Power your iPhone (and other gadgets) for up to a week – Gadling reviews the ZAGGsparq

Portable backup power gadgets are nothing new. We’ve covered a whole bunch of them here, but today’s battery pack is something really special. Most power packs have the capacity for one or two full charges of your portable gadget, so imagine how cool it would be if you carried something capable of making your iPhone (or other device) last for up to a week.

This review will introduce you to the ZAGGsparq. The ZAGG name probably rings a bell, they are better known for their excellent device protection film, and their recently introduced ZAGGbox multimedia hub.

The ZAGGsparq looks like your everyday power brick. It features folding prongs, 2 USB ports, a button and 4 LED’s. It is what is inside the ZAGGsparq that makes it so handy – an AC charger (suitable for 100V-240V outlets) and a 6000mAh Lithium-Polymer battery pack. If that number doesn’t make any sense, all you need to know is that the battery in the iPhone 3G is 1150mAh. This means you can get up to five full iPhone charges from the ZAGGsparq.
Using the ZAGGsparq

Using the ZAGGsparq is just like using any regular USB charger – you plug your device(s) into the USB port, and plug the unit into the wall. When you need power on the go, you just plug them directly into the unit, and skip the outlet.

Despite its high capacity, the unit weighs just 8.4 ounces. This is obviously heavier than the original iPhone charger (which is tiny), but when you travel a lot, being able to keep your phone going this long is invaluable. Just imagine a powerpack that can keep your iPhone playing video for up to 50 hours non-stop, or even as much as 150 hours of music.

The investment

The price of such a luxury is fairly steep – the ZAGGsparq sells for $99.99 (down from its normal price of $129.99). If you never find yourself with a dead phone, then spending $100 isn’t going to make much sense. But if you have ever been stuck at the airport, or mid-flight with a dead device, you’ll find the investment pretty simple to justify.

Of course, the ZAGGsparq isn’t just for the iPhone – it’ll work with any device that can be charged over USB. This includes all Blackberries, iPods, many digital cameras and game consoles and anything else with a compatible USB charger cord. It will not power your laptop or netbook, for that you’ll need to invest in something like the Tekkeon MyPower All.

Final thoughts

There is very little not to like about a device that promises to keep your gadgets going. The weight is not too bad, it has two USB ports and it works on any international power supply (assuming you carry your own plug adapters). Included with the unit is a European (mainland) plug adapter, but no USB cables.

My only minor issue with the device is that the fourth power status LED never seems to stay on – even when I have not used the device. After a full charge, I have all four lights, but after a couple of hours it always drops to three. Still, it has not impacted its power capacity (at least not that I have noticed) and in my tests, it really does deliver on its promise – my iPhone 3GS has been charged every night on the ZAGGsparq for the past 4 nights, without the need for a wall outlet.

PROS: Huge battery capacity, dual USB ports, worldwide power compatibility
CONS: Possibly unreliable battery indicator

Product page: ZAGGsparq

Five ways to make long flights more productive

Every business traveler has said or heard: “I’ll get to it on the plane.” By the time your bags are stowed safely overhead, however, it occurs to you that the flight won’t be long enough for everything on your list. The problem I’ve seen is that most business travelers don’t use this distraction-free environment as effectively as they could. If you could get more out of your flights, you’ll have more elbow room in your schedule when you touch down. So, here are five ways to help you get the biggest bang for your time on board.

1. The flight starts at the gate
While you’re waiting to board, find a power outlet, and plug in. pick up a wireless connection, and take care of e-mails. This seems obvious, but distractions can encroach. When you’re going through your inbox, focus on anything that seems most likely to matter when you’re on the plane: reassess your priorities. The unimportant can wait (or be addressed via Blackberry when you’re waiting for the door to close).

2. Get an extra battery
I’m still amazed at how many times I’ve seen business travelers shut down because the juice is gone. Ask your employer for an extra battery – you’ll have a few more hours of high-octane work time.

3. Print what doesn’t have to be electronic
This is especially true if you can’t score that extra battery. Do on paper what can be done on paper, and save the battery life for work that must be done on your laptop. You’re effectively increasing the value of your battery.

4. Set goals
Don’t try to deal with everything. Determine what you want to accomplish on the flight, and zero in on it. If you have time left over, you can work on other things (or, better, sleep). Be realistic when you define your objectives. If you aren’t, you’ll be perpetually frustrated.

5. Know when to stop
If you’re close to exhaustion or just can’t get your mind to work, take the hint. A plane isn’t the ideal office environment). Close your laptop. Put down your pen. Ask for some pill water, and let someone else suffer at your expense for a change!

Gadling gear review – Tekkeon myPower ALL MP3750 portable battery pack

Regular readers will know that I’m a huge fan of any gadget that can keep my other gadgets powered. Last month, I wrote about my “power anything anywhere kit“, and in it, I described the equipment I recommend in order to keep your gadgets going, even when you are away from a power outlet.

