NYC Is Getting Free Solar-Powered Cellphone Charging Stations

Ged Carroll, Flickr

You know the feeling: too many Instagram photos and work emails in an afternoon on your phone and by 3 p.m. you’re down to that nasty red bar and you still have to map your way to dinner. And you forgot your charger. Again.
With data heavy smartphones, we travelers are used to running out of battery power. Charging stations are a welcomed addition to any airport but when you’re downtown in the middle of a city, recharging is a bit more difficult.

That could change, however, as a system called Street Charge hits New York City, providing free cellphone charging stations around the city. A partnership between Pensa, solar company Goal Zero and AT&T, Street Charge will be installed in 25 different spots throughout New York City. The charging stations will be repositioned two more times over the next three months.

Currently, the program is only temporary, but at least for the summer months tourists and locals alike can enjoy free charging while out and about town. And if popular enough, the program could inspire more “urban rest stop” type programs, which would keep us all far away from that discouraging red battery bar.

Gadling Gear Review: Ventev Mobile Chargers And Cables

Ventev Wallport r2200 USB chargerSmartphones, tablet, iPods and other devices have certainly made our travel experiences much more enjoyable. Gone are the days of sitting around an airport for hours on end with few ways to pass the time. Keeping those gadgets fully charged for extended use can be a real challenge, however, as a dead battery means our tech toys are really just dead weight. Fortunately there are more charging options available than ever before including a host of fantastic chargers and cables from Ventev, a company focused on making high-quality accessories for our favorite gadgets.

Wallport r2200 ($30-$35)
Ventev offers a line of wall chargers with built-in USB ports that are perfect for travelers. Since most modern mobile devices are powered via USB, these wall chargers are, in a sense, universal, allowing us to leave our various gadget-specific chargers at home in favor of a single option.

My favorite of these wall chargers was the r2200, which features two rapid-charging USB ports that are capable of powering two iPads at the same time. Considering how notoriously power-hungry the iPad is, this is a nice option for keeping your tablet ready for use, whether you’re at home or on the road. Each port is capable of delivering up to 10 watts of juice, which means your iPad will charge at its normal rate but your smartphones, mp3 players and other devices will charge at a much quicker pace. My iPhone for instance was able to go from completely dead to a full-charge in less than two hours.

Durable and attractive, the r2200 is well built for the challenges of travel. It is also lightweight and compact, which means it will save space in your bag, particularly when you consider all of the other chargers that it replaces. Ventev offers it with two options, the charger itself for $30 or with an included Micro USB cable for $35. Apple device owners will need to bring their own 30-pin or Lightning cables.Ventev Dashport r2200 USB chargerDashport r1200 ($20) and r2200 ($30-$35)
Ventev’s Dashport line of chargers take the concept of their Wallport models but extend the formula to the car. These units give us USB adapters that plug into the DC accessory port (aka cigarette lighter) in our vehicles. Both the r1200 and r2200 are rapid charging 10W adapters with the former providing a single USB port while the latter offers two. Both are capable of charging an iPad at the same rate as its included adapter or a smartphone, iPod or other device at about double the normal rate.

Having one of these adapters in your car can be a real revelation for anyone who has a smartphone. While those devices are certainly wonders of modern technology, they don’t always have the longest battery life. This is especially true with the numerous models of Android phones on the market. But having either Dashport model in your vehicle means you can use your phone all day long without fear of it running out of juice.

I’ve known about the value of having an adapter like this in my car for sometime and I’ve routinely carried a similar product from one of Ventev’s competitors. But both the Dashport r1200 and r2200 are light years better in terms of quality and build construction. My previous model feels like a cheap toy compared to these two adapters, which also happened to perform better too. If you’re in need of a charger for your car, these are definitely the ones you want. I recommend getting the r2200 as its two-port option will keep your passenger happy too!

Ventev Powercell 3000 battery packPowercell 3000 Backup Battery ($60)
As good as the Wallport and Dashport adapters are, they both still require that you’re close to some kind of power source. But often when we travel we’re not in a location where we can plug in at any given time. That’s where Ventev’s Powercell 3000 comes in handy. It is a small, lightweight battery backup that can add extra juice to your smartphone or other small electronics when you’re away from a regular power outlet. It is capable of charging two devices at once and extending the talk time of an iPhone by about ten hours.

