Rating: ★★★★½

Pros:

  • Holds 2-2.5 iPhone 3GS charges
  • Convenient, light, includes flashlight

Cons:

  • Connectors are small and easy to lose

iPhone owners, specifically anyone without a brand new iPhone 4, have battery problems. It’s something that happens with older phones, and the iPhone is no exception. With a day’s worth of battery life and the iPhone rated for only 500 recharges, we’re looking for about one and two third years. Then again, the iPhone is on a two year contract…and even if we upgrade sooner, that day-long battery isn’t always a day long under heavy use.

What are iPhone owners to do?

There are several options: a battery case, which usually doubles the size and weight of your iPhone. Buy a new phone, which is costly and often especially so thanks to provider contracts. Carry two phones (which some already do, though mostly business people needing multiple carriers). Or just use your phone less and dial down the battery intensive functions.

Gomadic provides a simple solution that gets around all of the problems without making your phone a hulking behemoth. The High Capacity Rechargeable Battery is exactly as the unimaginative title sounds, a rechargeable battery that’s a separate device from whatever you’re using. In fact, it’s not specific for the iPhone, though the tested model includes a retractable USB cable with the Apple 30-pin connector.

The Gomadic offering is different from the other options for a few reasons. First, it isn’t just double the charge of your iPhone. I used it on and off for the past five months, and it’s proven to be a lifesaver when my iPhone failed to last even halfway through the day. (This is before iOS 4.0 released.) This battery holds around 2-2.5 full iPhone 3GS charges, which is pretty significant. Not only can you go a whole day without needing to recharge your iPhone, you can go several days without recharging this battery too.

Second, it isn’t specific for the iPhone or Apple devices. The USB port will charge any able device, including most of today’s USB-centric smartphones. While I haven’t tested the charge rate with different phones, they all work with the battery. Just be wary that it only comes with a spare iPhone connector cable – if you plan on using a different phone, get another cable to carry around, or purchase the battery with the correct connector. It also has a  powerful built-in LED light, so if you normally carry a flashlight around (in case of emergency or wild rave party), this battery can replace it. After using the flashlight for a significant amount of time, I found that it uses relatively little power compared to actual phone charging. It will also brighten any dark room, and will easily suffice as an everyday flashlight.

This particular model was actually sent to me for testing with the iPad, and it’s listed as a device capable of recharging the iPad. The Gomadic representative I spoke with said that while it can recharge the iPad, it can do so when the iPad is off. My testing found that it will charge the iPad when on, just at a slow crawl. In effect, the iPad runs off of the Gomadic battery instead of its own when connected. One test included streaming HD video with minimal battery life left, and over the course of an hour, with half a charge left, the Gomadic battery gave in while my iPad fell from 12% to 8% battery life. It didn’t charge my iPad, but the iPad wouldn’t have lasted 30 minutes without the battery.

Charging the Gomadic battery is a bit of a hassle. A separate connector included plugs into the battery, and the same retractable cable is meant to charge the battery via USB (USB to power adapter). This means not only will users have to carry around the separate battery and cable, but a small, easy-to-lose connector to charge the battery. Having the retractable cable use connectors is good because users can switch between different phone models (with additional connectors purchased), yet it turns into a recipe for lost baggage. Whether it’s looking for it in a bag pocket or losing it in the car, having tiny pieces for any device is a bad idea. A separate charging cable is also available, but that tacks on yet another cost and cable to carry around.

The Gomadic High Capacity Rechargeable Battery is a well built and well-designed battery, and I use it heartily and happily. I hate the tiny connectors, and have resigned myself to leaving it at home and just charging the battery at night, alongside my iPhone, though I’d much rather carry it with me for convenience’ sake. I don’t like to feel forced to recharge the battery nightly, in the event that my iPhone requires more than a single charge in the day, and for work I always have my laptop and/or my car around, both of which could recharge any device. At least with this battery, I get to keep my iPhone slim in my pocket, and charged wherever I go.



James Pikover

 
Spawned in the horrendous heat of a Los Angeles winter, James was born with an incessant need to press buttons. Whether it was the car radio, doorbells on Halloween or lights, James pushed, pressed and prodded every button. No elevator was left unscathed, no building intercom was left un-rung, and no person he’s known has been left un-annoyed.