For the next year or so, Just Mobile is going to have a challenge on its hands: two years after introducing the beautiful, Apple-inspired battery pack Gum Plus for iPod and iPhone users, it has debuted a new model under the same name, changing its price, performance characteristics, and even its color. If you want to be sure you’re getting the new version, you’ll need to look specifically for the “2.1A Fast Charge” Gum Plus ($80), specifically badged as compatible with the iPod, iPhone, and iPad. The box shows it as silver, but in reality, it’s a darker gunmetal gray — called “titanium” — at least for now. Over the next year, Just Mobile will be phasing out the old silver, red, and black versions in favor of the new one, a change that will generally be for the better, based on our testing.
The original version of Gum Plus was largely a sexier repackaging of Just Mobile’s powerful, plasticky Gum Pro battery, preserving the same impressive 4,400mAh capacity but using a Mac-matching silver aluminum enclosure with Apple-styled remaining power indicators. Gum Plus’s single biggest functional improvement was the addition of 1-Amp charging capability, enabling the battery to fully refuel an iPhone at full speed, with enough left over power to recharge another iPhone and two lower-capacity iPods. While Gum Plus sold for $70 versus Gum Pro’s $60 asking price, the new design was attractive enough to largely justify the premium, and Just Mobile tossed in USB-to-mini-USB and USB-to-Dock Connector cables for charging, plus a fabric drawstring carrying bag.
It later released red and black versions of the original battery, keeping the features the same.
Color aside, today’s Gum Plus is nearly identical to its predecessor on the exterior. You still get a full-sized USB port on one of the black plastic-ringed sides for battery output, a set of five pinhole-sized yellow LEDs for remaining battery charge indications, and one multifunction button to toggle the power on and off or display the current charge level. All that’s obviously different is the replacement of the 2009 model’s mini-USB input port with a micro-USB port, and a similar tweak to the included battery charging cable. You still get a fabric carrying bag and a Dock Connector to USB cable, the latter just a little nicer than its predecessor in finish. In other words, nothing has stepped down in this package, unless you’re turned off by the new color of the metal.
The real changes are on the battery’s inside. Just Mobile has bumped the battery to 5,200mAh of capacity, a change that enables Gum Plus to recharge an iPhone three times, while virtually any iPod could be recharged four or more times.
It has also increased the maximum speed of the battery’s output to 2.1 Amps, a change that enables it to feed hungrier iPads as fast as they’re capable of consuming power, while doing the same with iPhones and iPods. In our testing with an iPad 2, the new Gum Plus brought the fully discharged tablet up to 47% power in just under 1 hour and 40 minutes, while adding 51% power to a partially charged iPad 2 at a slower trickle-charging speed. It recharges in roughly four hours from any 1-Amp power source, very clearly showing its current level on the top-mounted indicators.
For those keeping track of Just Mobile’s battery options, the new Gum Plus delivers a little under half the power of late 2011’s super-sized, $110 Gum Max, which has twice the battery capacity in a significantly larger and heavier enclosure. The price difference between these units is now only $30, which normally would be a small enough premium to weigh in Max’s favor. However, Gum Plus is a lot easier to carry around, and unlike Max, it doesn’t feel like overkill for common iPod and iPhone charging purposes. Some iPad owners may prefer the just over 100% charge Max delivers for a tablet, and will consequently be willing to deal with its larger size and more demanding recharging requirements, but everyone else will prefer the more pocket-friendly Plus.
There was only one hiccup in our testing of the new Gum Plus, and that was heat: during 2.1-Amp high speed charging, the battery pack became very warm—not enough to cause a problem or to burn skin, but enough that you probably won’t want to keep it in a pocket while it’s refueling a discharged iPad.