Maximising your touring experience: finding the right battery life solution
We believe that our app offers the ultimate touring experience by combining the old with the new. We are, however, aware that it is ultimately limited by the capabilities of contemporary hardware; specifically, battery life. The typical smartphone battery will last around 4-5 hours with continuous GPS use, which is generally enough for our walking tours, though you could be cutting it fine. Whilst technology is improving quickly all the time and new, better smartphones are released year after year, it may be the case that a bit of battery life management is required over the course of a walk.
This can be done in a number of ways through the phone software itself: you can lower your screen brightness, for example, or maybe close background apps you aren’t using. There might even be a ‘battery saving’ mode available on your phone. However, there are other ways to maximise battery life – inexpensive portable charging equipment, for example, of which there are a number of types. The general principle is that they remain a mobile, unused battery source that a phone low on power can draw charge from if necessary. They can therefore at least double your phone’s battery life, and offer a perfect, easy solution to the issue of ‘power-range’.
There are a few important things to look out for when choosing a portable charging solution. Firstly, you want to be sure that a portable charger has the same power capacity as your phone, if not more. The reason for this is that you ideally should be able to get an extra ‘full charge’ out of your charger. This can be calculated by looking at your phone’s battery capacity, measured in something called milliamperes (mAh). The iPhone 4, for example, is still a popular smartphone, and has a 1420 mAh battery – so you would ideally be looking for a 1420 mAh minimum portable battery or charger. You can usually find this information through a quick online search for the technical specifications of your smartphone.
You might also want to consider as a general (but not universal) rule of thumb that the larger the battery life is in terms of milliamperes, the physically heavier the charger is likely to be. This could be inconvenient or uncomfortable to carry on a walking tour. However, it’s unlikely that you will need more than an extra full charge on a tour, so an extra-powerful battery may not be necessary.
There are a few different types of portable charger. The most popular of these is the ‘power bank’. Simply put, a power bank is like an external battery that (usually) any USB device can be plugged into to recharge. They usually require a long mains-powered charge of their own at home, but once this is done, they can often charge multiple devices over a long period of time without there being a need to plug anything into a mains socket. Some higher-end brands include solar panels, so the power bank can charge on the go as well. Power banks are typically only slightly bigger than a smartphone, but the more powerful brands obviously lose out on portability.
Having said that, the vast majority of power banks are pocket-friendly, and offer an excellent solution to the problem of power-range. Because they are usually USB-based rather than device-specific, their lifespan will often extend beyond that of your smartphone, meaning you can keep using your power bank even after you upgrade. For a comparison of popular power banks right now, PC Advisor offer a reliable and up-to-date list. A particularly popular power bank, and one we recommend, is the Anker Astro, available on Amazon for £19.99. However, it’s your choice to select which product best suits your needs.
Battery cases solutions
If you don’t like the idea of a standalone power bank, some companies, such as Mophie, offer ‘battery cases’. These are ultra-portable cases that fit right to your phone, with a battery adapted specifically to your phone’s charging socket. These, however, can often be more expensive than power banks, and unlike power banks will only be useful for as long as the phone you bought it for is in use. However, they offer a good solution to those who are particularly concerned about portability.
There are a wide range of portable battery solutions available out there, and we hope this guide has shed light on these. As newer and better phones are released every day, it’s unlikely that everyone will need an external charging solution. But taking the steps to maximise your phone’s battery life in the ways we’ve shared above will give you the peace of mind to enjoy our tours.
(Photo by Raul Gonzalo)