Q: I read your columns about the jHub power banks from Modern Portable and bought one to take to Europe because I was hesitant to charge my iPhone directly through the converter/adapter. It worked great for two weeks, but then the small metal cover on the microconnector broke. Are you aware if this is a jHub-specific problem, or is this a unique experience?
A: First and most important, you can use your phone's charger overseas without fear. Chargers are universal and will convert the voltage by using the proper European two-prong plug adapter. Just make sure the charger says 120/220 on it. Most do.
I don't think your problem is specific to jHub, nor is it completely unique. I have received reader feedback about the jHub chargers, and though almost everyone was happy, some had issues. The problems that were reported to me were resolved satisfactorily. I've tested lots of small charging devices and read reviews for many brands, and every brand seems to have its occasional issues, no matter the price.
Modern Portable shared some of its plans with me at the Consumer Electronics Show last year. Their goal is to provide a good quality, functional product that does the job at the lowest possible price, and to build their brand by servicing and listening to their customers after the sale. Prices have continued to fall. The jHub Ultra is now at $9.99, and the jHub Elite, with two ports and fast charging, is $13.99. The company also seems to be listening. I received e-mails from readers who were disappointed that the power banks included only a MicroUSB cable to charge the power bank (and by default, Android phones) but no Apple Lightning connector. Now the chargers include an adapter that converts the MicroUSB connection into an Apple Lightning connector. When I see follow-through like this, it makes it easy to recommend this company.
Modern Portable also showed me some products it has on the drawing board, and I was impressed. There were some excellent ideas — I am under a nondisclosure agreement and can't say anything more about them — and I think consumers will benefit if the products make it to market. But I'm remaining cautious about that. Over the years of attending trade shows, I've been shown lots of "vaporware," industry jargon for products and concepts that sound promising but never make it to market. I hope these new products find their way to consumers, but for now, I think Modern Portable's chargers are a good and cheap way to charge your phone on the go. I've started to look into high-end power banks and some other value-priced options, as well, and I will be writing about them in the future. There are so many of them it is difficult to know where to start, and a lot of the inexpensive ones do not have an official distributor.
One last note on an unrelated matter: Cambridge Audio is giving away one of the excellent BlueTone 100 speakers systems I have praised recently. Learn more at http://tinyurl.com/bluetone100 where you can enter to win this great speaker.
Send questions to Don Lindich at email@example.com. Get recommendations and read past columns at www.soundadviceblog.com.