At Home with Tech

It’s time to maximize the potential of all your gadgets.

Tag: Innergie PocketCell

In Search of Power

When going away on a camping trip, don’t forget to pack some portable power. Otherwise, your tech will quickly go dark…

When going away on a camping trip, don’t forget to pack some portable power. Otherwise, your tech will quickly go dark…

If you haven’t figured it out yet, I crave power. Pure power. And sustainable power.
Okay… not absolute power…
I’m just talking about the energy needed to power my lowly, but hungry tech.
(What did you think I meant?)

A big part of my story to date has been figuring out how to keep my iPhone going after it runs through a full charge.

And to be fair, my iPhone 6 Plus can get through a busy day on one charge. But I’m the kind of nervous tech guy who starts to worry once my smartphone dips below 20%.

So I typically want some extra juice nearby…
…just in case.
(My son used to prefer a juice box or two.)

Power Sticks
A couple of years back, I picked up an Innergie PocketCell, which is essentially a power stick the size of a pack of gum. It has 3,000mAh of power, which isn’t bad, because an iPhone 6 Plus requires 2915mAh for a full charge.
Today, I’m partial to Anker, which makes the PowerCore 10,000, packing a really big punch.
($24.99 on Amazon Prime)

Swag Power
And if you’re not into dropping any money on a power stick right now, you might be able to find one for free. They’re popular these days as giveaways… Though usually with less power.
(I came across one recently with 2600mAh.)

iPhone Case with Built-in Battery
Another good idea is to pick up a Mophie Juice Pack Plus, which is a smartphone case with a battery baked into it.
The 2,600 mAh model that wraps around the current iPhone 6 Plus costs $99.95.
(I had a Mophie for my old iPhone 4S, but I’ve held out so far with my 6 Plus due to size concerns.)

Preparing for the Family Camping Trip
All these cool power solutions go a long way towards feeding your smartphone the necessary extra energy it might need.

But then I had a new challenge.
Go where no Barrett has gone before…

  • Two nights of family camping.
    (Which meant three days away with my iPhone, camera, and my wife’s iPhone…and no power)

I needed to bring a more powerful and flexible solution to ensure I would stay on the grid….

Goal Zero Sherpa 50
Goal Zero makes a variety of portable, solar and battery-driven power solutions.
I came across the Sherpa 50 Power Pack at REI, a rare moment of brick and mortar shopping for me.

The Sherpa 50 carries 5200mAh of power, which isn’t quite as beefy as the newer Innergie. But the Sherpa is more flexible. And even though it’s not as slim as a stick of gum, it’s only 1.2 lbs and is smaller than your typical paperback book.

  • It’s got a USB port to plug in your iPhone
  • An onboard flashlight
  • A separate output to power laptops… its big selling point
    (Though not for Macs)
  • A 12v cable that powers a tent light… the ‘Light-A-Life 350’
    (Which came bundled in the REI box)
  • And a 100W AC inverter to charge up any other gear you may have
    (Also bundled in the REI box)

It goes for $179.95 on Amazon Prime.

Field Test
On our camping trip’s second night, I proudly broke out my new Sherpa 50. After sunset, I easily illuminated our tent with the Goal Zero light.

Goal Zero Light-A-Life 350 in Action







And as my family turned in for the night, I plugged in my iPhone to the Sherpa 50 and began charging it up from 36%.

Sherpa 50 in action







I turned off the light and felt ‘Tech Zen’ surge throughout my body.
And then I drifted off to sleep…

The next morning, I awoke and immediately turned to my iPhone.



I picked up my Sherpa 50.
(Yes, it had been fully charged.)
Perhaps it had somehow prematurely turned off.

It was totally dead.
Well, not entirely. The universal empty-battery signal still blinked momentarily when I pushed the power button.

Dead Sherpa 50 battery







After a couple hours of light and an 11% boost to my iPhone, my new Sherpa 50 had promptly failed me.
(It’s rated to charge a smartphone seven times!)

Innergie to the Rescue
As I realized my ‘dire’ predicament, I took three deep breaths and turned to my back up plan… My old Innergie PowerCell.

Innergie to the rescue







I attached it to my iPhone, and a little over an hour later; I was back to full charge.
(The Innergie was exhausted, but it had done its job.)

