Output Terms
No matter which battery pack you choose after this article, there are three terms that you will need to understand:
- mAh. – mAh stands for milliamps per hour. mAh is a term often used to provide you with information about how long a battery will last between full charges. However, with phones themselves, that number will not always be an accurate description. As you can see between the two Huawei phones, the Y6 2019 has a lower mAh battery, but a longer talk time. That is because there are different processes used. In a battery pack, the numbers will show how long the battery will charge a turned-off phone. The longer it charges for, the more charged your phone will be.
- Output V. – The output voltage has become a standard 5v since the mainstream introduction of USB 2.0 chargers in April 2000.
- mA. – mA is milliamps. The higher the number, the faster the battery will charge the device to the mAh rating. You may notice on some plugs that you charge your phone from; there is an mA rating. The higher that number, the faster your phone will charge. Likewise, the higher the number on a battery pack, the quicker it will charge.
The two main numbers that you need to look at are the mAh for how much charge you will get, and the mA to show how fast it will get it there.
Low-Capacity Portable Phone Chargers
Low capacity phone chargers are small in size, lightweight, and great for keeping with you all of the time. However, size and weight both compromise the battery charge ability. A low capacity charger is usually less than 5,000 mAh. Although you may think that is quite a lot, you have to factor in that companies will often claim a battery is a capacity that it is not. We will look at that at the end, though.
Low-Capacity Replaceable Battery Chargers
The smallest and most compact type of low capacity charger is a relatively close tie between the next two chargers:
- Single 18650 battery charger. 400 –
- Dual AA LR6 battery charger.
The reason for the tie is because a single 18650 battery has a capacity rating of around 2,200 – 2,600 mAh while a single LR6 battery can range between the following:
- Zinc-Carbon – 400 – 900 mAh
- Zinc-Chloride – 1,000 – 1,500 mAh
- Rechargeable NiCd – 500 – 1,000 mAh
- Rechargeable NiMH – 1,300 – 2,900 mAh
- Alkaline – 1,700 – 3,000 mAh
- Lithium FeS2 – 3,000+ mAh
Therefore, a single 18650 battery has a higher capacity than two zinc-carbon LR6 batteries, but less than one Lithium FeS2 LR6. Therefore, if you were to use a dual AA battery phone charger with two of the Lithium FeS2 batteries, it could well be classed as a medium-capacity charger. On the other hand, if you use two low-end zinc-carbon LR6 batteries, it will be almost useless as a phone charger. However, it will be enough to make a phone turn on and make a phone call in an emergency.
- Easy to carry
- You can replace the batteries. I have included this as a pro because it is often much cheaper to buy a few AA batteries if you are out than it is to buy a new battery pack.
- Unlikely to fully charge a phone.
- Unable to recharge. Unless you have a separate battery charger.
- Will have weak points in the design. Such as hinges or doors for battery replacement.
It is not only replaceable battery chargers that you can buy. There are two types of non-replaceable battery chargers. They are:
Single-Use Portable Phone Chargers
There are options such as a single-use charger that you dispose of after use. They come pre-charged and are useful for one charge only. However, do not expect these to charge any battery at all fully. They are helpful to have in an emergency in a survival pack, but as you can not recharge them, they will not be much use after that. You are only likely to find around 1500mAh at 380 mA.
- Small. Easy to keep in handbags, rucksacks, etc.
- You may only manage one phonecall from it.
Rechargeable Portable Phone Chargers
Rechargeable battery packs are much more common, and in my opinion, much better value for money. You only have to buy three single-use chargers to spend the same money as a rechargeable battery will cost.
The smallest rechargeable battery pack that I have found without a removable battery is a 2000mAh keychain pack. Therefore, keychain chargers are relatively small and compact, meaning that you can take them anywhere that you go. However, even with a full charge, you are unlikely to charge even the smallest of phone batteries with it entirely, even with the device turned off.
When you start to get into the realms of 5000 mAh battery packs, you will see that they are getting larger, but still not cumbersome.
- Unlikely to get a full charge.
Medium-Capacity Portable Chargers
Medium-capacity portable phone chargers are any capacity between 5,000 mAh and 10,000 mAh.
I have seen many of these on the market, and they are becoming the most popular choice. That is because they claim to be capable of charging your phone from flat to full at least once, and possibly twice while still being quite compact.
It is in this range that you will begin to see some of them with multiple charging ports and some of the extra features that we will talk about later on in the article. They have more capabilities of charging; thus, they will be able to charge your phone to use them while plugged in. However, phones still consume a lot of power, so I would not expect them to charge your phone while using it actively. It will become more of an external battery for your device.
Again, as with the low-capacity charger banks, you can buy them with replaceable or integrated batteries. As I have said above, even a charger that has two LR6 batteries could be considered a medium-capacity portable phone charger. However, you can buy chargers with the capacity for anything from 1 to 10 or more 18650 batteries. They are highly useful if you already use those batteries a lot.
You will also start to see multiple charging ports in the medium-capacity battery packs too.
- Still quite small at the lower end of capacity.
- You will probably get a full charge.
