Smartphones and charging – and a few questions answered…

By | February 3, 2020

I recently had this comment from a reader: “Thanks for your weekly email which I find helpful.  Please sometime could you inform us about solar powered phone chargers, as the recent storm forecasts may mean power outages and flat batteries?  Thanks, Carol”

Sorry it’s taken me a few weeks to get around to it, but I thought this would be a good chance to talk to you – not just about solar chargers – but about all the other fancy ways that you can charge up your phone nowadays.

When you get your phone, it’ll come with a cable and a special plug for charging it from a normal plug socket.  Before I get onto the fancier ways to do it, I thought it was worth saying a couple of things about that plug.  

Even if it looks exactly the same as a plug and cable that you have from a different phone (or a tablet) it’s always best to use the charger that came with your phone.  If you use a different one, your battery might end up charging very slowly, or (worse) too quickly! If you try to charge a battery with too powerful a charger, it can overheat and damage the battery – or even your phone!

The other thing I wanted to mention is that it’s really the plug not the cable that matters when it comes to using the one that your phone came with.  So if you can’t find the original cable – or it gets damaged – it’s okay to use a different one that fits your phone.

So – on to the fancier ways of charging your phone.

Solar powered chargers and portable battery packs – these are great if you’re going to be away from home for a while, so you won’t be able to charge your phone from the mains.  Maybe if you’re going away camping, or on a very long journey. What you do is either charge up the power pack from the mains or charge up the solar cells by leaving them in the sunlight for a while.  Then you can pack it up and take it with you, and plug your phone into the power pack whenever you need a boost! You can pick them up from phone shops or places like PC World, or order them online from shops like Amazon.  A decent one will cost you about £30.

Wireless charging – with a lot of modern phones, you don’t actually have to plug them in to charge them.  You can get special charging pads that you just lie the phone down on and it charges up. Of course, you need to plug in the charging pad, so to be honest it feels like a bit of a gimmick to me.  But I can see them being handy if you have an in-car one.

Phone-to-Phone charging – one thing that is quite cool about wireless charging though, is that you can share the charge in your battery with another phone.  So if you’re out and about and your phone has run out of battery charge, but your friend’s is full, you can hold the two phones back to back and charge your phone up from theirs.

Hope that’s helped to answer your question, Carol!

And a few questions you might have about the smartphone course…

…along with the answers of course:

I’m not sure what type my phone is – does this course cover all smartphones? 
Not quite all smartphones, I’m afraid – but the vast majority of them.  So the course covers both Android phones and iPhones, but if yours is an older model (more than about 4 years old), yours might not quite match what we show you in the videos.  It should be pretty similar, though, unless your phone is much older than that.  

And we weren’t able to fit in some of the very unusual models of phone, like the Doro range.

Is there a time limit on when I have to start it?
No – you can start straight away or leave it to later. Once you’re enrolled in the course you have complete access for as long as the course is online (at least 3 years), so you can join now and then start it whenever you like.

Do I have to work through it at set times?
No – it’s not like an evening class in that way.  You can work through each part or “lesson” whenever it suits you.  Do it in the evenings, the mornings or even the middle of the night if you like!
You can even get halfway through a lesson and stop there and carry on again next time from wherever you got to – you’re in control.

Can you follow the course on a different device – eg a desktop PC or a laptop?
Yes – and we recommend that you do if you can.  You’ll probably find it easier not to use your smartphone to follow the course.  You can if you like, but I suggest you follow it on a PC, laptop or tablet if you have one.  In fact you can even use two different devices.  The course will keep track of where you’re up to – so you can sign in to your account from anywhere.

Can I join any time?
No, I’m afraid not – the course is open until Friday 21st February.  After that we’ll be closing enrolment so you won’t be able to join – best get in before then if you think it might help you.

The full details (including how to join and the rather unusual guarantee) are here – why not have a read.

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