Then, I assigned my ‘swag’ power stick to rescue my wife’s limping iPhone battery.

By the time breakfast at the tent was finished, we were prepared to face the day with our tech.
(Good thing I had an extra camera battery… )

REI is Your Friend
REI is well known for standing by its products. That’s important, because I’ll be certainly returning my faulty Sherpa 50.

The good news is my family camping trip was a big success…. Even if I didn’t have all the power I thought I’d need.

Perhaps that’s just Mother Nature reminding me that technology can’t always tame the wild. And also that 47% should be plenty enough to get through your day in the great outdoors…

Message received.

Brother, Can You Spare a Battery to Power my Phone Call?

Is this what your smartphone’s battery icon displays at 3:30pm? You really need help from a Mophie battery case.

Is this what your smartphone’s battery icon displays at 2:55pm? You really need help from a Mophie battery case.

Red Alert!
Smartphone batteries can’t get you though your day anymore.
Everybody out there seems to need a battery with more ‘mAh’ capacity.
(‘milliamp hour’)

Whenever someone shows up for a meeting with me,
the first comment I often get after “Hello!” is
“Can I plug in my phone somewhere?”

Worse yet, they often ask if I can loan them my iPhone charger for a quick hit.
It feels like they’re bumming a digital cigarette off me.
Now, I’m their personal power refueling station?!

Your Smartphone is Hungry!
This isn’t a new problem, but it seems to be getting worse.

Once upon a time, I could get through two days on one iPhone charge.
Then, as I discovered more apps to use, I wasn’t so sure.
So I made it a point to juice up every night.

Now with iOS 7, my little partner seems even hungrier.
I watch its battery percentage icon drain away throughout the day, and I often have to ration my afternoon email check-ins to keep the phone alive until I make it home.

And I don’t really consider myself a power user…

Better Keep that Smartphone in your Pocket
I think the good news is it’s okay to admit you can’t get through your day without a little extra juice…
I’ve always felt I was somehow hiding this deep, dark secret that I couldn’t keep my phone going all day long.

But there’s really no shame in it.
You’re not some sort of malcontent who can’t control your impulses to overuse your smartphone.
(If you are… sorry for calling you out!)

Sure, there are ways to cut back on the power drain:

  • Close unused apps
  • Turn off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth if your not using them
  • Don’t check your email with a poor signal
    (That makes your phone work harder.)

But the truth today seems to be that smartphone batteries just can’t keep up with the normal drain that’s put on them.

So until that problem improves, you’re going to have to take matters into your own hands.

You Need Some Portable Power
Last year, I got the tiny Innergie PocketCell for my iPhone to help keep it alive on the road with me.

This elegant $60 white ‘stick’ is small enough to slip into your back pocket and is great as a portable power back-up solution for lots of your hungry digital devices.  The one big downside is you always have to carry it around with you.

Plus, it’s cumbersome to set up your little digital MASH unit in the wild and execute a power transfusion whenever your smartphone runs low.

Feed your Digital Beast!
So I finally decided it was time to get with the program and upgrade to an augmented and elegant onboard battery solution…

Unfortunately, smartphone manufacturers don’t offer this tech through their own brands.  (That would suggest their technologies are somehow lacking.)

The added juice you need comes hidden in the bodies of
third-party smartphone battery cases.

And the good news is… There’s a lot of choice out there for you.

Size Doesn’t Matter
Sure, battery cases will inevitably make your smartphone’s footprint a bit larger.
But today, that’s not so much of an issue.
In fact, if anything, bigger is better.
iPhone users are drooling over all the larger screens out there.
Have you seen the size of these Phablets?
They’re huge!

So a little extra heft is really not a deal breaker anymore…

Mighty Mophie to the Rescue
A digitally enlightened friend of mine has happily used
the Mophie Juice Pack Plus.
So instead of going through my usual painstaking research before pulling the trigger on a battery case, I quickly settled on the Mophie.


Call me impulsive.
Or maybe it’s just the time of year, where you don’t have a lot of spare time to brood over the perfect power accessory for your smartphone.
(If you do, you should know that Mophie also offers a couple other design flavors.)

All my right-brain decision-making aside, Mophie is still highly regarded.

