By Andrew Liszewski
It’s no secret that advancements in battery technology have not kept pace with advancements in gadgetry. Smartphones equipped with giant LCD displays that are capable of playing movies, surfing the web, GPS’ing your location, taking photos and even occasionally making calls are great and all, but they’ve made the ugly downside of poor battery life even more of an issue.
Now sure, it would be fantastic if companies like Duracell stumbled across some miraculous solution to the problem in their research labs, but for the moment external backup batteries like their Instant USB Charger are the next best thing. I had a chance to try it out, and you can read my full review after the jump.
The Duracell Instant USB Charger is essentially a rechargeable lithium-ion battery inside a pocket-friendly housing that allows you to connect and recharge a wide range of gadgets that are USB-charging friendly. According to the packaging the Instant Charger’s battery is rated at 1150mAh and there’s a chart listing the average additional run/talk times for various gadgets. For example, the iPod Classic will run for an additional 50 hours when connected to the Instant Charger, while the iPhone 3G will gain an extra 180 minutes of talk time, give or take. From my own testing I had no problem fully recharging an iPhone 3GS that was down to about 25% battery life, and doing so didn’t completely drain the Instant Charger either.
Included in the packaging is the Instant Charger itself as well as a USB to mini-USB cable which can be used to recharge the battery when connected to a PC, or used to recharge a device that features a mini-USB jack.
The best part of the Instant Charger is that it’s dead easy to use. The only button is a simple on/off switch that ensures the rechargeable battery doesn’t get depleted while it’s not in use. Otherwise it’s quite literally plug and play. And while it’s not visible in this photo, there’s an LED-powered light-up ring inside the half-circle ‘copper top’ on top of the charger that glows green while it’s on, or orange when the battery is dead.
On one end of the Instant Charger there’s a mini-USB jack used to charge its lithium-ion battery. Out of the box it did take a good couple of hours to completely charge it up, and the charge status is indicated with a small LED light that glows orange during charging, and green when the battery is full.
And on the other end is a standard USB connector where your device’s charging cable can be attached.
Of course if you ever forget which end is used for charging and which end is used for providing power to a gadget you can always flip the Instant Charger over where the underside is clearly labeled with the words IN and OUT and a couple of hard to misinterpret arrows.
As for its size, the Instant Charger is very compact, thin and most importantly, light. I would actually compare it to the more recent iPod Nanos when it comes to size (though thanks to a plastic housing it’s far lighter) but here you can see it sitting next to an iPhone. It’s very easy to stash in your pocket if you happened to need to recharge a device while walking around.
And while the included USB to mini-USB cable is handy for recharging many cellphones and other portable devices, we all know the iPhone and iPods use their own proprietary connector, so you’ll have to use the charging cable Apple provides. But since anyone with an iPhone probably already carries the charging cable with them at all times anyways (just in case) it’s not a big issue in my opinion. In fact the finger gets pointed at Apple here, not Duracell.
It’s really hard to find anything wrong with Duracell’s Instant USB Charger. It does exactly what it’s designed to do and it does it well. It’s small enough that it’s not a hassle to carry or use wherever you happen to be, and until batteries improve, it’s really the perfect solution for portable devices that don’t allow you to swap out the battery with a backup when it’s dead. And with a price tag of just $30, I would say it’s an absolute must-have accessory for any gadget bag.
+ Compact, light and easy to carry.
+ As easy to use as it gets.
+ Supports pretty much any device that can charge over USB.
- Just the fact that my cellphone requires me to carry a backup battery, just in case.
Duracell Instant USB Charger – $29.99
If you have any questions about the Duracell Instant USB Charger you’d like answered, please feel free to leave them in the comments, and I’ll try to respond to them as best I can.