The New Anker 65W Portable Charger

I am so in the bag for Anker. I’ve been buying their stuff for years, and they’ve always been reliable. In the MacSparky Labs meetup last week, I was asked a question about portable batteries for the new M2 MacBook Air. It got me thinking. Years ago, I had a portable laptop battery that was roughly the size and weight of a paving stone. What’s available now?

So I ordered the newly released Anker 733 65W Charger/Battery. It arrived just in time as I was leaving town, and I’m really digging it. This is a hybrid charger, meaning you can plug it into the wall and use it to charge your devices, but also unplug it and use it as a battery. It delivers 65W, which is plenty for a MacBook Air, and it gives me both a way to charge with power and from a battery in one package.

The battery is 10,000 mAh, which is sizeable, but certainly not the largest battery on the market. It’s already been used to charge my MacBook Air, my iPhone, and my power-hungry beta-software-running Apple Watch. It has two USB-C ports and one USB-A port. On this trip, it’s all I need to keep the MacBook, iPad, and Apple Watch charged. (I keep the iPhone next to the bed.)

At $100, it’s not the least expensive option but certainly feels like one of the most flexible options. I’ll be using this as my primary bag charger/battery for years. If you’re looking for a flexible charging solution, this is the one.

Checking in on the MagSafe Battery

I’ve been using my MagSafe battery now for over six months and I thought it would be a good time to check in.

In short, I love this thing.

It’s crazy that they only come in white and it’s crazy that Apple charges $100 for it, but the MagSafe battery is my favorite extra-juice-for-your-iphone-thingamajig ever. Whether I’m traveling, or theme-parking, on days where I intend to use the phone a lot, the MagSafe battery has enough juice to get me over the top. I don’t need to futz with a cable and the battery nearly disappears in my pocket. (Especially on cargo-pants days.) When travelling, I also love that I can plug it in while attached to my iPhone and charge them both simultaneously with one cable.

The battery does exactly what is expected of it with very little weight and no need to carry an extra cable. My wife and I pass it between each other, depending on who has a long day planned.

My only complaint is the cost. Despite all of this great stuff, $100 feels like too much. I don’t know anything about Apple’s costs or margins on this battery, but if they were selling it down in the $50-$70 range, I think they’d sell a lot more of them.

The Apple MagSafe Battery Pack

A few weeks ago, Apple released the MagSafe Battery Pack. The device itself is a small bit of matte rubber covering a 1,460mAh battery that transfers at 5W and the MagSafe-aligned magnets for it to snap on the back of your iPhone.

I bought one thinking I’d try it out, remaining mindful of the two-week return calendar. I ended up keeping it and thought I’d report a few findings here.

The Short Version of this Review

The MagSafe Battery Pack is overpriced but super convenient.

The Killer Feature: Convenience

The only reason to buy the MagSafe Battery Pack is convenience. It is smaller than nearly all battery packs you can buy, and it easily fits in your pocket. It’s also convenient because it uses MagSafe to charge, so you don’t have to fiddle with a cable. My primary use case for this battery is day trips to Disneyland.

If you haven’t been to Disneyland lately, the entire experience now runs off an app. In addition to using the app for your admission ticket, you also use it to make ride reservations, order food, interact with the park, and just about everything else. That’s in addition to the inevitable picture-taking, media-sharing, and messaging that comes with visiting Disneyland. So the park puts more drain on your battery now than it ever has in the past.

Historically, I’d plug my phone into a charger while I sat and ate, or (in a jam) do that thing where you’ve got the battery in one pocket or in your backpack and snaking a cable to the phone somewhere on your person, which in addition to making you look like a dork, is also a pain in the neck when the cable gets snagged while you are moving around.

So I bought the battery for convenience. I want to snap it on my phone around 2 pm and then snap it off a few hours later, knowing I’ll have sufficient charge to continue using my phone throughout the day. The MagSafe Battery Pack does that. I’ve now taken a few trips to Disneyland, and the MagSafe Battery Pack was easy to carry, juice up my phone, and then get out of the way. I no longer need to remember to charge while I eat or deal with the random cable issue.

Also in the convenience category is how it works with the iPhone OS to display the battery and phone charge levels. Third-party batteries will never get hooks into the operating system. Apple batteries will.

The Downside

If the above-listed conveniences aren’t blowing your hair back, you should not buy a MagSafe Battery Pack. There are alternative battery packs on the market (even MagSafe ones!) that are cheaper and have more capacity. Indeed, I’m not aware of any other battery on the market that gives you so little bang for so much buck.

It’s really simple here. Either you are willing to pay for the conveniences of the MagSafe Battery Pack, or you are not. Neither decision is wrong. Imagine if, instead, we were talking about refrigerators. You can spend anywhere between $300 and $10,000 on a new refrigerator, all of which are perfectly capable of keeping your food cold. It comes down to what features you want. When buying a new refrigerator, I avoid the more expensive conveniences. However, when it comes to my iPhone, I’m willing to pay. That’s why I’m keeping the MagSafe Battery Pack. Also, I try not to think of the fact that for the cost of three of these batteries, I could get a new refrigerator.

The New Apple iPhone Battery Cases

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Today Apple released battery cases (in black or white) for the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR.

It has been a long time since I used a battery case on my iPhone. (I am pretty sure my last battery case fig my iPhone 3GS.) The reason I gave up on them is that when you get a new phone, the battery case is of no further use to you.

Nevertheless, I ordered one of these. I’ve got a lot of travel over the next six months, and it sure would be nice to carry an extra charge when I am out of town. With the iPhone XS Max model, this new battery gives you talk time up to 37 hours, Internet use up to 20 hours and video playback of up to 25 hours. The other way I justified it is that when I ultimately hand this phone down to someone in my family, they will inevitably be less interested in charging their phone than I am. This battery will serve them well.

A nice feature of this battery is that it is Qi-certified. That way I can set it on my Qi charger and charge the battery while it is in the case. Ultimately, I expect this will be the battery I use for trips to Disneyland and trips out of town, but not my everyday case. If you are wondering, after way too much consideration, I bought the black one. I think a MacSparky sticker will look nice on the back.