It’s Going to Cost You
Of course there’s a catch…
Convenient battery back up from Mophie doesn’t come cheap:

  • $100 to fuel the 4/4s
  • $120 for the 5/5S
  • $100 if you’ve got the Samsung Galaxy S4

But can you really put a price on having enough power to get you through your day?  Mophie claims to almost double the runtime of your iPhone.

Discovering a Great Last-Minute Tech Gift
What choice do we flawed, digitally dependent humans really have?

  • If you’re going to get caught on a few long phone calls throughout the day
  • If you like to stream a little Hulu video or watch part of a movie you downloaded from iTunes
  • If you pay a fair amount of attention to your email
  • And if you don’t want to plot your day based on where you can plug in

…You really need one of these battery cases.

And who wants to spend this time of year worrying about your power limitations?  Open up your brain space for more important concerns.

Time is running out and you don’t have all your presents yet!?
If only it was easy to find a great last-minute tech gift.
Wait a minute!

Got to run…

Five Tips to Not Lose Your Tech While Traveling

You don’t have to stash your personal tech in a barrel at Niagara Falls to risk losing it while traveling. If you’re not careful, there’s plenty of opportunity to part with your gadgets along the way.

You don’t have to stash your personal tech in a barrel at Niagara Falls to risk losing it while traveling. If you’re not careful, there’s plenty of opportunity to part with your gadgets along the way.

I was in Buffalo last week on a work-related video project.
(Yes, it was snowing in Buffalo.)

On the last day, we drove to Niagara Falls to get some beauty shots.
I must say the American Falls looked especially beautiful half frozen.
(The Horseshoe Falls was mostly obscured in fog.)

We also spent some time in town doing some additional videotaping.
The frozen urban environment didn’t feel quite as quaint with steady snowfall and a stiff wind confronting us.

So between shots, we ducked inside a building to warm up while we planned our next move.

And we broke a cardinal video production rule.
We left a piece of our gear outside unattended.

No, it wasn’t anything really expensive, like the camera.

It was a lowly wooden Apple Box.
No, not an apple fruit box… though it does look like one.
(And no, it’s not some Apple computer packaging either!)

It’s simply a sturdy wooden box.
More like a little platform, it’s used to position someone or something up a few inches.
(A couple inches can make all the difference when you’re looking to tweak a shot!)

Our inside huddle lasted only four minutes.
But when we emerged, the Apple Box was gone.


We looked at each other uneasily, as we were also guilty of breaking a really basic rule our mothers had taught us decades earlier.

Then, an innocent bystander walked up and said he had seen the perp pick up the clipped item.

And he pointed in the direction the thief was walking.
He also mentioned it looked like the guy was part of group of five or so.

By this point, they were a few blocks away, just out of my visual range.

We each considered the situation.
To me, it was clear running after our bandit wasn’t the right move.
It seemed risky. We could run into a confrontation with a superior force.

The look on other faces suggested a similar conclusion.

But our consensus was not unanimous.

One bold soul jumped to action.
Declaring the rest of us wimps, our hero launched a rescue mission.
Our fasted vehicle powered up, and it roared off in hot pursuit.

The rest of us stared for a moment, flecks of snow falling on our gaping jaws.

I eventually jumped in my car and brought up the rear.
By the time I arrived, the incursion was over.

The Apple Box had been rescued.

The opposition had not been five muscular men.
It was just one older gentleman, who had fallen on hard times and innocently picked up an item he thought had been abandoned.

It was just a matter of confronting the truth of the moment.
The retrieval ended up being an easy one.

Boy, did I have egg on my face.
And I didn’t hear the end of it for the rest of the trip!

Odds Are Some of Your Tech Won’t Make It Back
Let’s face it. Losing your gear on the road is surprisingly easy to do.
You may not be dumb enough to leave it on the street while you talk about where to go for lunch.
But there are plenty of ways to inadvertently part with your expensive gadgets and their accessories.

  • Secondary Smartphone
    Many of us are forced to juggle more than one smartphone for work and home.
    If that’s the case, you may not be paying as much attention to the secondary unit while on a trip.
    (Like if you’re on vacation and not looking at your work BlackBerry very often)
    That scenario can easily lead you to miss the unfortunate fact your smartphone has suddenly gone MIA.
  • Chargers and Power Cables
    How many times have you left behind your smartphone charger or laptop power cable plugged into the outlet under the desk in your hotel room?
  • Lens Cap
    And if your DSLR’s lens cap is not tethered to your camera’s lens, it’s constantly pulling a Houdini, right?

