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Most of us know that sinking feeling of checking your phone and realizing you’re only on 5% battery, or even lower than that. Suddenly, it’s all up in the air: that rideshare you were going to take home, the bill payment you need to make, the alarm that has to wake you up for work tomorrow. If you don’t have a charger available, or know how to charge your phone without a charger, you might be in trouble.
With so many things in our lives dependent on our phones, it pays to know the options for how to charge your phone without a charger (or at least, without a traditional wall charger). These five alternate ways to charge your phone will help you plan for emergencies and keep a variety of useful charging options on hand.
1. USB Port
The only way to charge your phone without any kind of charger is by plugging it directly into a USB port. You can find USB ports that will charge your device in a few common places:
- A laptop or desktop computer
- The consoles of most newer cars and trucks
- Hotels, airports, rail stations and potentially other public places
To plug your phone into the port, you’ll need a compatible USB cable, either a USB-C Power Delivery charge and sync cable for an Android phone or an Apple Lightning cable for an iPhone. (If you know your vehicle or your laptop has only USB-A or USB-C ports, it’s a good idea to make sure you’re carrying the right cable.)
Once you’ve plugged your phone in, the USB port should charge the battery. Remember, though, that it’s always risky to plug into an unfamiliar device, and there’s even reports of public USB ports getting turned into access points for cybercriminals.
2. Portable Backup Battery
People with busy, on-the-go lifestyles often carry a portable backup battery pack with them. These are high-capacity batteries with USB charging ports built into them. When you need to charge, just plug in your device via a USB cord, and the battery will do the rest.
If you have a battery pack, remember two things: One, you’ll need to remember to charge it so that it’s ready when you need it. (Scosche’s PowerUp 300 can hold a charge for up to six months.) Two, if you fly often, carefully read the TSA restrictions on battery packs and learn the rules about which ones you can legally fly with.
3. Solar Cell or Hand Crank Charger
These two charging options are most useful as backup or emergency charging methods, such as in a natural disaster or while backcountry hiking. Both are exactly what they sound like: A solar cell charger is made of several tiny photovoltaic solar panels that connect to your phone and charge the battery, while a hand crank charger is a tiny kinetic generator that charges your phone as you twist a lever.
Both options have some notable caveats. A solar cell charger depends on good weather to produce its energy, and a hand crank charger isn’t very pleasant to use for long periods of time. Neither one is a method that most people will want to rely on for everyday charging. But in an emergency, or far from civilization, either could give you enough battery to make an emergency call.
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