Your phone is rarely the size it is advertised anymore. With a view to extending uptime on the latest power-hungry smart devices, companies are releasing battery packs, cases, extenders and whatever else they can think of to eke a few more cycles from that tired cell. While some OEMs release devices with replaceable batteries, eager to sell you a spare, third-party accessory makers are going the universal route, opting for products with multi-device support.
PowerSkin is a relatively new name in the battery game, taking on stalwarts like Mophie, myCharge and others in this saturated market. We looked at the company’s iPhone 4S battery case (and will be looking at its updated version for the iPhone 5 shortly) last year, but its Pop’N line is a relatively unique take on the whole idea. Aside from having a terrible name, can this suction-based tool save you from a dead battery emergency?
The Pop’N is made of two parts: a battery pack that on one side is smooth and white, with a small button and four LEDs that denote charge level; and a small dongle that connects to the microUSB port on the battery pack’s bottom portion. This dongle is interchangeable, and PowerSkin offers three end connectors: a Lightning adapter for iPhone 5; a microUSB “A” adapter with a forward-facing orientation (for devices like the Nexus 4, Galaxy S III and Lumia 920); and a microUSB “B” adapter with a rear-facing orientation for a small number of Android devices from HTC.
It’s an interesting way of creating a modular charging system: you get one in the box and can purchase another for $10 from PowerSkin directly. The battery pack itself contains a 2000mAh cell and, once plugged in, the pack should charge your device to between 50 and 100% of its capacity depending on the product. Its 1A output ensures fast charging on most smartphones, too.
The main issue with the Pop’N is not its idea, but its implementation. The 24 small suction cups adhere nicely to some devices — I found it held onto the glass back of the Nexus 4 quite well — but the glossy plastic of the Galaxy Note II just didn’t want to take. I constantly had to reapply the suction to avoid the battery pack hanging off the Note II’s rear like a drunk person.
The important question here is, Does it really matter whether the Pop’N stays on like a case? It’s not really meant to be a battery case, but merely an external charger that has the added benefit of staying close to its subject. To that end the Pop’N works remarkably well, especially since it is so versatile.
The main disadvantage to a product like this, however, is that it will only work (properly) with bottom-charging devices. Many modern products, like all of Sony’s smartphone line as well as the BlackBerry Z10, have microUSB charging ports on the side. While it is possible to orient the Pop’N to charge them, it’s not going to look pretty, nor is it usable when holding the device. In its natural orientation, I was able to use the Nexus 4, iPhone 5 or Note II with few issues.
PowerSkin Pop’N starts at $79.99, which is identical to Mophie’s 1500mAh Juice Pack Helium case and in line with many products from myCharge and others. It skews to the expensive side, but it’s far more versatile than the average battery pack.