You Won’t Lose It If You Don’t Have It
My simple advice is just don’t take any tech you can do without.

Much like over packing clothing for a trip, we also have a tendency to travel with too many gadgets.

Don’t take that laptop if a tablet will do.
Don’t take the tablet if your smartphone can handle the job.

Sure, many hotel rooms are now equipped with mini safes.
And laptops are small enough these days to jam into these tiny vaults.

But then you’ve got to remember to clear out the safe before you leave.
(And no matter what, isn’t it always a rush?)

Maybe you won’t forget the laptop, but what’s hidden behind it might get missed with a hurried exit plan.

Don’t let your view freeze up trying to keep track of your tech while on the road!

Don’t let your view freeze up trying to keep track of your tech while on the road!

Five Ways to Hold onto Your Tech on the Road
But if you absolutely must bring it, here are five tips to help you increase the odds you’ll come home with all your precious tech gear and accessories-

1.  Protect Your Smartphone like ‘Renegade’ or ‘Trailblazer’
The Secret Service has code names for its presidents.
(Renegade for Obama and Trailblazer for George W)

Yes, you can lockdown your smartphone with a code.

Yes, you can track it.
(Up to a point)

Yes, you can remotely wipe the memory.
(The Secret Service can’t do that yet. Right?)

Yes, you can even change all your passwords just to be totally safe.

But you really shouldn’t need to act like a Secret Service agent to protect your smartphone.

I know this is obvious, but I say treat your smartphone like your wallet.
People do lose their wallets, but usually you can devote enough brainpower to maintaining track of it, right?

Bad things happen, but a little vigilance can go a long way to keep your smartphone at your side.

Enough said.

2. Use the Right Carry-On Bag
Keep your tech with you at all times.
Assume an 800-pound gorilla will be jumping on your stowed luggage.

So bring a carry-on bag with distinct compartments and keep each piece of tech in its designated position. Then take a moment to memorize where everything belongs.
That way, you’ll be able to quickly scan if all your digital tools are in their rightful place.

3.  Have Power in a Pinch
It’s always nice to bring a little backup power in your bag, while you’re going about your day. That way, you don’t have to worry about where you’ll be juicing your smartphone next.

More importantly, that also means you’re not putting any of your kit and kaboodle at risk of being left behind, while your charging up behind enemy lines.

These days you can store a power stick that’s not much larger than a pack of gum.

4.  Keep Your Pockets Light at Security
When going through airport security, it’s always such a fire drill to get everything back on your body before rushing to the gate.

Reposition as much digital paraphernalia as you can into your carry-on bag.

5.  Watch Your Laptop Like a Hawk After the X-ray Machine
I’m not talking so much about someone stealing your laptop from its bin while you’re putting your shoes back on. I’m referring to simply protecting it from being harmed.

During my Buffalo trip, I watched in horror as a bin holding a laptop rolled out of the X-ray machine conveyer belt. It got squeezed by a bin jam ahead of it, and then it veered off the rollers, dumping the laptop onto the cold, unforgiving cement surface below.

No, the poor laptop didn’t bust into multiple pieces,
but I’m not so sure how solid its guts were after that kind of spill.

Try to position your laptop bin so it comes out of the X-ray machine soon after you’ve crossed passed through your own X-ray body scan experience.

That way you’ll be close by to rescue your laptop if a bin jam becomes imminent.

Bonus Tip: ID Your Gear
Sometimes, no matter what you do, fate still intervenes.
So when you end up losing a gadget like your tablet or eBook-reader on a plane, in your hotel room, or after a solo lunch at a restaurant… what do you do then?

Well, you’d better leave a trail for someone to find you.
(Like simply taping a business card inside your new iPad case)

If your gear is in lockdown mode, there’s no way for anyone to know it’s yours.
Sure they can do some sleuthing based on your reserved plane seat or hotel room record, but would you want to leave your gadget’s future in the hands of an Inspector Clouseau?

Get That Tech Back Yourself!
And if all else fails, and you’ve accidentally just left some tech behind, make sure you can sprint four hundred yards or have access to some really fast wheels.

It’s been known to work!

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