History may well name the iPhone as one of the greatest inventions ever made: This pocket sized computer (it probably should be called the “iPocket” since it is its data processing ability, with a few hundred thousand mini-programs to choose from, not its telephonic function, that sets it apart from the original hand-held cell phones) could have computing power equivalent to or greater than the room-sized, mainframe computers that I ran at various companies in Seattle during the mid to late 1960’s.
But until recently, my iPhone 3GS was usually on the verge of becoming “road kill” when I was traveling either near of far from home.
iPhone “Cardiac Arrest”
If I left home at 10 am with Wi-Fi, Location Services, 3G Network, Cellular Data, Data Roaming, and Bluetooth enabled on my iPhone, by about 3 pm 50% or more of the battery power would have drained away, even though I set the phone to “Auto-Lock” and go into standby mode 5 minutes after I last used the phone. Turning off all of those functions would prolong battery life for most of the day, but it was a nuisance having to turn them back on when needed, then remember to turn them back off again. Frequently I would forget to re-enable Bluetooth and when my iPhone received an incoming call while I was behind the wheel, my hands-free headset would fail to answer the call.
iPhone “Life Support”
The short battery life limited the utility of my iPhone in a most annoying way. I got in the habit of always leaving my phone plugged into an AC outlet when I was at home, and connected to a DC charger plugged into my car’s cigarette lighter socket when I was on the road. But even this strategy still wouldn’t guarantee that my phone would not run out of juice by the end of the evening. (Unfortunately, I can’t just pop open the back of my phone and slide in another fully-charged battery to replace the one that is DOA, as I can do with my Canon point and shoot digital camera).
Powerless in The Woods
Every Tuesday I hike with a local group in the hills and valleys near my home. One of my hiking buddies carries a GPS which usually can pick up signals from satellites orbiting the Earth. On the other hand, the “Every Trail” app on my iPhone needs to connect to AT&T’s cellular data network to perform GPS-like functions such as showing our location on a map, generating a record of the hike route, and calculating the average speed at which we were moving along the trail. When line-of-sight communication between cell towers and my iPhone is blocked by a building or a hill, this app apparently keeps repeatedly “hunting” for a signal, and every time it does so, it draws down the phone’s battery power, sometimes completely within less than two hours, half-way through the hike.
I recently found a solution to the battery-life issue which, thus far, has worked like a charm: The Mophie Juice Pack Air for 3G & 3GS iPhones.
I have known of the Juice Pack (as well as other, similar gadgets) for some time, but did not consider buying it until about three weeks ago. I stopped at the local BatteriesPlus store, looking for a supplemental battery for the Kodak Zi8 mini-video recorder that I had just purchased. I mentioned my dissatisfaction with the longevity of my iPhone’s battery to one of the store employees, who told me that the Mophie Juice Pack Air kept his iPhone 3GS alive and well during a trip across the U.S. that he had just taken. Since I was planning to head to Los Angeles to attend the Los Angeles Times Travel & Adventure Show in about a week and would need my iPhone to keep chugging along for at least 8-10 hours at a shot, I bought the Juice Pack.
Field Testing The “Juicer”
If you follow my blog, you know that a flare-up of an old back injury KO’d my trip to L.A., forcing me to lay around the house on an ice pack, watching the NCAA basketball tournament, when I wasn’t off to the doctor or physical therapy office for treatment. But last week, I finally got a chance to give my Mophie Juice Pack a good work out.
When the Juice Pack and the iPhone are fully charged, you have the choice of draining either the battery in the Juice Pack or the iPhone first. I decided to use up the Mophie’s power supply first (four blue lights on the back of the Juice Pack wink out, one by one, as the battery within it is drawn down), although Mophie says that total battery life might be extended by relying on the iPhone’s internal battery first.
Last Thursday I left all of the power-sucking functions of my iPhone turned on while I was away from home for about 7 hours. By the time I got home, I still had plenty of juice left when I plugged the phone back into the AC outlet to “top off its tank.”
Saturday morning I put my iPhone in my pocket at 9 a.m. and then (aptly enough) headed into San Francisco to take a class on creating and publishing iPhone apps. After returning home around 6 pm, the Juice Pack was “dead”, but the iPhone battery still had around 90% of its power left. When I plugged the iPhone back in to the AC about 11 pm, well over 30% of its lifeblood remained.
The following day I went an a four-mile-plus hike in Samuel P. Taylor State Park. I turned on the Every Trail app and, as expected, couldn’t connect to AT&T’s network for most of the hike when I was surrounded by steep hillsides and tall trees. But three hours later, my iPhone battery still was almost fully charged, although the Every Trail app’s continual attempts to find a data signal had completely zapped the Juice Pack’s power.
The upshot: Now I can continually use all of the functions of my iPhone for at least twice as long as I could before., although I still leave the phone set to Auto-Lock and go into standby mode. For my iPhone’s battery, the Mophie Juice Pack as been a life-saver.
The Case for Staying Plugged In
The Mophie Juice Pack Air is a solidly-built, two-part plastic case that slips over the ends of the iPhone. It replaced the lighter, but somewhat flimsier iFrogz case that I had been using. It comes in Black, Purple, Red and White. It does add some noticeable weight and bulk to my iPhone, but the phone still fits comfortably into my front pants pocket where I’m used to stowing it.
The bottom end of the Juice Pack plugs into the 30-pin socket on the bottom of the iPhone. The Juice Pack comes with a cable that has a USB male plug on one end that fits into the USB port on a computer or the AC-USB plug that comes with the iPhone. The other end of the cable has a “micro-USB” male plug that fits into a port on the bottom of the Juice Pack.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t plug my existing car charger into the Juice Pack since it has the same 30-pin connector that plugs into the iPhone. So I did have to buy a new car charger that has a mini-USB male plug that fits into the Juice Pack, letting me charge my iPhone on the road, if necessary.
Getting Yourself “Juiced”
I paid about $90+ (including tax) for the Mophie Juice Pack Air for 3G & 3GS at my local BatteriesPlus store; the price may vary at other Batteries Plus locations (enter your Zip Code at the BP Website to get a price quote). I found the Juice Pack advertised for as little as $19.99 (plus shipping and handling) on Amazon.com. Mophie sells it direct to buyers for $49.95 (presumably shipping and handling are extra) from its Website. The Apple on-line story apparently no longer has this supplemental battery in stock, but perhaps a local Apple Retail Store near you would have it. Some Best Buy Stores may still have a supply, but it is no longer available for purchase and direct shipping from that big-box retailer’s Website.
If you own an iPhone 4 you can get the Mophie Juice Pack Air from Mophie and Best Buy ($79.95 base price). There is also iPhone 4 Mophie Juice Pack Air Plus ($99.99 from Mophie and Best Buy) that may give your even longer supplemental battery life. (Amazon.com advertises both iPhone 4 Juice Pack models at somewhat lower prices).
(Purchasing Mophie products from Amazon.com through the links on this page helps support Tales Told From The Road.)