Help! Smartphone options have outsmarted me.

I'll always love you. Just because you're getting a new brother or sister won't change that.

I’ll always love you. Just because you’re getting a new brother or sister won’t change that.

Recently I stopped into my local Verizon Wireless store. My current phone is one step up from a flip phone; it has a keyboard for texting but nothing else. The reason I don’t have a phone with 3G is that I sit in front of a computer for eight hours a day and don’t feel the need to spend money for more access.

However, once I begin my trek, I will be mostly out of touch, so I see the value in having one. It’ll be a great way to keep in touch with family/friends, publish blog posts, and look up information on trail towns I am in or approaching. Maybe I can even use it to get directions every now and then…not that I’m terrible with directions or anything. (Hey! Why are you laughing?)

Luckily, I have a previously used iPhone in my possession. Right now I just use it for wifi when I don’t feel like starting up my laptop. Verizon told me that it would be simple to activate a data plan on it (sign here on the dotted line. pass over your credit card), and I wouldn’t be bound by a 2-year commitment. I’ll just need to pay for a data plan for the period of time that I’m on my trek. My cheap cheap self can deal with that.

It's alive! The battery works!

It’s alive! The battery works!

The next step then was to figure out the battery situation. I ran a test to assess longevity (very scientific, I assure you. Double blind as a bat and everything). The first iteration I kept airplane mode OFF the entire time, during which I read emails, used my WordPress app, checked weather, and poked around a few websites. The battery lasted 2.5 days. The second iteration I used the phone lightly, keeping it in airplane mode about half the time. I took some photos, surfed the internet, used my WordPress app, checked the weather, etc. The charge lasted almost five days.

The second round of my experiment showed me that my iPhone could likely last for some of my shorter stretches in the woods, but I’d rather not cut it so close. As is, I’d hesitate to use the phone freely – for music, pictures, and the like – for fear that the battery would be dead when I really need it. Instead, I’ll concede that I need a backup battery supply.

Do you want the red pill or the blue pill? Oh wait, you didn't say Morpheus, did you?

Do you want the red pill or the blue pill? Oh wait, you didn’t say Morpheus, did you?

But, see, this is where I get stuck. The Verizon Wireless store has several options, and Amazon reveals myriad possibilities more. As far as I can tell, the brand Mophie is more or less endorsed by both Apple and Verizon; Mophie products are available in both stores. Mophie makes both external battery packs of various charge capacities as well as protective phone cases with built-in batteries. The former seem to weigh 4 ounces and up, and the latter options weigh 2.5 ounces each.

My friend April has a Mophie case and gives it a positive review, but – let’s be real – she’s not away from a power source for that many days at a time. So, once again, here I am: stuck. Should I go with Mophie or look at other brands? If I go with a Mophie, which product would best suit my needs?

Often now, I look at the calendar and bite my nails at the dwindling days until commencement of my trek. And yet I continue to push decisions down the road. Why? Well, well, well, um, I work better under pressure of a deadline. Yeah. That.

Ultimately, as that pressure builds and as I tiptoe toward the starting line, I’ll find myself grabbing a battery off the shelf. And it will be the right product…because it will be the one I have in my pack when I need it.

Meandering on,



28 thoughts on “Help! Smartphone options have outsmarted me.

  1. You got lucky having a Verizon phone, they seem to have the best coverage on most of the trail, although all will work at some point each day. The NewTrent line of external batteries seem to be well received over on BackpackingLight. The 6000mh ones can be had for about $30 and should recharge your phone at least 3 times. The weight is reasonable. Worth a look anyway. Pay attention to how fast whatever external battery you get will recharge. Sometimes you only get a short time at a restaurant to plug in. You might also consider a charger that will do both the phone and the spare battery at the same time for that very reason. (I.E. two USB ports) There are some that weigh less than an ounce and cost less that $10. Short, light weight cords are a bonus too. My two cents worth, but what do I know? I will be lugging an IPad Mini on the trail this year. Tim

    • Lucky nothing. Strategic! (Verizon snob over here.) Good to know there’ll generally be coverage at some point each day, although I do plan to keep my phone in airplane mode unless I need to use it.

      Wow, those New Trents ARE way cheaper (I found $40, not $30. Still cheaper). And I hadn’t thought of it, but if it recharges at least 3 times, I might be able to use my phone as an eReader too instead of the Kindle. Hm.

      Where would I be able to get a short, lightweight cord? Mine are so long and cumbersome. I would love a shorter one.

      Out of curiosity, why are you lugging an iPad Mini? Like, what functionality are you getting out of it that you’re going out of your way to bring it?

      • I’m bringing my iPhone for blog updates (will mostly blog in town) and shooting some video (maybe a few minutes each week). Honestly, I’m just turning it off for most of the trek. If I decide I need more power, I’ll go with the NewTrent battery.

      • Have you tested out the battery staying power with it completely off for that long? The reason I ask is that the IT guy at my office told me that turning on/off the iPhone uses a lot of juice, and it could be better to keep it on in airplane mode.

