Review: Tekkeon myPower Battery Pack
Pros: A solid external battery for Dock Connecting iPods, includes USB and FireWire ports for data docking, as well as a line-out port for clean audio.
Cons: Underperforms comparably priced (expensive) iPod batteries by a fair margin; dock substitute is fine on-the-go, but can’t be used when iPod is standing up.
Sometimes good products are overshadowed by similar competitors. But for a couple of small but interesting twists, such would have been the case for new iPod accessory maker Tekkeon’s myPower ($89.00), a white plastic external battery for iPods that competes directly with cheaper products from Belkin and slightly more expensive ones from Battery Technology Incorporated. While not identical to BTI’s stellar The iPod Battery and its strong sequel The iPod Battery ii, Tekkeon’s myPower is similar enough for most people’s purposes to merit direct comparisons.
At a distance, it would be easy to confuse myPower with BTI’s The iPod Battery ii ($99.95). Both iPod external batteries strap relatively thin backpacks onto Dock Connecting iPods, adding over a day of additional battery life as demarked with a four-light power indicator. Each product has a power switch to control the flow of power from battery to iPod, and detachable plastic belt clip and iPod clip pieces. Tekkeon includes two iPod clips (iPod mini/iPod) instead of BTI’s three (iPod mini/3G/4G), and uses soft sizer pads inside its full-sized iPod clip to fit different iPod thicknesses.
Other differences are potential biggies. Rather than spread its power indicators and a “tell me how much power is left” button across the top of its battery like BTI, myPower adds an inch of extra plastic at its bottom and keeps its indicators constantly lit while power is being used. The lights are multicolored, with a single red light indicating that you’re close to the end of myPower’s juice, and three yellow lights to say you’re in the beginning to middle of the discharge cycle. As with BTI’s batteries, the lights aren’t reliable indicators: the fourth light disappears much more quickly than the third and second, and red quickly gives way to no lights - black - although myPower will recharge the right iPods (4G, mini, and Photo, not 3G) and leave them playing past myPower’s no power mark.
The real differences between the batteries are in what’s at the bottom of the inch of plastic: three ports for line out, USB 2.0, and FireWire cables. These ports might be considered odd additions to myPower’s design as a battery, but Tekkeon promotes myPower as an alternative dock, albeit one you can’t simultaneously stand up on its bottom edge while using those ports.
To that end, the company wisely includes white FireWire and USB cables compatible with myPower’s ports, either of which can connect to a computer for data transfers or recharging, while the FireWire cable can also connect to the iPod’s white power adapter to recharge off wall power. (Unlike BTI’s batteries, myPower doesn’t include its own AC power adapter cube, an omission plausibly and acceptably explained by the fact that Apple’s power adapter works fine, and can either charge myPower alone or with an iPod attached.) Though a Dock Connector port on myPower’s back would have more neatly accomplished these features, at least Tekkeon doesn’t force the user to go out and buy cables in order to use their dock features.
The company does, however, note that you’ll need to purchase “optional adapters” to use myPower for yet another purpose - namely recharging mobile phones. Presumably this will be handled through either the FireWire (unlikely) or USB 2.0 (likely) port, and would have been more expensive if Tekkeon had to use Dock Connector parts in every adapter. If Tekkeon sticks to the pricing it’s used on past adapters, you’ll spend an extra $4.95 per adapter. The adapters haven’t been released, and we haven’t tested one, but it’s an intriguing feature nonetheless.
Tekkeon’s choice to include a line-out audio port on myPower’s bottom is similarly interesting, and perhaps the single biggest distinction between myPower and other battery offerings. Because of this port, myPower’s the only battery we’ve seen thus far that can be used while outputting line-quality audio output in your car, though the importance of this feature to a given person will depend on whether he or she has already purchased one of several car chargers that offer iPod charging with line-out audio.
Because of BTI’s release of The iPod Battery and its sequel, positively recommending the performance of any other external battery is going to be tough from here on out. Tekkeon promised up to 32 hours of extra play time on a 4G iPod, 28 hours on an iPod mini, and 20 hours on a 3G iPod. The myPower is listed as iPod Photo compatible, but Tekkeon doesn’t provide runtime estimates. Since its numbers are based on roughly 20 hours of extra playback from myPower plus a complete recharge of the connected iPod’s battery if the iPod supports that feature (which the 3G iPod does not), so the iPod Photo could presumably hit between 32-37 hours, depending on how significantly the Photo drains myPower while recharging its own battery.
Our tests showed Tekkeon’s numbers to be fairly accurate - our standardized 4G iPod test ran for 30 hours and 45 minutes, for example, falling modestly short of Tekkeon’s numbers in a manner that repeated tests (and gradual battery burn-in) would likely remedy. As mentioned briefly before, the four battery indicator lights didn’t correspond with the time actually left on the battery; the first green light went out after less than three hours, for example, so you’re left with only rough estimates of how much power remains.
There’s nothing bad about 30 to 32 hours of 4G battery life, strictly speaking: buy myPower and you get nearly a day and a half of extra playback from your iPod, or a day (give or take) out of your 3G or mini. The only problem is that BTI’s batteries, which sell for close to the same price, give you two or three days worth of power in a very similar package. BTI’s iPod Battery ii went for over 55 hours on a 4G iPod, and The iPod Battery ran for 73 hours on a less power-efficient 3G iPod. While both retail for $99.95, they’re now available at retailers for as little as $75, placing Tekkeon in a tight position competitively.
Given its competition, myPower’s $89.95 price seems a bit high at this point. It seems obvious to us that when comparing external batteries to external batteries, the key factor is how much extra power you get for the dollar, and by that standard myPower sits a distant second to BTI’s options and better (though pricier) than the Belkin batteries we’ve seen.
But if you need its extra features, namely its USB, FireWire, or Line-Out ports, or its optional ability to recharge compatible mobile phones, myPower is currently the only iPod battery accessory with such offerings. While we can’t give myPower our highest recommendation overall, we do think it merits a strong B+ level recommendation given that some people may really like these extra features.
On a side note, we were glad to see that Tekkeon has proven that integrating extra ports on an iPod battery is plausible. However, we think that the feature would best be used not for mobile phone recharging, but rather to provide a pass-through (or Y-shaped) Dock Connector port so that the iPod could draw external battery juice while simultaneously using battery-draining accessories such as Belkin’s Media Reader. As-is, myPower is a solid iPod battery offering, but Tekkeon’s creative expansion of its ports (or changes to them in a future offering) could really expand the product’s value to all iPod owners.
Jeremy Horwitz is Senior Editor of iLounge and practices intellectual property law in his spare time. His recent book, Law School Insider, has been called the “best book about law school - ever,” and he continues to contribute to Ziff-Davis electronic entertainment magazines.