Review: Go Design TravelCard Charger
Go Design's pitch is compelling: the TravelCard Charger ($39) is said to be a "credit card sized" external battery pack for the iPhone with Apple Lightning certification and five hours of additional talk time per charge. And if you're not too literal about the phrase "credit card sized" — arguably the battery's biggest selling point — you'll probably like the combination of features and pricing. Offered in several colors, TravelCard is a Kickstarter-backed product with some typical Kickstarter caveats: our review unit arrived in a blank white box with only the battery and a separate white micro-USB to USB cable inside, nothing more, and Go Design makes no promises as to its longevity or warranty.
Aesthetically, TravelCard is a small rectangular box with a three-toned design and a slide-out Lightning plug as its most noteworthy design features. The tapered aluminum front alternates between glossy and dot-matte finishes that make the black, silver, red, or blue metal look fancier, while the all-plastic back is either white or black depending on the base color you select. Our green review unit isn’t currently offered as a color, but appears otherwise identical to the blue TravelCard on offer, with a micro-USB port, two-tone power indicator light, and thin power button on its top, plus a pull-out Lightning plug on its right side. All of the materials feel sturdy, but not expensive, which isn’t a huge surprise given TravelCard’s low asking price.
Despite having been billed as “credit card sized,” TravelCard is actually larger in every dimension than any credit card we’ve seen: roughly 3.55” wide by 2.4” tall by 0.18” thick, it’s around 0.2” wider, 0.3” taller, and four or five times thicker than a standard credit card. If you’re hoping to carry it in a wallet, the wallet would likely need to be at least a little flexible, with an empty pocket behind the real credit cards. Expect the wallet to become bulkier and possibly less foldable because of TravelCard’s presence; if you can’t put it in a wallet, it’ll have no problems fitting in a bag like nearly every other external battery we’ve tested.
It’s important to give the latter point a little extra consideration. Although Apple hasn’t stopped chasing ever-thinner products, its upcoming larger iPhones and recent acquisition of over-ear headphone maker Beats Electronics are just two recent signs that customers don’t universally prefer smaller products. A battery pack such as TravelCard could be worthwhile if you’re ultra-space-crunched, but thicker batteries with roughly the same footprint and greater power capacity are available at similar prices.
TravelCard has a few performance-related surprises. The battery capacity was promised on Kickstarter to be a meager 1300mAh, but our review unit is marked with a 1500mAh stated capacity — identical to Mophie’s Juice Pack Helium, currently tied for the lowest-capacity battery case we’ve tested for the iPhone 5, and Patriot’s 1500mAh Fuel+ standalone Lightning battery pack. By comparison with Helium, which delivered a roughly 66% recharge to an iPhone 5, and Fuel+‘s 78% recharge, TravelCard was only able to hit the 50% mark on the iPhone 5 and nearly identical iPhone 5c before expiring. Its power indicator light shifted from blue to orange to flashing orange over the course of the 50-minute recharging time, which was a little faster than we’d expected given TravelCard’s stated 0.75-Amp recharging speed — below the 1-Amp speed of typical Made for iPhone accessories.
The only things that might make TravelCard more appealing than Fuel+ and Juice Pack Helium are its size and lower price. While we’d typically recommend putting the same dollars towards a higher-capacity battery from a well-established manufacturer, $39 is a reasonable asking price for a Lightning plug-equipped 1500mAh cell - $11 lower than the unusually chunky Fuel+ and half the price of Juice Pack Helium, albeit without equivalent real-world recharging performance. Given that Apple promises 10 hours of talk time from a fully-charged iPhone, TravelCard’s 50% refueling ability should deliver the promised 5 hours customers have been told to expect. If thinness is more of a concern to you than raw power output or warranty coverage, TravelCard is worth considering; it merits our limited recommendation.