From a slow start a few years ago, small external battery packs aka juice boxes have proliferated and beefed up as more and more Americans, particularly small business people, depend on mobile devices that use up their overtaxed internal batteries at inconvenient times.
Sure, there are bars or some other symbols in a corner somewhere to indicate remaining battery life but are they dependable?
One of the sources for extending the operational life of those mobile devices, and giving you accurate assessments of remaining battery life, is Powerocks.
Carrie Adams is director of marketing for Offwire, the exclusive U.S. distributor of the 10-year-old Powerocks brand. She had just returned from the massive national Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas when Corp! caught up with her. The theme of the show was wearables, Adams said, and while Powerocks external power sources aren’t exactly wearable, most of them could fit easily in a pocket, purse or in a 12-year-old’s backpack, where her daughter keeps hers.
The Chinese company that makes Powerocks invested some $30 million last year in R&D in an ongoing effort to maintain safety standards as well as develop new products, according to Adams. Thanks in part to that kind of investment the batteries’ failure rate is less than 1 percent. Their performance, as well as their safety record, led to Powerocks being approved by Apple in 2003 not only as a vendor but at the laboratory level that’s huge exclaims Adams.
The newest Powerocks offering, unveiled at CES, is a candy-colored tube about the size of a lipstick, says Adams. An industry publication then named Powerocks one of the top 20 Apple-centric products at the show, though Powerocks are not limited to the Apple universe.
The new product not only provides replacement power but has a built-in LED flashlight. That’s the result of feedback from customers, says Adams. They were confused about an earlier version that had an LED to indicate charge level and suggested instead that a more powerful version could actually be useful as a flashlight.
Power and lifestyle
Customers are also continually asking for more capacity, more milliamps, explains Adams. Asked for a layperson’s explanation of milliamps, Adams gives it a shot. In your standard devices, such as a smartphone, you have a battery that will give you, say, 1,700 milliamps to start with. According to online technology publication CNET, those 1,700 milliamps will get you anywhere from 3 to 19 hours of talk-time on a mobile phone. Adams says that one of her Powerocks will give an average iPhone two full additional charges before the charger itself will need recharging.
|The Powerocks Magicstick comes in a variety of colors and can recharge your phone twice before it needs recharging.
Other devices, Adams continues, have different milliamps needs. The average e-reader, for example, is about 3,200 milliamps, so that same Powerocks model will give it almost a full charge. And get you up to an additional couple months of reading enjoyment. It’s important to understand your device’s charging needs so that you’re not disappointed, Adams cautions. She relates that her mother plugged her Powerocks Magic Stick model into her laptop. âIt’s not working! It’s charging so slow!’ my mother exclaimed. I told her âthat’s because your laptop is vastly going to outweigh what this Magic Stick will do for you.’
Determining what your external power sources need to be, says Adams, is having a conversation about where you’re going, what your lifestyle is, what kinds of devices you have. She keeps a 12,000 milliamp Magic Cube with her when she travels. It has two ports on it so I can charge my phone and my Kindle at the same time, and have plenty of juice left if I need to charge my tablet.
As small business people in particular rely more and more on mobile technology, having backup power available is critical. Adams’ sister, for example, works for a small company and is in the field all day. She uses an iPhone as a GPS system to travel to where her clients are. If she didn’t have portable power she would struggle, because she has these devices that she is literally operating her business off of. Having portable power is not just convenient, but it allows you to make decisions where [having to stop somewhere to recharge those devices] is no longer a factor.
Adams then relates a story about the availability of portable power carried way beyond traditional boundaries. A friend, who’s an outdoor photographer, took some of our products with him to New Zeeland on an extreme landscape photography shoot. He was able to go further into the field than he’s ever gone before because we were keeping his phone and his camera equipment charged up for him.
Safety is important
There are two basic chemical approaches to portable power. Lithium-ion is one version. The other is called lithium-polymer. The difference is in the stability of the two technologies, of the electrolyte inside. I promise I won’t get too weird and technical about it. They both provide power quickly and in a small space, but it’s how you package that power and the safety controls you have inside the package. Our lithium-ion products have six layers of inner protection, a significant advance over the initial versions. When power is being exchanged between the external source and a gadget one of the byproducts is heat. We have a chip inside that will slow down the charging process if it starts to become warm. Not all of the technologies out there have those safety standards. There’s no way I would let my 12-year-old daughter carry something in her backpack or pocket that I wasn’t confident was safe.
|Using several Powerocks products, professional photographer James Appleton was able to go farther into the New Zeeland countryside to capture spectacular images such as this.
Adams explains that there are lower-priced alternative power sources on the market but that consumers need to be mindful of safety issues, actual power deliverability and, unexpectedly, the efficiency with which power is transferred from one device to another. Often, with bargain external power sources, you don’t get as much bang for your buck as with Powerocks and similar, more expensive products.
If you’re somewhat obsessive about the power remaining in your various devices, there’s an app for that. The Smart app gives you more data than you know what to do with, Adams laughs. It has predictive capability, where it starts to learn your usage and can give you a head’s up âabout 4 o’clock you’re going to need to start charging your phone.’ Depending on whether you’re as geeked about technology as I am or just forget to charge your phone like my daughter or grandmother it can be a great benefit either way.
Tailored to the market
Many of the Powerocks products come in an array of vibrant colors candy-apple red, sky blue and purple in addition to more conservative silver and black. Asked if her customers prefer the more colorful varieties, Adams says, That was such a huge thing! We had so much feedback! We did a study on the most popular colors by state and by product. We really did this! Purple was the most popular color overall, but it depends on the state. In my state of Nebraska our football team is the Cornhuskers and their color is red so that color is huge for our users here.
Adams then tells the story of visiting a retail customer on Long Island. I was in an Ace Hardware store and expected the owner to want to carry black and silver and he says he has to carry purple because their local football team wears purple. The company is a sponsor of the New York Islanders hockey team, so they sell a lot of blue and silver products in their market area and then Powerocks carries it a step further. When they get a new player we engrave his name and number and the Islanders’ logo on a Magic Stick and the players love them! she laughs.