October 28, 2006

Charge2Go Emergency Cell Phone Charger Review

Even though battery technology has improved, cell phones still tend to average a few hours of talk time. They drain even faster when using the backlight or all the extras: Bluetooth, camera, music/video player, games, web browser, e-mail, text/photo/video messaging, and GPS navigation.

So sooner or later it happens -- you're out and about and you get the dreaded "low battery" warning. Perhaps you forgot to charge your cell last night, or it's just been a heavy cell day. If you're lucky, you might get a couple of minutes to finish your call.

A Simple Solution:
Enter the Charge2Go emergency cell phone charger. You pop in a single AA battery (alkaline, lithium, or even rechargeable), plug in the short connector cable, and hook it up to your cell phone's charging port. Two red LED's start flashing on the top to let you know it's providing power to your phone. The LED's go out when the AA battery is discharged. The main unit is best described as the size of a small flashlight or lipstick, so it easily fits in your pocket or laptop bag. I like that it takes a AA, since they're easy to find on the go. It also makes the Charge2Go reusable.

How It Worked:
I gave it a try with phones from LG and Motorola. Overall, it does the trick, but you have to know how to best use it. Initially, I was disappointed. I had tried to use the Charge2Go to recharge the phones' internal batteries, so I wouldn't have to talk on the phone with the charger attached. Three times it drained a fresh AA alkaline in about 30-40 minutes, but when I powered each phone back up, there was no noticeable increase in battery capacity. On the last test, the phone shut itself off within seconds.

After a helpful call with Charge2Go, I tried a different approach. This time, I used it as an auxiliary battery while making calls. It's a little strange to leave it dangling from the bottom of the phone, but it worked. On the same discharged phone that powered down immediately on its own, I easily made over 25 minutes of calls with the Charge2Go attached, and it still had capacity for more. When I detached the Charge2Go, the phone again powered down, so it was very apparent the Charge2Go did its job.

The Charge2Go sports a metal barrel, with a nicely machined screw cap that twists very smoothly. Besides looking sharp, the metal barrel is functional. It dissipates the heat generated when discharging the AA battery quickly. Most often, it was only moderately warm to the touch. Only once did it feel on the hot side, so it's best to leave it out in the open while attached to your phone. It only draws substantial power from the AA battery when it's attached to your phone, so you can leave in a fresh battery until it's needed.

Pricing and Compatibility:
The Charge2Go is affordably priced and you can order online: $24.99 will get you the Charge2Go charger plus one phone connector of your choice included, all with free shipping. Additional phone connectors are only $2.99, again with free shipping. The charger comes in four colors: Black, Silver, Red, and Blue. There are currently 8 phone connector cables available online, and one for the iPod Shuffle for $3.99.

The web site contains a list of compatible phones and connectors. Some of the newest cell phones are not yet supported. After trying the Charge2Go, I recently upgraded to a fully-loaded LG VX8300 that has a slightly different charger port. The LG connector provided by Charge2Go doesn't fit due to some minor changes made by LG. It's a shame that some phone manufacturers change their charge ports between models, so Charge2Go will need to keep pace. The good news is that Charge2Go has already been working on providing additional connectors, so stay tuned.

Considering Alternative Solutions:
Road warriors usually have multiple chargers on hand, but we're not always within range of a wall or car socket. USB chargers help in a pinch, but you end up draining your laptop's battery unless you're plugged into AC. You can also buy a second phone battery, perhaps an extended one that provides longer life. However, those add to to bulge of your device. Also, some phone chargers can't charge the second battery unless it's actually in your phone at the time. That means buying yet another dedicated charger for the second battery to keep it topped off. (Believe me, I've looked at all of these.)

Don't overlook disposable chargers, such as those that look like Zippo lighters. Keep in mind they cost more than regular disposable batteries, but they don't dangle like the Charge2Go. However, if your phone's charging port is on the side, they can make holding the phone a bit awkward and cumbersome.

Bottom Line:
No solution is perfect, and the Charge2Go is best categorized as an emergency charger. Once you get past the dongle form factor, it's simple, affordable, and reusable. When used properly, it was effective in extending my talk time.

I should also note that the original Charge2Go charger reviewed here has been available for a while. In speaking with Ben Ovadia, their VP of Business Development, I've learned that a new model should be released very soon. He shared it will have even more charging capacity due to incorporating two batteries into the charging unit. Considering how power hungry most new mobile devices have become, this should be a welcome upgrade as long as the overall size and weight stays convenient for mobile use.

Topic(s):   Feature Articles  |  Mobile Tech & Gadgets
Posted by Jeff Beard