Urban Camping | The Mobile Power Conundrum

Urban Camping is a reoccurring look into the products, services and experiences that enhance the city living adventure.

If you live anywhere outside of New York City your car provides you with everything from secure storage space to a mobile charging station, something city dwellers could only dream of. Recently the problem of on-the-go recharging of mobile devices has posed a significant annoyance. There is nothing worse than being embroiled in a heated SMS exchange and going dark or having a raucous night out on the town and not being able to fully document your debauchery.

It is no surprise that the Japanese are one step ahead of the game when it comes to mobile refueling. One of the best options (and a current obsession of mine) are the public cellphone charging stations that can be found all over Japan. These genius little machines are the size of an ATM and are placed in train stations, shopping centers etc., allowing you to lock up and recharge your phone while you shop. Why these aren’t in every bar, bodega and coffee shop in New York City is beyond me. Put this on my list of companies to start.

Below: the genius that is the Japanese mobile phone charging station. Why is America so far behind on these things?

Another version of a Japanese mobile phone charging station.

Other options for cell phone battery boost are the small portable chargers that are constantly being featured on tech websites. My biggest problem with these gadgets is that I will never have one on hand when I need one. Later this summer, Sony is releasing its Energy Link, a USB backup power supply that looks promising, but again would only be useful if I plan ahead and keep one on hand at all times which is as annoying as running out of battery. Also, if you are carrying a basic cell phone the Energizer to go battery chargers are pretty handy, but they are pretty goofy looking and expensive at $20. There are a whole host of products out there that can charge your iPod or iPhone. If the forecast is sunny, Flight 001 sells its reusable PowerMonkey solar charger for cell phones, MP3 players etc. Not that that it is really going to be of any use at night and $140 is pretty steep —but it would be awesome if you were stranded in the desert or something. Natch.

Another cool and newish service offering a Wi-Fi and a fully powered experience is BoltBus. The company provides free wireless internet and electrical outlets in every seat. The new service runs between Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. BoltBus is definitely on to something there.

Additionally, Amtrak’s first class and business class seats, along with travelers on the upper-class Acela trains, are all equipped with 110 volt power outlets.

Why is it so hard for companies to figure it out. The two most valuable things for travelers are power outlets and Wi-Fi. Below, BoltBus is paving the way.

If you aren’t a member of an airport club, the NYC airports are becoming more power outlet friendly with the installation of new Samsung sponsored “power poles” at JFK and LGA airports. “Providing some dignity to electricity-hungry road warriors” according to The New York Times City Room blog.

And finally, Virgin America has taken the Jet Blue revolution to the next level with their semi-new domestic service. Each seat has its own power source and USB plug, paving the way for uninterrupted self entertainment. Thank god.

Below: the Virgin America power options.

Further reading:

Time Out New York — Best places for free Wi-Fi and power