The other day I was wandering along the aisles of a local supermarket and came across something I'd not seen before -- a disposable phone charger.
Hmmm, in an era where we're trying to keep tech out of landfill, and where the EU is going after companies such as Apple for having non-proprietary chargers, this product feels a little strange, like a throwback to the days where I'd empty a whole Maglite's worth of D-cells into the bin every few weeks, and load it up with another six, not worrying about what happened to the old cells (at the time I presumed the seagulls and rats at the dump did something with them).
But times have changed. Well, somewhat. Apparently, for the low price of £2 (about $2.50, although I would expect these to be cheaper in the US), I can buy something that will partially charge up the battery in a phone, and then have the privilege of throwing it into the trash.
The Power Hit Instant Charger I bought came with a microUSB connector for older Android handsets. I couldn't find any for USB-C or Lightning.
They are, apparently, aimed at students and people who are desperate for a quick power boost.
So, I bought one with the idea of seeing what was inside it.
And what was inside it was a 600mAh rechargeable lithium cell, and a boost circuit for converting that into power a phone or other USB chargeable device could use.
The output of this thing is very low, I got about 450mAh of usable power from it, which, when compared to even a modest battery in a budget Android smartphone (about 3,000mAh), it is but a small fraction. The boost circuit is pretty inefficient in this, accounting for the losses.
What this means is that this thing might give your battery less than a 10 percent boost before this Power Hit ends up in the trash.
The cell inside the device is an unprotected rechargeable cell (so it's not designed to protect against overcharge/discharge, but it's designed for single use so that's not a priority), but I had no problems recharging it using a charging circuit I have lying about that came from a cheap USB power bank.
These things seem to have been around for a while. Prolific technical YouTuber Big Clive dismantled one back in 2017, and apart from the inductor in mine not being damaged as it was in his video, they appear to be unchanged.
What a sad waste. The addition of a charging circuit -- which would cost pennies -- would turn this into a tiny, reusable power bank.
However, for people looking for cheap rechargeable batteries for projects, they might be a good, cheap source.
Otherwise, don't buy them. You can pick up rechargeable power banks for the same money that will give you a few years of service, and not contribute to e-waste.