I was impressed with how lightweight and thin, yet still durable, the Powercell actually is. The battery pack weighs in at a shade over 3 ounces, which means it won’t take up much room in your bag or add any undue weight. It includes both a standard and Micro USB port, which adds a nice level of versatility to the device. Ventev also ships it with an integrated Micro USB cable and an Apple 30-pin cable, which works with all Apple devices prior to the iPhone 5, iPad 4 and iPad Mini. Owners of those gadgets will need to use their own Lightning cable – at least for now.

The Powercell is capable of providing 3000mAh of on-the-go power, which is generally plenty to get most of us through a typical day and then some. It can also be quickly and easily recharged via a Wallport or Dashport, which makes for a nice synergy between Ventev’s products. The Powercell faces a lot of competition in the portable battery space, some of which offer larger capacities. But in terms of compact design and efficient charging, it is tough to beat this product. It is efficient, versatile and simple to use. Everything we need in a travel gadget.

It should be noted that the Powercell 3000 is capable of charging an iPad, although it is extremely slow and the amount of extra energy gained is hardly worth it. Bottom line, it’ll do in a pinch, but only just barely. If you need a mobile battery pack for your tablet, you’ll want to look elsewhere.

Ventev ChargeSync cable in RedChargeSync Cables ($15-$25)
In addition to offering a variety of excellent chargers for travel, Ventev also has some of the best USB cables that I’ve ever seen. These high-quality cables are over 3 feet in length, have a flat design that keeps them from tangling and are available in eight different colors. Those colors come in quite handy when trying to quickly find which cable belongs to you in a sea of standard white cables that most people carry. The ChargeSync cables are available in Micro USB ($15), Apple 30-Pin ($20) and Apple Lightning ($25) flavors.

As someone who has more cables for more devices than he knows what to do with, I always have a set for use at home and a set to take with me on the road. Ventev’s cables have quickly replaced my travel set simply for the non-tangling feature alone. The fact that they are much more durable than the cables that generally come with a device is also an added benefit. Considering the overall quality of these products, the retail price is actually quite a deal. Charging cables aren’t especially sexy in any way, but Ventev has managed to create a very impressive product here.

Ventev’s entire line of chargers and cables are fantastic options for travelers. They are lightweight, affordable, versatile and provide power for all of our devices while on the go. These products are some of the best that I’ve ever seen and I think frequent travelers will love them. I also think they are just as useful at home, where we never seem to have enough outlets to keep all of our gadgets charged.

[Photo Credit: Ventev]

Gadling Gear Review: ibattz Mojo Battstation Tough Pro

http://www.ibattz.com/products_power_battstation.php#prettyPhotoOne of the biggest challenges when traveling today is keeping all of our gadgets charged while on the road. After all, who hasn’t found themselves stranded in an airport, desperately looking for a place to plug in a phone or tablet before their next flight. Even in this day and age, power outlets can be a real challenge to find and more often then not, when you do find one, someone else has already claimed it. Fortunately there are other options for keeping our devices powered up while on the go. Take for example the Mojo Battstation Tough Pro from ibattz, a ruggedized charging station with the ability to power two devices at once.

Small and compact, the Battstation is just 4.3-inches long and about an inch thick. It features two built in USB ports which can be used to power nearly any kind of device, including smartphones, tablets, cameras, GPS devices and more. ibattz offers the charger in both 7200 mAh and 8400 mAh versions, with the only difference being the capacity of the internal battery. I tested the smaller of the two units, which tipped the scales at just 6.4 ounces, and found it to be an excellent travel companion.

We’ve seen similar charging stations in the past and what sets the Mojo Battstation apart from the others is its very durable design. This device is essentially a high-capacity battery wrapped in a rugged shell. An included removable silicon rubber sleeve adds an extra layer of security, protecting against the shock of an accidental drop while also keeping moisture at bay. The sleeve even includes a couple of flaps that protect the Mojo’s USB ports while folding back to allow access when needed. Of all the mobile charging solutions that I’ve seen, this is easily the most durable that I’ve come across.In addition to the protective sleeve and the Battstation itself, ibattz also includes a single micro-USB cable and adapters for older Apple products (30-pin) and the Samsung Galaxy Tab in the box. The cable can be used to charge both the Battstation’s internal battery and any device that uses micro USB, while the adapters allow it to be used with the other devices mentioned above. iPhone 5, iPad 4 and iPad Mini users will still need to carry their Lightning cables with them, however, as the included cable doesn’t support those devices.