One thing I mentioned in that article, is that my current universal notebook battery pack (from APC) was a discontinued item. Because of this, I started on a quest to find a replacement product, and boy did I find one!

My search for a better notebook battery pack took me to Tekkeon – manufacturer of portable power products. Their myPower ALL MP3750 is a universal notebook battery pack that is better than my previous notebook battery in every possible way.

The MP3750 weighs just under 16 ounces and houses a 50Wh Lithium-Polymer battery pack. The unit can charge a laptop or any device with USB charging capability. The MP3750 comes complete with a charging cord and a variety of input and output power tips.

To charge the unit, you find the correct input tip for your current laptop charger, then plug a tip onto its output cable. This sounds more complicated than it is, and unless you are swapping laptop computers on a daily basis, you’ll only have to find the correct power tips once.

If you only use the USB power outlet, you’ll be provided with enough juice to keep an iPhone or other low power device going for over a week.

The unit can auto-detect the input power being provided by your charger, so the entire setup is pretty much plug and play. Alternatively, you can switch the unit to “manual” and select the required output power using the power button on the top.

The biggest advantage of a universal battery pack over a second battery for your laptop is that the universal pack is future-proof. If you buy a new laptop, you’ll be able to use the same battery pack for the new machine. Another huge advantage is that you can keep the battery pack in your bag until you need it. Once you find the need for some more juice, you can plug the Tekkeon MP3750 into your laptop, without having to shut down or potentially lose work.

The extra usage time you get out of your laptop with the MP3750 depends on the kind of laptop you are using. A large 15″ laptop will gain about anywhere between one and two hours. My small 10″ netbook was able to run about 3 hours longer off a fully charged MP3750.

If the capacity of the MP3750 is insufficient, you can double its power by adding a second battery pack. The MP3450 second battery pack includes a bracket for connecting to the MP3750, providing twice the power ( an additional $99.95).

The Tekkeon myPower ALL MP3750 costs $189.95 and is available directly from Tekkeon, or one of their online retailers. If you already know that you’ll be needing more power, you can purchase a bundle of the MP3750 and its second battery pack for $259.95.

Included with the MP3750 is a laptop charging cord, assorted power input/output tips in a carrying bag and a carrying pouch for the battery pack.

Seriously, there is nothing negative I can find about the Tekkeon MP3750 – it is lightweight, supports virtually every popular laptop computer on the market, and has a bonus USB port. Anyone who needs to keep their machine going, should consider the investment. The price is on the high end, but the quality more than makes up for that.

The Gadling power anything anywhere kit

It is no secret – I love my gadgets, and I love traveling with them. But even the most advanced gadget becomes useless when it runs out of power.

In the past, I’d occasionally arrive at my destination with a dead mobile phone or an iPod that only made it halfway through the flight.

It’s a pretty frustrating experience, so for the past years, I’ve been putting together the perfect kit for powering any of my gadgets on the road.
When it comes to powering gadgets, there are several things I am looking for:

  • Powering and charging my laptop and gadgets on the plane
  • Powering and charging my laptop and gadgets when I am abroad
  • Emergency power for my gadgets and laptop

Here is the kit I put together, with some of the reasoning behind each device:

Callpod Chargepod

The Callpod Chargepod passed through Gadling last year, and it has quickly become of the most important gadgets I carry with me. The device charges 6 things at the same time, which means I can charge 2 phones, my Bluetooth headset, a backup battery pack, a game console and an MP3 player off a single outlet.

The Chargepod itself can be powered off AC or DC (car) sources, and the company has power tips for almost every portable device on the market.

Price: $79.95 for a Chargepod bundle (AC and DC chargers and a selection of power tips)
From: www.callpod.com

APC External laptop battery pack

The APC universal notebook battery pack comes with a large selection of power plugs, for most brands of laptop computers. To charge the pack itself, you simply use your existing laptop charger. I’ve always preferred the APC battery packs over the “official” spare battery from laptop makers because I tend to change my laptop quite regularly, and by having a single battery that covers multiple brands, I don’t have to waste an investment in batteries every couple of months. The long cord on the battery means I can leave it in my bag and still have it hooked up to my laptop.

There is one annoying issue with the APC battery pack – APC stopped making them, and the only ones out there are the remaining inventory at local retailers. A good alternative would be a power pack from Tekkeon, who actually produce an external battery pack with more power than any of the APC units.

Price: From $70 (discontinued product)
From: www.apc.com

Proporta emergency battery pack

The Proporta emergency battery pack is a compact Lithium-Polymer power source that can be charged using your computer, an AC adapter or DC (car) charger. The battery pack houses a 2500mAh battery, which provides enough juice to fully recharge most gadgets at least two or three times.

The battery pack has a standard USB out plug for charging your device and a handy button for checking the remaining power.

Included with the charger is an assortment of power tips for most mobile phones and the iPod, as well as a retractable USB cord and an AC adapter. Since it has a regular USB port, you can also use any existing power cable with it.

