Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Tech Column: Power Your Smartphone from Your Keychain

by Bill Adler

What is on your keychain? Keys? A good luck charm? About half a pound of store discount tags?

If a compact smartphone cable isn't on your keychain, it should be. With a keyring cable, you can charge your smartphone from just about anywhere. USB power is ubiquitous, if you know where to look: All you need is the cable to make it work.

For a recent 13-hour flight I took along a high-capacity lithium battery to keep my iPad going so that I wouldn't be stuck endlessly thumbing through the Skymall catalog. Little did I know that my seat came with a USB power port. Every seat did. Even way back in the 50th row in coach.

Hotel TVs often have USB power ports -- if you forget your charging adapter but have a cable, you're in business. New electrical outlets have USB ports, http://amzn.to/P9wjJ9 . In a pinch or if you're feeling social, you can walk into a coffeeshop and ask somebody who's using a laptop if you can borrow a spare USB port to recharge your phone. Laptops are everywhere.

I carry this iPhone keyring cable on my keychain: http://amzn.to/Ob2M22. It's small and does exactly what I want it to do -- it connects my iPhone's battery with a power source just about anywhere I am. Apple is going to be changing its pin connector size when the next iterations of the iPhone and iPad come out, so this particular USB keyring won't work with the next generation of iThings. But for $10 it's not a bad investment at all, until that happens, or if you don't plan to upgrade for a while.

Feeling MacGyverish? Then get the Mojo Tremble Keychain, which has a cable for iPhones, Androids and Blackberries. Plus a SIM card ejector and micro USB card reader. With this gizmo you can not only charge just about any smartphone you have (perhaps you carry three phones at the same time), but can charge your friends' and family's phones, too. It's $30, http://amzn.to/P55swn.

For smartphones that take a mini-USB connector there's the www.scosche.com/consumer-tech/product/2085. Like the other keyrings, it's so small and unobtrusive that you won't even notice it on your keyring.

When I'm out for extended periods of time that I'm sure will exceed my iPhone or iPad's battery life, such as a flight to Tokyo or waiting in line at the DMV, I carry a portable battery. But for everyday use, a USB cable is definitely more useful to have on your keyring than a rabbit's foot.


Bill Adler is the co-publisher of the Cleveland Park Listserv, www.cleveland-park.com. He is the author of "Boys and Their Toys: Understanding Men by Understanding Their Relationship with Gadgets," http://amzn.to/rspOft. He tweets at @billadler.

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