You Need a Better Battery

As we did last year, Joy has asked us to recommend some gifts for our readers. My recommendation is simple: a battery.

But not just any battery. I’m not talking about adding to your cardboard box full of AAs, AAAs, and weird watch batteries.

Instead, what you and everyone on your gift list needs is a portable battery for charging your many devices. There are plenty of good options out there, but anything under 30 bucks with at least 20,000mAh (the standard measure for battery life) is what you want. Here’s a good one on Amazon right now which should be $25 after a coupon and gives you 36,800mAh of charging power.

How much battery life is that? An iPhone has around 3,000mAh of power. You can charge an iPhone over 10 times with this thing! That may sound like overkill, but if you are charging multiple devices on a long trip, this battery is worth its weight in gold (it weighs about 13.4 ounces, which would be about $24,000 worth of gold — maybe I’m exaggerating a little).

For better or worse, our devices are how we communicate, navigate, and entertain ourselves on a daily basis. Especially on long trips. You don’t want your phone to die when you land at a strange, new airport. You also don’t want your friend’s phone to die: more than once, I have been the “battery hero” by loaning my portable battery to a friend at a conference.

A related gift idea: if you are buying a new smartphone this holiday season, I strongly encourage you to buy one with a really good battery. My favorite is the Moto G Power. For under $200, this phone gives you a 5,000mAh battery. That’s enough battery power to last you an entire weekend trip with normal use. And it’s a really nice phone, with a great camera and 64 GBs of memory. Compare that with an iPhone 13 Pro, which will run you at least $1,000, but only has a 3,000mAh battery (if you must buy an iPhone, spend the extra $100 for the Pro Max, which gets you a 4,300mAh battery — still not as good as the Moto G Power, but pretty good!).

Better batteries are nice to have in your pocket or your travel bag. But batteries are also important for the adoption of various new green technologies. A smart grid with dynamic pricing? Works much better if you have cheap, effective batteries (remember the Texas winter storm outages? They need better batteries). Electric cars? Right now it’s hard to go on a long road trip without carefully planning your charging station stops. Better charging infrastructure could improve this, but you still have to wait for a charge. Better batteries, on the other hand, make electric cars more of a reality.

And batteries have been getting better and cheaper. In just a decade, lithium ion batteries got 4 times cheaper and 2 times denser (meaning that now those 36,000mAh portable batteries are about the size of your cellphone). Just like Moore’s Law for computing power, there does not seem to be any reason that battery capacity and cost will not continue to increase.

So all hail the battery! Making your device-connected life easier, and maybe even saving the planet (though let’s always be sure to include the environmental footprint of producing batters in our social cost-benefit analysis).

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