Price: $56.95
From: www.proporta.com

Kensington ultra slim universal laptop adapter

As I mentioned in the description of the APC battery pack, I change my machine quite a bit, so this Kensington ultra slim universal laptop adapter is another wise investment – it comes with power tips for most brands of laptop computers. In addition to being able to charge/power my laptop off AC, it can also be plugged into the Empower power jacks on many airlines. The charger is smaller and lighter than most original laptop power supplies. One oversight with the product is that they did not include a DC (car) plug with the AIR cable, so I had to invest $10 to get one from a different vendor.

As an extra bonus, the charger features a USB charging power port on the side, plus it operates off 100-240V, making it perfect for taking abroad. Along with the slim charger, I also carry the Kensington travel plug adapter with USB so I can plug my stuff in when I am abroad.

Price: $140
From: www.Kensington.com

The total kit weighs just under 3 pounds, which is not too bad when you consider that it replaces every charger I used to carry, and that I can keep my laptop going for almost 8 hours (longer when I carry the 6 cell battery for my machine).

Every part of the kit fits inside 2 Tom Bihn packing organizers. The whole setup may seem quite extreme, but to someone who carries (too many) gadgets, it’s the perfect way to carry all that crap, and keep it all working. Total price for the kit is a bit over $300.

Do you have a favorite power product, or something you think is better than what I carry? Let me know in the comments!

This year in tech – what 2009 will bring for travelers

I’ve already looked back at the best gadgets 2008 had to offer, and in this list I’ll take a look at some of the travel technologies I expect to take off in 2009. Come back next year to either laugh in my face, or remark how amazingly clever I am.

Computer/data bundles on sale

Back in November of last year, Radio Shack started selling a bundle including an Acer Netbook computer, an integrated 3G modem and a 2 year AT&T data subscription. This combo would normally retail for about $430, but the inclusion of the 2 year subscription lowers the price to just $99.

This practice is not new, and bundles of hardware and mobile subscriptions have long been the norm in many European countries. What is new, is that these deals have finally made their way to the USA.

I predict more of these promotions in 2009, and for the deals to become much more widespread. Offering one laptop at just one store is hardly going to change the way we subscribe to mobile data services, but it is a great start.


4G wireless broadband data

Many people are just making their first steps with 3G mobile data, but some of the major players in the market are already hard at work on 4G.

4G wireless data promises even faster speeds than what we currently get from the 3G services on Verizon, Sprint and AT&T.

Building these new networks takes an astounding amount of money, but the largest and most ambitious network already has the support (and money) from companies like Intel, Google, Comcast and Sprint.

By the end of 2009, we should see 4G networks available in about 20 major US cities. The speeds offered by a 4G service like Clear (previously called Xohm) run off a technology called Wi-Max and should reach about 4-8Mbit/s, which is the equivalent of most residential DSL or cable connections. Unlimited service will run between $30 and $50 a month, making it a very viable alternative to slower 3G services.


A new iPhone (nano)?

In December of each year, things in the Apple rumor department start to get kind of wacky. That is mainly because January is when the years largest Apple exposition starts (Macworld). The notoriously tight lipped company apparently “leaks” all kinds of amazing stuff, 95% of which is all bogus, fake or downright stupid. One rumor that keeps popping up this year though, is a smaller iPhone.

This “iPhone Nano” has been leaked by several phone case manufacturers, and has all the die-hard Apple fans foaming at the mouth.

Whether we actually see a tiny iPhone remains to be seen, but it sure does sound like a fun little phone.


More Netbook computers

Netbook computers were the big hit in 2008, and 2009 promises to be even bigger for the little machines. We’ll probably see even lighter machines with more power, and lower prices.

As more and more manufacturers hop on the Netbook bandwagon, companies will start putting a lot more effort into innovation, and sooner or later we’ll finally get the perfect computer.

The first fairly basic Netbook computers launched for about $350, but prices have slowly been dropping, and at the moment that same price will get you a very well equipped machine with a 160GB drive and a powerful 6 cell battery.


Better battery technology

Current notebook computers have about 4000 times the processing power of the first portable computer, but just 2 times the battery life. Each year promises to be the biggest year ever in battery developments, but 2009 actually seems like it might come through for us.

Big players like HP have signed up for a new battery design by Boston Power, which promises battery charge times as low as 30 minutes for an 80% charge as well as higher capacities with the same weight as current cells.

What this means to you and I is that sooner or later we really might get a computer that can last an entire long haul flight on a single battery charge and can be recharged during a short stopover.


Paperless boarding documents

I wrote about the future at the airport last week, one of the items in that futuristic lineup is already here, and will probably become more popular in 2009.

Paperless boarding involves having your airline email you a bar code that can then be used to get through security and onto your flight.

Our very own Grant Martin tested it, and says it sort of works, assuming the airport staff know what they are doing.