2.4A Stories November 9, 2015

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For whatever reason, accessory companies commonly send out review samples of solar-powered Apple accessories late in the year — rarely if ever in July, when the sun is at its peak pretty much everywhere in the United States. So even though I’m a fan of solar power, my ability to make the most of these accessories is naturally limited by the modest sunshine available for testing. The wisest solar-powered accessories I’ve tested hedge their bets by storing energy in batteries that can be used (and wall-recharged) even when the sun’s not out. Others become worthless when the sun goes away.

Anker’s 21W PowerPort Solar Charger ($55) and RAVPower’s 15W Solar Charger ($50) are portable solar panels connected to USB ports. They’re extremely similar to one another, each hiding two USB ports in a pocket to the right of three solar panels. Unlike Solartab (reviewed here), neither has a built-in battery, so you can only use them when the sun’s out — and optimally, directly overhead. One strikes me as a slightly better pick than the other, but unless you live in a frequently sunny climate and have hours to spare under the sun, or plan to travel somewhere with sunshine and no wall outlets, there are better-priced and more practical ways to keep your devices fueled up…

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2.4A Stories May 19, 2015

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While two dozen battery cases have been released for the iPhone 6, only a handful have become available for the larger iPhone 6 Plus, which can run longer without assistance. But there are definitely situations where even the iPhone 6 Plus can benefit from extra battery life, including international travel and occasional emergencies. And that’s why Tylt has released the Energi Sliding Power Case for iPhone 6 Plus ($100). It’s a true rarity due to its Made for iPhone certification, some unique features, and much better performance for the same price as Mophie’s Juice Pack for iPhone 6 Plus.

In what may well be a first for iPhone battery cases, Energi is actually being offered in two different widths, one billed as “2.9-inch” and the other as “3.3-inch.” They’re both sold for the same $100 price, but the 2.9-inch version has a 3,200mAh battery and the 3.3-inch model has a 3,500mAh battery. Another surprise: the model I tested with the 3,500mAh battery unusually boasts 2.1-Amp power output, which means the iPhone 6 Plus will recharge at its top possible speed. There’s more, too…

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Ecobee HomeKit Thermostat

2.4A Stories December 22, 2014

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The secret to understanding USB battery pricing is that you tend to get what you pay for: cheap batteries lose their charges faster and can bulge and leak over time. Other companies specialize in selling atypically nice batteries that last longer and work better. Just Mobile is a leader in quality batteries: for the past six years, its Gum series (shown below) has spanned every Apple device type, size, and speed, but it has never built a Lightning cable into a battery before. That changes with the January release of TopGum ($80), which advances the company’s prior state-of-the-art Gum++ model in two ways: an authentic Lightning cable’s integrated into the battery’s left edge, and a matching magnetic battery charging dock is included.

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Of course, these features – and a choice of gold or gray metal exteriors – come at a premium over typical all-plastic batteries, so if you don’t need the cable or dock, you’ll be equally well-served with the company’s earlier batteries. Read on for the full story.

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