Powering your devices while on the go — Morphie Powerstation review

Earlier this year, I attended SXSWi (South by SouthWest interactive) and immersed myself in social media, gamification, and technology. Oh yeah, there was the odd party or two 😉

Being that this was my first time in Austin, I relied heavily on my technology to keep me on schedule and help me navigate this unfamiliar city. Using 4G was a treat, the best I get back home in Edmonton is 3G. But boy, does navigation really suck up the bandwidth. And power!

Yet, in order to be effective at that crazy SXSWi you have to be at all the events all over the convention core. And the tech is on *all the time*.

Which meant that while I was mobile, I was using up my iPhone’s battery faster than I normally do.

Luckily for me, I’d taken the excellent advice of Liz Strauss and picked up a Morphie Juice box — basically just a very smart, fast charging battery box that’s pretty much the same size and shape as an iPhone 4.

And it works, as advertised. Kept me mobile and my devices in use — I wasn’t tethered to a wall outlet for significant periods of time — as many other seemed to be.

Initially charging the 400mAh battery pack took around four hours, using my iPhone charger adapter and an included mini-USB cord. The Powerstation doesn’t come with it’s own wall adapter; use your own.

Then, it’s basically pack and forget it, until you need to juice up your iOS device (yep, it’ll power an iPad too, but it won’t give you a full charge).

I didn’t test it on other devices, but anything with a USB charging system could likely be powered. PCMag.com offers the following detail on that:

With its 4000mAh battery, the Powerstation helped a Droid RAZR get 5 hours, 13 minutes more of solid LTE streaming, and let an iPad 1 watch video for 4 hours, 16 minutes more than before.

Overall I like it. Small, does what it advertises, and (as long as I remember to charge it) is ready to power and charge my iOS devices when I’m out and about, and running low. A good $70 investment.

Disaster Tech

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Like many of you, I’ve been watching the events in Japan continue to unfold, and perhaps thinking to myself, “I’m glad something that devastating didn’t happen here”.

But what if it did, would you be prepared? I like to think that I am, but sadly, I’m probably not.

Yes, I have a first aid kit, and I’ve got some camping supplies, but it’s not organized nor is it handy. And it’s likely not enough, which is why the Canadian Red Cross created these handy plans.

Getting Prepared
The Canadian Red Cross has this excellent resource for building and maintaining an Emergency Preparedness Kit listing what you need to survive for 72 hours or more.

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Ok, step one is taken care of…or is it.
In my case, I’ve got pets so I need to extend my kit and plans a bit with this Emergency Pet Plan & Kit

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Now I’m set, except for some of the tech. Usually tech is the last thing you want in your kit; it requires power, isn’t easy to fix when it breaks, and doesn’t fare well when wet. Yet there are some exceptions.

Gearing up
These plans and kits all call for a battery or hand-crank flashlight and radio. And I’ve found one that suits my needs perfectly.

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The Etón FR160 self-powered safety radio uses hand crank or solar power to re-charge the internal nickel metal-hydride battery and features AM/FM radio and Environmental Canada weather band channels to provide emergency weather information/public alerts. In addition, the FR160 has an integrated LED flashlight, 3.5 mm headphone output and a USB port for charging cell phones.

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The unit is small, lightweight, and won’t take up valuable space in any emergency kit.

Of course, I tried it out, and yes, it does work well. Radio reception was fine, and the crank, while a bit noisy, did charge well.

And as a bonus, Etón Corporation contributes a portion of every Canadian Red Cross branded unit sold to support the mission of the Canadian Red Cross.

If you’re looking for more information on the FR160, you can check out the manual here (pdf).

And yes, this will find a home in my soon-to-be-complete emergency kit.

But I’m sure you’ve got some tech-thoughts on additions to my kit — what tech would you pack in your kit?

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Battery life of a Microbe

My wife uses an expression to describe battery-powered technology that runs out of juice before it ‘should’ — Battery Life of a Flea, is how she describes it.

Well, if you thought you had problems with iPhone or iPod Touch battery life before, the new iOS4 update will not make you happy.

According to many anecdotal reports in this article, after applying the update, iPhone/Pod users began noticing drastically reduced battery life on their devices:

Perusing the Apple tech support forums, it seems that many users are concerned about the impact iOS4 has had on the battery life of devices that apparently worked just fine prior to upgrading the OS. It isn’t clear, though, whether multitasking is at fault, or if the battery drain is a result of certain, poorly-written apps gobbling up power.

The thread begins with this user post “I just downloaded iOS4 on my 3GS. And…wow, has my battery life shrunk over the past two hours. I’ll admit I haven’t had the OS for that long so I don’t know how much it’s the actual factor, but I’ve been trying new features and whatnot (minus multitasking much) and it’s just sucking away at my battery.”

Our experience is similar; the device now needs daily charging,  and the only way to extend battery life is to kick it into ‘Airplane’ mode.

As the article also points out, Apple seems to be aware of the issue, though they’re recommending a full reinstallation of the OS, though that seems to get varied results.

And there doesn’t seem to be a way to ‘revert’ your OS back to the previous version. I’m sure the Jailbreakers will have something on this shortly 🙂

Disappointing update, Apple. No wallpaper or multi-tasking  for my 2G iPod Touch — and now a battery that dies quite quickly.

Oh, if you want to read another perspective on the iOS4 / iPhone 4  update, check out this list of 8 Downfalls Of The New iPhone 4.