Monday 1 June 2009

Power Struggle II

All the talk of the mobile blogging antics of the TGOers inspired this post, particularly those who are having trouble keeping their phones, PDA’s and other tomfoolery charged up.

Last August I got a Nokia N82 to replace my old phone. I quickly found that like most owners, if you wanted to use all the toys as well as the phone, you need to be no more than a day away from a plug socket!

I initially purchased  very cheap emergency charger taking 1 AA cell but that turned out to be useless for anything other than a life or death emergency!

I did a bit more research and got wind of a range of products from a UK company called Power Traveller. In October I bought a Power Chimp for the Wasdale Trip. The concept is simply a unit holding re-chargeable AA batteries which you can charge from the mains, a USB cable or a car charger. At first this seemed fine, it would charge the phone but there just wasn’t enough in it to give a full charge to the power hungry N82! When I got back I replaced the 1800mah rechargeable batteries that come with the Power Chimp with some higher capacity 2200mah. This worked to the extent that the battery meter would show a full charge but this charge never lasted as long as a normal charge from the mains.

I contacted Power Traveller about my problem and they suggested the PowerMonkey (the older brother of the Chimp) would be more suitable for smart phones and the iPhone in general. I went away and did some reading but no other N82 owners seemed to be able to vouch for its compatibility and experience has taught me that the N82 is a bit fussy when it comes to charging voltage and current etc. I went with it anyway and despite 1 initial problem it charges the phone fully and the charge it delivers lasts as long as a normal mains charge. Even better  despite being as small the Powerchimp, will deliver nearly 3 full charges to the N82 before it needs re-juicing itself. This is far more suitable for multiday backpacks, making the odd call, checking GPS position and of course mobile blogging!

powermonkey_charger Primate POWER!!!!

The initial problem was that the PowerMonkey would not charge the N82 if the battery was completely flat. Given the capacity of the unit I was prepared to live with it by charging before flat - but contacted PT again to see if they had any solutions. They responded with a phone call to let me know they have an additional charging tip that eliminates the problem with specific Nokia phones. I’m not sure how a passive piece of metal can remove the problem and can only assume its some sort of placebo effect for phones – tricking the little bugger into charging! In any case it works and is now a very flexible way of keeping your phone juiced. With the Coast to Coast trip coming up in September, we are only planning on making 1 stop in civilisation so this should keep the mobile blog posts coming thick and fast – even if the phone signal doesn’t!


Alan Sloman said...

Thanks for that Dude! Really useful stuff! I shall now go and flash the cash for the Monkey!

Marcus said...

Hi Alan, Glad to hear it.

I forgot to mention that it weighs in at 70g, which is at least half the weight of 4 AAs and whatever they would be housed in. I think this is the way to go and just imagine how much juice it would give to less smart phones!


stourvalewalker said...

I think spare mobile batteries are the way to go.I've seen Nokia N82 batteries for £4.95

Lighthiker said...

Hi Alan,

as you are well aware this is a more complicated subject matter than it appears first sight. The PowerMonkey's main disadvantage is that it also comes with an inbuilt/non changeable battery. So in order to recharge your gadget(s) the monkey itself needs to be plugged into a power outlet (or other forms of recharging) from time to time in order to function again.
If a full battery plus 3 times recharging through the PowerMonkey satisfies your needs..fine, perfect solution. If you need more recharging sessions (or have more than one gadget to charge)..bad luck.

Alan Sloman said...

Thanks for that information, Roman.

For most of the walking that I do the Monkey shold be fine then - the Nokia E90 lasts me 3 - 4 days between charging so with the Monkey as well as back-up that should make it, say 10 days.

Not sure yet on my next big one - family issues to sort out first, (which could take a while) but even Amsterdam to Nice would be fine as there will be plenty of opportunity to charge both the phone and the Monkey on that sort of route.

If I do another LEJOG (quite likely too) then the same applies. I quite fancey the Continental Divide or PCT as well, though that might have to wait a few years if the GR or LEJOG get done first!

As always - it's the blogs that provide all the useful information on this stuff - so thanks Dude and Roman!

Marcus said...

I have considered the spare battery approach as my initial solution but moved away from that approach - looking for a simpler solution. I'd need to bring three spare batteries to match what the power monkey gives at the moment and I'd have no further means of re-charging unless I bring a battery charger and charge them one by one in the phone.

I wouldn't say that the PowerMonkey is the solution for everyone, but considering the type of backpacking I generally do or am considering I think this is one of the better options for the money. Re-charging the powermonkey is fairly flexible, though it does take longer to fully recharge it from empty than it would take Alan to get friendly few pints at the nearest pub on the trail!

I guess it all depends on how you intend on using the unit in the main.

Lighthiker said...

Hehe, forgot about Alan and the pubs... ;-)
But seriously you are right Marcus that with your requirenments the PowerMonkey represents a very good choice!
Like with all gear there is no "one size fits all" solution but it takes a lot of time (and money) arriving at this conclusion.

Marcus said...

I couldn't agree more. It's whatever suits really and until solar panels offer a viable solution we're all tethered to a plug socket somewhere along the line.

Having a power hungry smart phone doesn't help this reliance on charging facilities, but as they say: "you pays your money, you takes your chances". I hate that!

Nigel Gray said...

Hi Marcus, I too have a powermonkey for my iphone mainly, Strangely it has the same problem in that if the iphone is completely flat it wont charge it. I also have the matching solar panel which I used for the first time last weekend in Wales - it works to charge the powermonkey (albeit slowly) but doesn't provide enough juice to charge the iphone directly (though I have used it to charge my old Nokia). Overall a useful piece of kit considering the weight and flexibility...but not the cheapest.