East End Tech: Power to the People Goes Mobile

Since the dawn of time, humans have been engaged in an ages-old quest for energy and power. For the cavemen, it was all about fire—rubbing two sticks together so they could cook a decent stew of worms and twigs. Then, the monolith appeared in 2001: A Space Odyssey, and the quest became more determined than ever.

We needed electricity, man.

Flash forward millions of years and the same issues prevail. With smartphones, laptops, game tablets, Google Glass and everything else, our primordial urges for power are stronger and more deeply rooted than ever.

Need proof? Just walk through an airport terminal. Take note of the sea of humanity, huddled around electrical outlets like a Russian bread line in the 1970s. Here are a few new gadgets to help you avoid becoming one of those hungry peasants.

The Battery: Anker Away
External batteries have been around for years. They come in all shapes and sizes and can be incredibly useful, especially when traveling with multiple family members and even more devices. Between different amps, port sizes, phone standards and other settings, finding the right battery can be complicated.

The Anker Astro3 (2nd generation) makes it easy. It’s compact and lightweight, about 4×3 inches in size. It contains three different USB plugs, which means you can charge multiple devices simultaneously, and quite rapidly too. Even better: I got six full charges from the Anker before it needed its own refresh. That’s an unusual combination of speed and stamina.

There are lots of other useful features. The Anker has one smart port; it detects which device you’re using and adjusts the power level and amps to optimal levels. In addition, the unit itself can charge overnight and holds power for days, if not weeks. It also has no power on/off switch. You just shake it to activate. This eliminates annoying situations where you accidentally leave the battery on and drain all the juice.

One quick caveat: This model is designed for the most recent iPhones, iPads, and Samsung Galaxies. If you have older devices, best to find another. But at $49 on Amazon, this external battery is a steal.

What About Wireless?
The Anker is a great unit, but what happens if you forget your power cord, or if you simply want to avoid the tangled morass of wires? There are lots of options out there, and the Duracell Powermat is one brand to look for. The 24-hour Power System is a nice basic model. It retails for $75, charges overnight, and sits on your desk or table or wherever you want it. To power your device, simply rest it on top of the mat and let wireless energy seep into the battery. Simple, right? Not exactly.

First, I’ve found that unless you place your device squarely onto the Powermat, you run the risk of a slow charge, or in losing the connection altogether. This defeats the entire purpose of going wireless.

Second, the Powermat is even more device-specific than other plug-in models. You need to purchase a version that’s specifically designated for your particular handset—so it lacks versatility if your kids like Samsung and you like Apple. There’s hope on the horizon. At CES, Duracell premiered a cute little dongle that plugs in to your device and enables it to read the Powermat—a universal converter, if you will.

Personally, I found it amusing that Duracell chose a Starbucks to announce the product. Can you imagine the scene: thirsty coffee lovers huddled around their Powermat, sipping lattes while our phones make nice conversation?

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