Stick Em Up
It has been quite some time since my last post and there are quite a few purchases during this time period that I would like to review, but it seems the Internet would be best served with reviews of fringe products that would otherwise be not covered anywhere else. The subject of this review fits the definition perfectly to the extent that it doesn’t even have a brand name. I mean, just take a look at the box, it is as inconspicuous as it can get.
I wouldn’t have purchased this but for the fact that I switched to the iPhone 12 Mini from the SE just a couple of months earlier and sincerely, apart from the better screen, battery, camera; a part of me wanted to try out the MagSafe accessories. However, this didn’t end up becoming my first MagSafe accesory as that one would be the official Apple case that you can see the phone adorning in the top image, but it is certainly my favourite.
Enough of rambling then and down to the review. The first question, of course, is whether it works. To that end, I am glad to say that it does, as well as can be expected from a non-certified Apple accessory. There is of course some element of risk involved in purchasing an unbranded item, but this one comes directly from Shenzhen and is probably one of the OEM products that gets rebranded later. Do I expect all the components to be top-notch? Definitely not, but as long as it does the job…without exploding.
One of the bigger challenges was finding a MagSafe battery pack that fits the 12 mini without obscuring the camera lens since a lot of them are aimed at the regular 12 and are thus far too tall to be used with the mini. Thankfully, at least the dimensions posted for this product were accurate and it was a snug fit. The magnet is quite strong and cannot be shaken off whereas the size leaves just enough space at the bottom of the device to grip it comfortably. The width of the device too is around 10mm which makes it a match for the phone’s width but more importantly since the positioning of the battery pack is at the centre, it also ensures a good weight distribution, unlike some of the lightning port battery packs that add to the length of the device and make it uncomfortable to hold.
It also tips the scale at 96g which is substantial enough to not be ignored, but at the same time not heavy enough to test your muscles. Also, in terms of usability, the battery pack does get warm but not hot enough to scald you in any way. Overall, it won’t burn your pocket, literally.
Coming down now to the business end of the review wherein lies all the power (pun intended). The battery pack is rated at 19Wh and 5000mAh which seems…better than Apple. In a way, it is but the numbers are definitely misleading since the efficiency of the cell is lower. Irrespective of it not being comparable to a 5000mAh power bank, it does support all the charging speeds that you would expect of a USB-PD device with wireless charging extending from 5W to 15W and wired charging going up to 20W.
For practical usage, I tested the product in different configurations and also compared it to a normal Samsung PD charger for reference. The results for the same charging range of 40% to 50% were as follows:
Wireless (unplugged with case): 11m 30s
Wireless (unplugged without case): 10m 30s
Wireless (plugged with case): 9m
Wired (using USB-C cable): 5m 30s
While I don’t have the equipment, to measure the actual charging wattage, I did use a USB-A measurement tool to monitor the Samsung charger output when charging wirelessly while plugged in and the battery pack drew in around 6W of power.
Apple’s own solution charges the phone at 5W when unplugged and at 15W when plugged in, assuming the use of a 20W charger. Considering I used a 15W charger and that the battery pack lost charge with a 6W input, it can be assumed that the battery pack charges the phone at more than 5W when plugged in. For reference, I also connected the phone directly to the Samsung charger using a lightning cable and found that the phone actually took far longer, about 15 minutes to charge from 40% to 50%, with the power draw only at 4.5W. Thus, wireless unplugged charging can be said to be more than 5W. The wireless plugged charging was more than 20% faster and thus seems to be operating in the 7.5W mode with some loss.
As a wired power bank though, this thing is much faster than even the Samsung charger, with the charging being twice as fast as wireless, indicating that the power output is definitely more than 10W on average in this mode. Thus, when in a pinch, it makes sense to use this as a portable USB-C power bank rather than a MagSafe one for fsat charging. The USB-C port is also a great feature to have as it makes it possible to carry a single USB-C cable for all devices and effectively use this as a MagSafe charging puck.
In terms of endurance, it is expected that the wireless charging mode will be quite lossy compared to the wired mode. However, I was surprised to find that the overall loss was probably around 25%. The stats then were as follows:
Full capacity wireless charging: 0% to 81%
Full capacity wired charging: 16% to 81% and 45% to 80%
Considering Apple quotes a 70% charging capacity for the 12 mini with its own product, the fact that this one extends to 81%, makes it a huge win. This is quite handy since I normally charge my phone between 40% to 80% and this one is capable of doing so twice wirelessly, thereby making it quite easy to go through the day with intensive usage. As for wired usage, I had to split it into two sessions and the two of them total up to exactly 100% indicating that it should be able to charge the phone completely at least once, which considering the stated capacity, is on the lower side, but not unexpected.
The input charging for the battery pack varies and I have seen it pull current at both 5V and 9V with currents ranging from 0.2A to 1.2A, so charging speed may vary. The charging of the battery pack itself takes less than a couple of hours and thus fits well into a regular charging schedule. Even otherwise, using this as a USB-C MagSafe charging puck would actually make it unnecessary to charge it separately.
The kicker is the price which was around $18 with shipping. You can also get a 10000 mAh variant for about $5-6 more which is bound to be thicker and probably not as pocket-friendly. There are also other similar options available but I found all of them to be suitable to the full-size iPhone in terms of dimensions. It is rare to recommend a completely unknown product, but this one earns it for the time being after a month of usage, since it ticks all the right boxes in terms of price, specs, aesthetics, dimensions and performance.