Why disposable phone chargers are a step too far

Angus Kidman 6 June 2016

Disposable phone chargers

Sure, battery life can be a problem, but this isn't the way to solve it.

I saw the vending machine as I was walking through the Virgin domestic terminal at Melbourne Airport. No Coke or chips on offer here; instead the harried traveller is tempted by "Portable Phone Chargers, Disposable". There are models that will plug into an iPhone (the old 30-pin design), an iPhone 5/6 (with Lightning) or "Android" (anything using micro-USB). For $10, you can have "upto 100 minutes charging time, Ready to use now".

Charger choices

This isn't the dumbest piece of marketing I've ever seen by a long shot. If you're racing through the airport and your phone is on minimal battery life, being able to grab a battery would be very tempting, and $10 isn't such a huge price that most people would hesitate about purchasing one.

It's obviously no coincidence that there are more slots in the machine for iPhone models. Firstly, iPhones are still the most popular smartphones in Australia, though by a shrinking margin. Secondly, the iPhone 6 and its successors don't have a great reputation for battery performance; finder's own tests suggest that the 6s is the worst of the current premium smartphone crop.

Despite all that, I'm not persuaded this is a great idea. That isn't because I suspect the carefully hedged "100 minutes" claim is dubious, though I do wonder. It's because encouraging people to buy yet another electronic device which will be used once and then thrown in the bin is not good for the environment.

While your local council should offer some sort of option for disposing of batteries so they can be recycled, you can't just throw them in your bin with everything else. Instead, you have to visit the council chambers or your nearest recycling centre. Most people simply aren't going to bother for a $10 battery.

Airport power

The other reason this seems dumb to me? In a modern airport like Melbourne, you really don't have to go that far before you can find a power outlet. If you need an emergency charge, you'll have the chance to grab one before you board the plane (and if your plane has USB ports, you can charge on board too). If you still need more power, a resuable portable charger (I'm a fan of the Plox range and regularly use the 6000 Micro) is a much better bet, and you can use it more than once.

Airport chargers

Angus Kidman's Findings column looks at new developments and research that help you save money, make wise decisions and enjoy your life more. It appears Monday through Friday on finder.com.au.

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