ibattz Mojo BattstationIf you look at the items that are included with the Mojo Battstation you may notice that there is one thing missing – an AC adapter. ibattz didn’t include any way to charge the battery by plugging it directly into a wall. Instead users must connect it to the USB port on their computer, which can be an inconsistent option to say the least. Many computers, especially laptops, feature USB ports that don’t provide full power to devices plugged into them, which means it can take an awfully long time to charge the battery in the Battstation. Fortunately, I had a USB wall adapter that over came this issue and I recommend anyone who purchases this mobile charger to invest in one as well.

Performance wise, the Mojo Battstation works great and lives up to its billing. The two USB ports allow users to charge two devices at once and the battery provides enough capacity to recharge multiple smartphones multiple times. I drained my iPhone 4S completely and then plugged it into the Battstation and in about 3.5 hours it was back to full capacity and ready to go. You can also use your devices while plugged into the Mojo, which allows it to work like a powerful battery backpack, greatly extending the life of whatever gadget you have connected. A handy blue power level indicator on the outside of the case lets you know how much charge the Battstation still has available, ensuring that you never get caught without a full charge before hitting the road.

It should be noted that the Mojo does work with iPads, but the built-in USB ports are only rated for 1 Amp and .5 Amps respectively. Since the iPad expects a 2.1 Amp port that means that it will take a very long time for it to charge up the power-hungry tablet, making this a less then optimal solution for those looking to keep Apple’s slate running at full capacity. For smaller devices, however, it is a great solution with plenty of power to spare.

If you’re someone who finds themselves burning through the batteries on your gadgets while traveling then the ibattz Mojo Battstation Tough Pro is definitely for you. Its rugged design makes it perfect for road warriors who have a tendency to abuse their gear and its high-capacity battery will keep your favorite tech toys powered up at all times. Best of all, this is a highly affordable solution for mobile power. The 7200 mAh version costs just $29 and the higher capacity 8400 mAh version will set you back a mere $39. That’s actually more affordable than most competing products that aren’t nearly as rugged or don’t perform as well.

[Photo Credit: ibattz]

Cellphone Accessories For Our Mobile Overlords

iPhone Case from G-FormThere’s no device I love to hate as much as I hate to love my iPhone. (You read that right.) Your mileage may vary; you may not feel like both a chump and a devotee while caressing your mobile whatever. Until I attain your Zen-like state, I feel annoyed whenever I find myself buying presents for my phone, even if they are practical and make using my phone a better experience. Here’s the drill on three extras I’ve been using lately.

G-Form Extreme Grid iPhone Case
: Drop your phone one time ONLY on the bus and you’ll wish you’d shelled out for a case. It’s like Apple is intentionally propping up the case market by using that slippery exterior. I used an Otter Box on my iPhone 3, but I’ve come to prefer the weird grippy exterior of the G-Form on my iPhone 4. People keep making fun of the almost tire tread like bumpy black box I wrap my phone in, but the fact is, it stays put in my hand and has enough padding and bounce that my phone didn’t shatter into tiny expensive bits when I dropped it on the 54. There was an audible gasp from the people around me, but I just picked up my phone and went back to listening to vintage sci-fi radio theater and posting pictures to Instagram.

The case comes in black or black and yellow. I kind of wish I’d got the yellow just because it would make the phone easier to find when it’s lost in my backpack. Cost: about $40. That might seem expensive, but it’s going to cost you more than that to buy a new phone.

Mophie Juice Pack PlusMophie Juice Pack Plus: With great addiction comes the endless search for outlets and places to recharge the phone, right? You can buy yourself a lot more time with a spare battery. Mophie builds theirs into an attractive case that allows you to double the use time of your phone. I think this case/battery combo is pretty freaking great. It serves to protect your phone, and gives you all that extra use time, and it comes in a bunch of happy colors. I dropped my phone in this case, too, because apparently, that’s how I roll. The case is a little scratched up, but it still works just fine and my phone is still totally intact. It’s charged via a mini-USB cable. You leave it off until you need the extra juice, then it charges your phone while you use it. It’s great for long-haul flights, especially if, like me, you spend your airtime with audio entertainment.

