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Summary:

The Apple Battery Charger caught me as a product that made perfect sense. But what rubs me the wrong way is that it decided to sell batteries for these devices with a few claims that make its product better than any other.

apple_battery_charger

The Apple Battery Charger seems like the perfect product to sell to customers, given Apple’s mouse, trackpad and keyboard all require AA batteries while other manufacturers, like Logitech, sell hardware that charges via a dock. What rubs me the wrong way is that Apple decided to sell batteries for these devices with claims that its product is better than any other.

The Apple Battery Charger has one of the lowest standby — or “vampire draw” — of similar chargers on the market. That’s the energy that most chargers continue to draw even after their batteries are done charging. Unlike other chargers, the Apple Battery Charger senses when a battery charge cycle is complete and automatically reduces the amount of power it uses to 30 milliwatts — more than 10 times better than the industry average.

Not only do these high-performance batteries have up to a 10-year lifespan, they also hold a charge for an incredibly long time. So you always have power when you need it.

These two statements make any consumer feel as if Apple just reinvented batteries and battery charging. The battery charger is Apple’s first, and already it’s better than what companies like Duracell and Energizer  have created in 20 years of innovation. Man, I feel sorry for those guys. Apple just kicked all of their butts. Except, maybe it didn’t. Could Apple have simply taken off-the-shelf parts and put its typical Apple spin on it?

What the Batteries Really Are

SuperApple disassembled and tested these batteries and the charger. What it uncovered is that these batteries actually appear to be Sanyo Eneloop HR-3UTG batteries. Apple charges $29 for six of them plus a charger, but you can purchase eight and a charger for less at any retail store. All Apple appears to have done is bought decent batteries from another company and touted what those are able to do, which is hold a 75 percent charge for three years when stored, and continue holding a charge for 10 years. These batteries aren’t “magical,” just premium.

Vampire Draw

As far as that claim for an amazingly low “vampire draw,” Apple’s announcement owns the page rank for the term. So what is vampire draw?

Standby power, also called vampire power, vampire draw, phantom load, or leaking electricity, refers to the electric power consumed by electronic appliances while they are switched off or in a standby mode.

I did find this page, which outlines the vampire draw of popular household items. Apple’s Battery Charger uses 30 milliwatts,which is “10 times better than the industry average.” Of course, it fails to cite what group did those tests, so let’s go over a few vampire draw stats for house hold items.

  • Cell Phone charger – 140 milliwatts
  • Laptop charger – 4420 milliwatts
  • Desktop Computer (turned off) – 2840 milliwatts

Apple’s product is certainly using much less than any of those. What’s Apple’s notebook charger vampire draw? What about the iMac? When I power the iMac down, is the vampire draw “10 times below the industry average?” Maybe Apple should work on that as well.

Over-Hyped

My guess is, the Battery Charger is just another example of off-the-shelf parts wrapped in a pretty case and sold at a markup. That’s not really a bad thing, but Apple’s spin on something as simple as a battery charger gets to me. Just say that you released a battery charger and do it without making the entire battery industry look like it’s been playing around for the past 20 years.

Apple’s recent history hasn’t proven much when it comes to hype vs. reality. During antenna-gate, Apple showed all smartphones had issues with an external antenna (I still say that wasn’t Apple’s finest hour) rather than addressing the real problem, so it’s possible that the “magical” battery charger could end up with the same fate if there’s ever an issue of exploding batteries or leaks: Apple will point fingers and say it’s the manufacturer’s fault because Apple is a small company that doesn’t make its own batteries. Until that happens, Apple will take ownership of these as if they were hatched in Steve Jobs head from idea to final product.

My take is that the Apple Battery Charger is over-priced. It does what other chargers do. It’s $29 because there’s an Apple Logo on it. The 30 milliwatts vampire draw means nothing if you have a microwave in your home, which is using 3,000 milliwatts: the equivalent of 100 Apple Battery Chargers all plugged in at once that aren’t charging batteries. My final recommendation? Don’t throw away your current battery charger; it’s probably working just fine. It’s not Apple-branded and glossy, but it works, and you won’t save any money on your power bill by switching.

Related GigaOM Pro Research: Better Battery Life Motivates Mobile Chipmakers

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  1. Too bad U didn’t show what other battery chargers draw as a comparison since U went to some trouble to find other examples.
    Nice try tho!

    1. I’m looking forward to our readers doing that. To be frank, I spent a lot of time researching this and due to Apple’s “vampire draw” mentioned in the press release, I can’t find vampire draw stats for the most popular chargers. Google search results are completely populated by Apple’s battery charger announcement at least 50 pages back.

      1. every try using the -apple in your search string??

      2. This post will now be my example of what is wrong with the current state of blogging. Mix:
        – Sensational title
        – Rant filled writing with no examples of other battery chargers
        – No facts but hope that readers do your research for you
        Sprinkle a bit of Applehate and Antenna-gate. Throw it out on the internet and watch the hits roll in.

