As I have become more integrated with technology, one of the challenges for me has been keeping that equipment powered up. While I have an iPhone and braille display, I also have other things that need to stay charged such as the microphone that delivers a direct audio signal from the person wearing the device to my hearing aids. It often serves as a life line to keep me able to communicate with those around me who only use speech. Depending on the context, there are many other types of equipment I use throughout my life that make me a more independent person. I know this is also true of many others, who have Bluetooth headsets, keyboards, and other hardware. Over the years, I've tried many power banks with some degrees of success, though these devices weren't without their challenges. One of the issues of most power banks on the market is that they have flashlights which can be turned on by mistake. As someone with no vision, this can be problematic. Especially when the ability to determine the amount of power left in the battery pack is not accessible. I could use an app to get sighted assistance, fire up a light detector app, or even ask someone in my environment to tell me how many lights are showing up, but that often times is less than convenient. When I only charged one or two different devices on these external battery packs, I could keep track of how much juice I had left to some degree by doing some math. For example, a 15,000 MAH battery pack will charge my iPhone approximately 5.5 times from 0%, or six times if not fully flat when charged each time. However, as the demand for USB power increases, and as the complexity of my technology needs continue to evolve, keeping track of this math is becoming a more complex task. The Energrid VS150X power bank seeks to address some of these issues and a few more I have noted below.
The Energrid VS150X measures 5.7 inches long by 2.8 inches wide by 0.8 inches thick and weighs slightly more than a half pound. It has a larger physical profile than other power banks of its size because it contains a vibration motor and device which produces beeps. It's rectangular in shape, and only has one button on the surface. Orienting the battery pack so that the button is the furthest thing from you, you will find all of the things on the battery pack you need on the front side other than the aforementioned button that is located on the top surface. It has 2 output USB ports available for charging devices along with a micro USB input port for charging the VS150X. A micro USB cable is included with the battery pack, a power supply, and a pouch to store the power bank.
How It Works
What sets this battery pack apart from others is that you can get audible or tactual feedback to not only determine the level of battery remaining, but you also get confirmation that the device you have plugged in is charging. For devices such as iPhones, this may not be such a big deal, since the iOS device will confirm it's charging, but I have several devices which will not give me audible confirmation I can hear, nor do they vibrate to let me know they are indeed charging. If I have no idea how much charge is left on my battery pack, I thus have no sure way to know if the device I've connected is actually charging or not. The same could be true of a battery pack which has a flashlight feature. What inevitably happened with some of the battery banks I’ve tried in the past was that the flashlight ate my battery for lunch, I had no way to verify this, and also no way to verify that some of my devices were charging. The only way I knew they weren’t going to charge was by trying to use them once the battery had gone dead and then realizing that my external power source was also dead.
Whenever you wish to check the status of the battery, when nothing is connected to it, press the button on top of the VS150X. The power bank will then vibrate a set number of times to inform you the battery status. If the battery is 0-25% full, you will get a single vibration, 26-50% will produce two vibrations, 51-75% will vibrate three times, and 76-100% will omit four vibrations. You can also have auditory feedback, which produces beeps along with the vibrations. This is toggled on and off by pressing the button and holding it for two seconds.
The non-visual feedback doesn’t end there, though. If you connect a device to one of the two output ports, you must then press the button to commence the charging process. If your device is charging, you will get confirmation through the VS150X in the form of beeps or vibrations. These will be delivered in the form of two vibrations and/or two beeps, followed by a pause, and then two more. If connecting a second device, you will receive another confirmation that a second device is now charging. You are not able to check the battery status of the power bank itself when it is charging something, pressing the button will not give you any feedback. However, when charging is complete, pressing the button will give you the power status of the VS150X.
One of the other unique features of this battery bank is that it doesn’t care which way you plug in the cable when charging other devices. While the USB plug will meet some resistance in one direction, you can still plug it into either of the output ports and it will charge your device. However, the Micro USB port used to charge the VS150X does require that you plug it in the correct way.
When you plug the Micro USB port into charge the VS150X, it vibrates once to inform you that it is charging. However, if you wish to check the status of the power bank, you must unplug it and then press the button. It would be nice if the VS150X was able to give you the state of your charge. When charging is complete, pressing the button will still not provide any feedback.
At $75, the Energrid Accessible Portable Power Bank and Charger is far from the most economical power bank on the market. The Anker PowerCore 15000 MAH power bank retails for $40 on Amazon. This power bank also does not have a flashlight, however, it also does not come with the peace of mind of knowing how much life your power bank has. The above mentioned power bank from Anker, like all other mainstream power banks I’ve tried, does not give any sort of non-visual feedback to confirm that a device is charging. For the blind or deaf-blind consumer, the question when considering the various options comes down to what is affordable versus the feature you need. If you want to spend $60, for example, the Anker PowerCore 26800 which packs 26,800 MMAH, may be a strong contender. It not only has a much higher battery capacity, but also has the ability to charge up to three devices at a time. Again, though, you will not get the non-visual information about the status of connected devices and approximate battery percentage left on your power bank. Also worth noting with the higher capacity power bank from Anker is that it weighs 1.1 pounds, so is a bit heavier to carry around.