The Juice Pack is pricey – it’s about $100. Here’s the truth: I like this thing and bring it everywhere.

Able Planet Clear Harmony Sound Isolation EarphonesAble Planet Clear Harmony Sound Isolation Earphones: I’ve gone through half a dozen pairs of iPhone compatible earbuds. On my last trip I lost my isolation Sennheisers. The sound was top notch, but I was on my third pair because they kept breaking (while still under warranty, thankfully). I replaced them with a really cheap pair of JVC iPhone compatible headphones, and they broke too.

I like the isolation earbuds because they don’t take up the space of headphones, but I’ve yet to find a pair that reduces external noise the way active cancelling headphones do. I like the Able Planet brand just fine; they’re far superior to the standard Apple earbuds and they stay put, but I’m not totally sold. They sound great, don’t get me wrong, and they do help with noise reduction on the plane or the bus, but that crying baby still found his way into my head while I was trying to doze on the plane. Even with the white noise app I use, ambient sound leaked in through everywhere. Able Planet makes active noise cancelling headsets too, I own a pair, and I wish I’d packed them instead. I await perfect, affordable, noise blocking earbuds.

Able Planet Earbuds run about $170. They’re fine for daily use, but if you’re really looking for noise reduction and you’re going to spend that kind of money, go with active noise cancelling instead.

Gadling Gear Review: Mobius Solar iPhone Battery/Charger

I kind of hate how much I love my iPhone. It’s not right and yes, I’m addicted to it and shut up, don’t you have something else to give me a hard time about? Like my social media addiction, which also, you could leave me alone about because it’s a critical part of how I make a living, so back off already.

Plus, it was super cool when, thanks to the wonders of my phone, a roaming data plan, and the fact that Tanzania is dotted with cell phone towers even though there seemed to be a scarcity of power outlet, I could shoot video of the landscape in the Serengeti or the road to Arusha and then, whoa, upload it so my pals on Twitter could see it, like, right away. That’s just freaking magical.

The thing is, that social media/cell phone addiction keeps me tethered to a power source and that can be kind of limiting. Hey, even when you’re in a highly developed place, sometimes the rental car doesn’t have an outlet and you forgot your car charger and you’ve burned up your battery trying to find directions to the B&B. What I’m saying is this: It’s easy to chew through the juice you’ve got on your phone and not always easy to re-juice it.

I actively disliked the last solar charger I tried, it didn’t work well as a case and it took too long to grab what limited power we get from the sun in the winter at home. I was keen to try out something new, that’s how I ended up with the solar iPhone charger/case/battery from Mobius. I like this one considerably better, but it’s still got some flaws.

First, the good stuff. It works well as a case. It’s got a fairly efficient solar panel compared to the other model I tried. It charges over a standard mini to USB connector so you can use your laptop or that little USB plug thingy that comes with your iPhone to charge it. It’s a little bulky, but because you can use it to hold your phone, it’s not just some random extra gadget kicking around. It doubles the usage you get out of your phone — nice if you’re shooting video, uploading fat files, playing lots of music and podcasts, the “beyond phone calls” stuff that keeps junkies like me handcuffed to our cell phone overlords.Now, the stuff I didn’t love. I keep wanting these things to be smaller — it’s a little bulky. I realize I may be just waiting for the future, I’m aware of that. The phone gets confused if I connect the charger cable while the case is in it and tells me that “charging isn’t supported.” This means if I want to charge the batter via an outlet, I have to remove the phone. I wish it used the connector that Apple uses because man, I am tired of dragging hundreds of yards of connector cables around the planet.

All that said, I think the Mobius charger is a great improvement over my last test run on a similar gadget. And I love that fact that it helps free me from the dearth of outlets that’s a scourge on my power and media addicted soul. If I’ve got the case out in daylight, it’s doing its bit to recharge and keep me connected. I like that. Whether that’s a good thing or not is another issue entirely, but as far as enabling my addiction goes, this device is doing its job.

Shop around. If you buy it directly from the folks that make it, it’s about 80 dollars, but I’ve seen it for 60 in other online markets.