Inspect-a-Gadget: Single-Use Power Bank

By Sky Gidge, November 8, 2017

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Inspect-a-Gadget is a monthly segment where we feature a tech toy our editors have been playing with.

You’ve been there: the end of a night out, phone battery at 1 percent, Uber on the way – and just before you check the plate number, your phone dies. Now you’ll spend the tail of your Friday looking for a friendly convenience store, begging them to let you charge up, please, just a little.

Enter the single-use power bank – also dubbed the ‘emergency’ power bank – a palm-sized gadget small enough to forget that it’s in your pocket and packing a double-digit charge for modern smartphones.  

The design is simple: flip a switch to make the charger live, plug your phone in and wait. But the simplicity also means copycat companies have begun churning them out in scale. An Alibaba search has more than 3,000 results, leading to howls from environmentalists, who are worried cheap, single-use batteries will flood landfills.


But even if you don’t buy into the charge’n’toss nature of the product, with a shelf life of years, it’s a good idea to store a few with emergency supplies.

Versions sold range from the cardboard-cased (claiming to be more environmentally friendly) to those kept in condom-esque wrappers, which result in a fair few sideways glances in public.

Just make sure you get the right type for your phone – Apple or microUSB – though some now sport ‘universal’ adapters.

In the end, these aren’t a replacement for their larger, reusable cousins – especially considering the prices aren’t much lower than the cheapest power banks. But in a pinch? It can be the difference between getting to bed at a reasonable hour and a long walk home.

For who: the prepared
How much:
Sold where:, some stores

Click here for more Inspect-a-Gadget.

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