February 8, 2023

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The 14 Best Portable Battery Chargers (2022): For Phones, iPads, Laptops and More

Many years ago, the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 rose to prominence when its batteries caught fire in a series of incidents. Since then, there has been a steady stream of similar, albeit isolated, incidents. However, despite the high profile reporting of batteries gone wrong, the vast majority of Li-ion batteries are safe.

The chemical reaction that takes place in a lithium-ion cell is complex, but like any battery, there is a negative electrode and a positive electrode. For lithium batteries, the minus is a lithium-carbon compound and the plus is cobalt oxide (although many battery manufacturers are moving away from cobalt). These two connections cause a reaction that is safe when controlled and deliver power to your devices. However, when the reaction gets out of control, the earbuds in your ears will melt. What changes a safe response to an uncontrolled response can be a number of things: excessive heat, physical damage during use, physical damage during manufacture, or using the wrong charger.

The three basic rules that have protected me (so far) from testing dozens and dozens of batteries are:

Avoid cheap cables, chargers, and outlet adapters. Make sure the batteries are not exposed to excessive heat (over 110 degrees). Check the batteries regularly for signs of damage.

Most importantly, avoid cheap outlet adapters, cables, and chargers. These are your most likely causes of problems. Those chargers you see on Amazon are $20 cheaper than the competition? It’s not worth it. They probably lowered the price by skimping on insulation, omitting power management tools, and ignoring electrical safety basics. Even the price alone is no guarantee of safety. Buy from reputable companies and brands.

Then there is heat. Too much of it can lead to all sorts of issues, both discharge-wise and safety-wise. Avoid heat and take care of your batteries when charging. If your device gets excessively hot while charging, it can be a sign of problems. Also look for swollen, warped or otherwise deformed batteries.