The power’s out and your phone is dangerously low. What can you do to keep its charge for as long as possible, and how can you possibly recharge it when there’s no electricity? Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and we’ve researched the top ways to do so.
After all, your smartphone is more than just a fun accessory and helpful convenience. It can give you access to local emergency updates and severe weather alerts. It also is your primary way to communicate with family and friends during an emergency.
Follow these tips to keep your phone charged during a power outage.
#1. Plug into your laptop.
Your laptop has USB ports that can charge cell phones. If your laptop is fully charged, you can power a phone for hours. Turn on the laptop but don’t unlock your screen. Plug your phone into the laptop USB port. (Note that if you have an iPhone, you may need a USB-C to USB adapter to match the port.)
#2. Use a portable charger or power bank.
You may have one on hand, or if not, you can pick one up. Most drug store chains sell them in addition to electronics stores. The portable chargers and power banks do need to be charged to work but they hold their charge for months, so you can charge one and put it in your emergency kit. Solar chargers are popular options; the advantage is that they can charge with the sun. But they vary widely in power capability so do your research.
#3. Plug into your car.
Most newer vehicles have USB ports where you can plug your phone. If not, you can buy an inexpensive USB car adapter that plugs right into your car’s dashboard in the space commonly known as the cigarette lighter. Simply turn on your car, and plug in your phone. This works even if you’re out of gas.
#4. Use an inverter.
Another way to charge from your car is to use a power inverter. This tool converts the 12-volt direct current in your car’s battery to the 120-volt alternating current for your phone. It’s a process similar to jump-starting your car. Do this outdoors and not in the garage to avoid carbon monoxide fumes. You connect the inverter to your car’s battery using alligator clamps, with the positive red cable on the positive battery terminal and the negative black cable on the negative battery terminal. Then plug your phone into the AC plug on the inverter, and start your car. You’ll be drawing power directly from the battery, so you’ll need to run your car afterward to recharge your battery.
#5. Use your car battery jump pack.
If you have a car battery jump pack – considered one of the must-carry items for your car — you may have a way to charge your phone. These jump packs usually come with USB charging ports.
#6. Try a crank-powered phone charger.
Crank-powered chargers are mechanical devices that harness your own physical power. You turn a handle, which spins a magnet, creating a magnetic field. It takes a lot of effort to generate enough to power your phone, but it’s a low-cost alternative that can be very effective.
#7. Use a Biolite CampStove.
A Biolite CampStove is a portable wood stove that actually generates electricity. If you have this camping appliance, you can cook your meals and charge your phone.
#8. Go to a place that has power.
If it’s not a region-wide power outage, you can drive to a place that has power, such as a coffee shop, restaurant, or store where you can plug in your phone. If your office or your school has power, try those places.
#9. Conserve your phone’s battery.
You don’t know how long the power will be out. That’s why the first step is to ensure your phone isn’t using any more battery than necessary. Here are some ways to do that.
- Dim the brightness of your screen. On an iPhone, go to Settings, then Display & Brightness. Drag the slider to dim it. On an Android, swipe down from the top to see the Notification Shade. Depending on your phone, you may have to swipe twice. Tap and hold the brightness slider and drag it to the right level.
- Put your phone into Low Battery Mode. On an iPhone, go to Settings, scroll down to Battery, and select Low Battery Mode. On an Android, swipe down from the top menu for the Power Saving icon.
- Shut down any applications running in the background. On an iPhone, swipe up from the bottom of the screen, pausing in the middle. Then, swipe right or left to find the app you want to close. Swipe up on the app to close it. On an Android, go to Settings, then Apps. Choose the app that you’d like to stop and then tap Force Stop.
- Turn off your phone’s WiFi location services and Bluetooth. On an iPhone, you’ll find that at Settings and Wi-Fi, and at Settings and Bluetooth. On an Android, swipe down from the top, and look for the Wi-Fi icon below the date. Select it and then tap the toggle switch to turn it off. For Bluetooth, go to Settings, then Apps. Find Bluetooth and tap the toggle switch to off.
- Put your phone into Airplane mode, which may disable WiFi and Bluetooth. This will prevent you from calling or texting, and also receiving calls and texts, so you will need to take it off for communication. On an iPhone, go to Settings, then Airplane mode, and enable it. On an Android, swipe down from the top of the screen two times to open Quick Settings. Look for Airplane mode and tap the toggle switch. (Pro tip: Phones being charged while they are in Airplane mode tend to charge faster.)
- Don’t use your phone to play music, podcasts, or games to pass the time. This will only drain your battery.
- If you won’t be using your phone for hours, shut it off to conserve the battery in the long run.
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