- Pretty lightweight.
- Rechargeable (Even if you have to take out the 18650s and charge them if you opt for this style).
- Multiple ports become available.
- Extra features make an appearance.
- The packs are getting more substantial at this point
- Heavier than the smaller packs
High-Capacity Portable Phone Chargers
A high capacity portable phone charger is anything with a capacity of 10,000 mAh or more. The highest I have ever seen for a battery pack is 72,000 mAh. That is a tremendous amount of power. However, the size of the battery pack is also pretty big. When you are looking at the high capacity battery packs, you can buy a pretty small in size 10,000 mAh battery or a huge one, and anything in between.
High-capacity battery packs are great solutions for if you think that you will be without power for any extended amounts of time. For example, if you are camping with no other power source, or you would like to share the power with other people in your group. Statistically, even a 10,000 mAh battery, which is the lowest end of a high-capacity pack, will charge any phones in the list at the top of this article, more than once.
As they often come with two or more charging ports, you will be able to charge two devices at the same time. One thing to remember here, though, is that the output mA may lower if you have two devices charging at once. Also, high-capacity is undoubtedly where the additional extras come into their own.
- You are sure to get a full charge, possibly more.
- Multiple devices can get charged.
- A lot more extra features.
- Big and bulky.
Portable Phone Chargers Features
As you have seen throughout this article, I have mentioned that various portable phone chargers come with different features. In this section, we will look at some of those features in a little detail. However, as technology is progressing at a swift pace, there may be more on the market when you read this article.
- Multiple Charging ports
- LED battery display
- Solar panel charging
- Wireless charging
- Suction cups
- 12v “cigarette output”
- Car jump starter
We will look at those features in a little more detail.
Multiple Charging Ports
After you move away from the smallest portable phone chargers, you are going to see the inclusion of numerous USB charging ports. They will all provide 5V, as we have already said. However, the mA may change if you use them all. For example, you may have 2 x 2.4A outputs. If you use either of those ports alone, you will receive 2.4A. However, if you plug two devices at the same time, they both may only charge at 1.8A or less.
That is something you will need to look at for the specific charger pack you want to buy if you plan to charge more than one device at a time.
LED battery displays are widespread on all of the portable phone chargers that you may come across. However, some of them are more accurate than others. Others will have an LCD to show the percentage, and they are often a lot more reliable. You are best to test your charger to see how accurate they are.
Even some of the smallest portable phone chargers will have small white LED flashlights. Some of the larger packs will have work light standard torches, though.
Solar Panel Charging
Solar panels on portable phone chargers are becoming more and more common, and they are ideal for people who spend a lot of time outdoors. They are usually only able to convert 15 to 22% of the light that they receive into useable energy. However, some will produce much less. If you buy a cheap charger, you may find that you need it in direct sunlight for a long time before complete charging.
As more and more phones are using wireless technology to charge, we see more portable phone chargers that offer that as a charging method. I find that it would be useful for specific packs to hold a phone and a charger next to each other. Some of them offer suction cups on the charging side so that you do not have to worry about them staying together.
12v “cigarette output”
Some of the biggest chargers like the 72,000 mAh one I mentioned earlier in the article will even provide you with a cigarette lighter style output. They are great for inflating bike and car tires if you have an electric pump.
If you use your portable phone charger in places such as boats, you may want to consider a waterproof version. However, be aware that they are only waterproof if they have all of the covers closed.
Yes, I have even seen battery packs with hand warmers included. One thing that you will undoubtedly have to consider with these is the amount of charge you will get while using it to warm your hands. Heating elements take a lot of power, and even the packs that offer 12 hours of hand warming will not be able to charge a phone at the same time effectively.
Car jump starter
Some of the larger battery packs will even come with specific car jump starter adapters and outputs. These are usually much larger than you would like to carry with you in your bag, but having them in your car could undoubtedly be a huge advantage. When you look at these types of portable phone chargers, you will see that the majority of them also have different outputs to enable charging of laptops, 12v fridges, and many other items with the array of adaptors provided with it.
Portable Phone Charger Power Claims
One of the biggest bugbears that I have with all of the chargers that you will see is the output claims that they have. It is also something that you need to look at very carefully before buying one. As a general rule of thumb, I try to take the claimed output in mAh and rate it myself at about 75% of that value. Doing that will stop me from being too disappointed in any of them that I buy. However, it is always best to do a test run as soon as you get a charger so that you can return it in the refund period if you are not happy.
There are many portable phone chargers available on the market, with a lot of added features. I hope that this guide has given you some insight into picking the right one for you. A few of the critical points you need to think about before buying one are:
- What are you using it for? Is it a charger in case of an emergency?
- One time use or multiple uses.
- What will you want to charge or power with it?
- Where you will store it when traveling, size, and weight both play a part here.
- When you will use it, do you need it waterproof, rugged, with a torch for dark locations, etc.?
Try to write down a list of things that you need before buying one. Also, as I said earlier in the article, find out the battery capacity of your device, and see how many charges you will get out of the specific charger, taking into account the percentage loss.