      • For short cords try Griffin Technology GC17097 or similar on Amazon, most of the time they go for less than $15 a set. (If this set fits your devices) The New Trent NT52D/NT is $33 at Amazon right now, about the same size as your phone and will carry a 300 percent charge for an IPhone ( 3 full charges). I misspoke earlier it is a 5200mh unit. It has a 6-7 hour recharge time, so more of a hostel or hotel rather than quick resturant battery. I have carried both AT&T and Verizon phones in the past on the AT and am much happier with the Verizon coverage. Why carry an Ipad mini? Old fat stiff fingers? Larger keyboard. Bad eyes? Bigger screen. I find it impossible to journal with frozen fingers in the evening and the Siri voice recognition works like a charm for dictation. With the cellular version I get a GPS chip and can load maps for offline use. 10 hour battery life. Works just like the kindle, has the same size screen, I can carry all those bird, bug, tree and flower guides with me. And the biggest reason? My first grandchild will be born in the middle of February and while I’m not going to give up the trail to be around to watch her grow those first few months, I don’t want to miss it either. FACETIME! Video phone calls to keep me in touch. The new mini lets you do that even over cellular, you don’t have to have a wifi connection. Tim

      • All good points. Thanks for the info on availability on Amazon.

        Mazel tov on the first grandchild. Can’t think of a better reason to bring an iPad Mini.

  2. Check out the StraightTalk Wireless at WalMart. There are smartphones to choose from and the unlimited talk, text, and web plan is only $45/mo with no sign-your-life-away contract. I used one for two years and had very few issues with it. It’s a bit slower during peak use times, but otherwise it was great.

    • That’s a good backup plan to keep in mind in case anything happens to the iPhone I have. Thanks. Luckily, since I’m already in position of a smartphone, I can activate a data plan with Verizon on a month-to-month basis. And, because I’m on a family plan, it’s only an extra $30 a month to do so.

  3. How about a solar charger? I have a Powerbee charger that works really well, it comes with loads of adaptors so it can be used on most phones. At under £25 it’s a bargain.
    Last year I went cycling around the English countryside for a few weeks, camping along the way. The majority of the time I had my phone switched off – let me tell you it’s a very liberating experience! Regardless, the battery ran out of juice by the end of the first week and the Powerbee revived it fully in a matter of hours. The next day I strapped it to my bag and let it charge up while I was trekking around. I’m planning on using the same technique on my next trip.

    • A solar charger sounds perfect for biking in the countryside. Unfortunately, I’ve heard that they don’t work well for hiking the A.T. (mostly in the woods). Thanks for the suggestion!

      And, FYI, yes, I love turning off my phone for extended stretches. Definitely liberating.

  4. I am not sure about the battery backup but if you are looking for a case look at the lifeproof case, i have had one for the last six months and it is excellent including waterproof,,,,,, and yes it did drop into a sink from my top pocket (I am a chef in case you are wondering why i had it in my pocket over a sink). they are expensive but you may be able to pick one up on ebay if you have an older phone. 🙂

  5. Pingback: Liebster, Dearest, Liebster « Deliberate Donkey

  6. fyi,iphone’s were very popular on the trail. you will need the data plan and wifi capabilities, especially when you can’t get a signal, like in Hot Springs. Many kept the phone off when not in use, and then turned on once or twice a day, say in A.M. and P.M. when they were planning on calling or texting. Otherwise, when on, kept in airplane mode. you will become keen on spying cell towers in the distance and checking for signal when you are on top of a mountain. Very rarely will be more than 3 -4 days from plugging in. Just get a case for it to protect it from rain and drops. You’ll be ok with pics too,,,,just don’t use it as your flashlight. oh, there is also a cool AT gps color map app that comes in handy. most people had poor outcome with their solar chargers.

      • I’m laughing my arse off…(she really means, that pain in the neck hiker gear know it all archie bunker). And, no, I’m no relation to Gladys Kravits (that’s the nickname for my next door neighbor), If you know who Mrs Kravits is without googling her, I’ll drive to Crawford Notch and buy you lunch when you get there (well, i’ll probably be there with trail magic anyway soooo, you’ll get lunch anyway.) And no, I really wasn’t that geeky kid in grade school with hand waving yelling teacher, teacher, I know the answer, pick me. .

      • 1. Of course I know who Gradys Kravitz is. I grew up in a time when Nick at Nite (on Nickelodeon) used to play shows from the 50s. Bewitched, I Love Lucy, Mary Tyler Moore Show…the list goes on. These days, I believe Nick at Nite plays shows from the ’90s, which makes me feel old.

        2. I love when people’s advice saves me money and lightens my load. I’m definitely on board with no battery backup.

        3. I totally was the nerdy kid wrenching her shoulder out of her socket excitedly trying to get the teacher’s attention.

        4. Mmm, what’s for lunch? I’m a huuuge fan of sweet potatoes…

  7. I agree with sit.a.bit. I had a good experience with my iphone our whole trek and never ran out of battery power. At first, I was very cautious about turning it on at all, but then I realized the long stretches the battery lasted. Rarely would I run into town heading straight for the plug, although I always needed to power up. To give you an idea of my usage, I always had it in airplane mode on the trail and would only turn it on every 3-4 days for 10 minutes or so, especially when I knew I had a good signal. I would type my blog entry on the “notes” section in airplane mode the night before we head into town (so it was on for a good stretch for that time). Then I would upload my blog/pictures in town when I had a good cell or wireless signal. Plus, I would make LOTS of phone calls.

    My two cents is there are more charging opportunities than you would think and honestly, for the few areas where there aren’t, you won’t die without using your phone.

    Hope that helps!

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