Many more products coming out are now incorporating a battery feature. Some new speakers can now charge gadgets, and some external battery packs have other features too. It seems like companies are mixing and matching to see what works and is popular.
But what about a smartphone battery charger that also doubles as an external battery pack? The combination is pretty powerful-sounding, considering the fastest way to get your smartphone from zero to full is to swap in a fresh battery. Ibattz has such a device, which works for Samsung Galaxy S3 and S4 smartphones. Since my wife owns the S3, I figured to give the Ibattz Mojo I9300 Powerbank a spin.
There really isn’t much to the Ibattz Mojo I9300 Powerbank. The package comes with the Ibattz battery, the USB cable, and the charger itself. That’s it! The ports aren’t labeled, but anyone should be able to figure out which cable end to plug in where for charging. This powerbank doesn’t include a wall adapter, so you’re expected to provide your own or just tap into some other USB port.
The exterior is a smooth, matte black. It’s easy to hold in the hand, and resists fingerprints, which is always nice.
The charger features a hinged lid that snaps shut to keep the battery secure and in place. The battery is easy to put in and take out, unlike the battery charger for my Galaxy Note 2. That thing requires a bit of leverage.
No on/off switch or buttons are necessary, but the Ibattz Mojo I9300 Powerbank does have a single LED to indicate charging. When recharging the battery, the LED glows red. Once full, it turns blue. Or at least it’s supposed to. It can glow red for hours on end. Sometimes I’ve had to open or jostle the lid, which, for some reason, makes it indicate correctly.
The device automatically detects when and how it’s plugged in, thereby charging in a smart way. That part is good, albeit simple. So overall, the Ibattz Mojo I9300 Powerbank is slim, light, and sturdy. What’s not to like, right?
When it came to testing performance, that’s when some red flags started to pop up. At first, they were curiosities, which soon devolved into definite issues.
The first thing I noticed about using the Ibattz Mojo I9300 Powerbank is how long it took to fully charge. Long. I popped it open and took a look at the listed values. The input is only 0.5A max. Serious? Yup. That’s no better than your worst laptop USB port for charging something up. Sure, the battery itself is only 2200mAh, but would it have killed to bump it up to the 5V/1A minimum? Strike one.
At least the output value is listed at 5V/1A, but the charge cycles started to tell a different story. The Ibattz Mojo I9300 Powerbank was taking forever to charge up my HTC EVO 4G. Slow slow slow. I referenced the Battery Monitor Widget app on the EVO 4G at various points in charging cycles. At best, the Ibattz Mojo I9300 Powerbank peaked at 0.3A and 0.67W. It never got any closer to one full watt, from there.
Without thinking, I pulled out one of my best, fast charge cables and replaced the Ibattz one. With that, the results improved to a peak 0.8A and 2.7W output. It was better, but I have other external battery packs and wall adapters that can deliver a consistent 4.8W off a 5V/1A output. So what this means is that the included cable with the I9300 Powerbank is a lemon (or junk, for all us cynics). Strike two. The charger unit is only marginally better, too (included with strike one).
But so what? Who cares? I’m not in a rush, and I don’t mind leaving a minor gadget to charge up on the table. But since we are dealing with a battery, it’s worth to evaluate the efficiency.
Note: Most external battery packs I’ve ever purchased and used came only partially charged, so I’ve always made it a habit to fully charge them before use. I tend to fully charge and discharge a new battery a few times, just so I can level out the charge states of the individual cells. It helps to maximize the battery’s manufacturer-listed potential.
The standard efficiency rating of external battery packs currently on the market is 70 percent. This means that 30 percent of the battery’s listed capacity is consumed while charging up devices. So, for example, a standard 1000mAh battery would effectively deliver 700mAh of energy.
The out of box efficiency rating for the Ibattz Mojo I9300 Powerbank was dismal, though it improved with each cycle. Then it hit the ceiling at 60.6 percent efficiency, delivering 1334mAh of energy to my HTC EVO 4G’s 1450mAh battery. Continued cycles had that efficiency hovering right at the 60 mark. But it wasn’t because it was done and shut off. The smartphone battery was full, and I needed to drain it before continuing. I unplugged the Powerbank myself for the next round.
On a hunch, I tried a different series of tests. Confident the Ibattz Mojo I9300 Powerbank was fully charged, I unplugged the cable from the wall adapter, but left the other end (Micro USB) connected to the Powerbank. Then I let it sit undisturbed for 12 hours. Then I popped the Ibattz battery out of the Powerbank and into a Samsung Galaxy S3 to check the level. What should have been 100 percent was actually 45 percent. Multiple tests showed extreme consistency.
I tried the same thing again, but with the cable plugged in the Powerbank’s other port (standard USB). Same thing, 12 hours, Galaxy S3. This time the battery levels were right at the 66 percent mark. Better. I guess. Clearly, the charger unit has issues (a lemon, or junk, take your pick).
Just to be completely certain, I tested the Ibattz battery alone, without case or cable. Again, 12 hours, Galaxy S3. The result? 86 percent. No wonder the efficiency rate is terrible. The battery itself can’t hold a charge. Strike three.
The strange thing – the real oddity – is that this energy loss doesn’t happen when the Ibattz battery is in and being used by the Galaxy S3. Inside the smartphone, it acts like a stock battery.
I love the concept of the Ibattz Mojo I9300 Powerbank. To have a battery charger in slim form that can also charge other devices? Fantastic. However, the execution is an utter fail. Chalk it up to whatever you wish – entropy, lemon, junk. There isn’t any another way to put it. It’s difficult, because every piece within the package has its own problem.
Does this mean to stay away from Ibattz as a brand? Hardly. Their Mojo Refuel Aqua case for the iPhone 5, while a little rough around the edges, delivers as promised. Want your iPhone 5 pool-ready with extra juice? Go with the Refuel Aqua.
Ibattz, your heart is in the right place, but the Mojo I9300 Powerbank is a miss. Now, if there were a second-generation unit in the making, one that could charge a variety of popular smartphone batteries (with better rates), while also doubling as an external battery pack (also with better rates), that would be some serious redemption.