        As others have pointed out, if you actually purchase Eneloop batteries with a Sanyo charger from a reputable retailer (you are probably getting fakes from China otherwise), from slightly cheaper (~$28 for 8+charger at Amazon) to much more expensive (~$44 for 6+charger at Ritz Camera).

      3. @Toby Schumacher: RIGHT ON, perfect response. This writer should give me these five minutes back.

      4. @Toby Schumacher Well said. The writer should have done some more research.

  2. I picked one of these up very quickly. I agree, there isn’t a reason to switch if you’re using something comparable, I wasn’t. The Magic Mouse eats a set of AAs in about two months and I was using disposable batteries. I didn’t bother with rechargeables as I wasn’t happy with the performance I’ve seen from them in the past.

    Prior to this product’s release and the following reviews, I was not familiar with the Sanyo Eneloop line of rechargeable batteries. Knowing this now is great, I can source out additional or replacements from anywhere.

    All that being said, what is it that you take issue with here? Apple chose what are arguably among the best rechargeable NiMH cells available on the consumer market and promoted them to the masses.

    This will save users of their wireless peripherals the effort of sourcing respectable batteries and a charger on their own. What’s not to like?

    1. To answer your last question, that’s mostly what I have issues with when it comes to Apple. It’s how they receive credit for A4 chips (which are just Cortex A8 SOC chips w/ some apple magic thrown in), Multi-touch, IPS displays and built in web-cams in their notebooks and facetime when all of this stuff was already out there.

      Apple does this with everything. there’s nothing revolutionary aside from their presentation and display of technology that was on the market prior to Apple.

      1. … Because there were *so* many multitouch smart phones on the market before the iPhone. And every consumer *knows* that the Sony Enerwhatever batteries are the best for low-current devices such as Bluetooth mice.

        How many laptops had built-in web cams before the Macbook had it? How many laptops *don’t* have built-in web cams now?

        Apple is as much a marketing company as it is an engineering company. They go out and find the best solutions to a particular problem and introduce that product to their customers in easy to understand packaging.

        You might live and breathe rechargeable battery technology. Not everyone else does.

        By focussing on standby current, Apple is pushing their Green credentials too. Watch how standby current starts to gain traction in the minds of technology consumers and we start wondering what’s the point of a standby mode on a multifunction printer which consumes 19W of power as opposed to printing current of 21W.

      2. Adam you tickle me with all the silly goading you do. Just when we fall into your trap an give you the hits, you goad us some more. Such fun! You silly goader.

  3. The choice is yours to make if you are not happy don’t buy but bad mouthing someone’s effort and product only shows you are envious of their success.

    Btw have you make something that is world changing lately?

    Yea, words are cheap they don’t cost money to produce.

    1. What have you done lately? Troll blogs and start arguments? You’re cool!

      1. Patrick, what have you done lately? Troll blogs and respond to arguments? You are way cool!

  4. Congrats for the article. Is just as you said, the Apple batteries aren’t bad but there aren’t so revolutionary as Apple claimed.

    Not a big deal, but I feel umconfortable with the Apple necessity to hyper-hype every little movemente. I have the annoying feeling that the last revolutions of the company didn’t came from the engeenering department but from the marketing department :S

    1. Yes, they are revolutionary (right now) when it comes to Metal Hydride. Extended life Metal Hydrides are currently tops. The next big thing will probably be Li-ion in this form factor, but right now they are few and far between. Rayovac 4.0’s are listed as “lithium technology” but when you read carefully, they are still just metal hydride batteries. If you think Apple marketing is BS, that is even worse because people will think they are getting lithium and they are not.

      Apple just did not make them, and that is not a problem. Apple is a design, engineering and marketing company, not a manufacturer. It got out of that business many years ago, and has been all the better for it.

  5. From what I’ve seen, the battery charger is significantly better in terms of energy use than other chargers, not just the no-name cheap chargers but even most brand names. And having gone through periods of using rechargeable batteries – those batteries are a LOT better than anything I thought existed. I’ve tried wireless mice and keyboards before, and the battery issue was so bad, I gave up on them. The info provided makes me tempted to reuse them.

    And so, from a company whose products I’ve been very happy with and whose tech claims usually stand up, there is something that may make my life significantly better – and at a price worthy of consideration. Whether they bought the products or invented them in their labs isn’t particularly important – Apple having done this improves the options I have to consider.

    Now, the knowledge that I can look elsewhere for more batteries is very good, and saving a few bucks is always nice. But I’d never have known if Apple not only had repackaged the technology but PROMOTED it. Did you know about the Sanyo Eneloop batteries before Apple introduced their packaging of them?

  6. doug petrosky Tuesday, August 17, 2010

    Really? Ok so Retail price for a 2 cell quick charger from Sanyo is $19 and 4 more batteries is $15. Or they have a 4 position charger with 4 batteries for $22 + 8 for 2 more batteries. If you buy the batteries in a 8 pack the retail for closer to $3.50. But no matter how you slice it the retail price for the Sanyo Eneloop batteries is very similar to Apple’s retail price. And I can’t find anywhere any information on the charger they use to determine if it is similar in efficiency to what Apple has done.

    You act like Batteries are new and foreign to Apple, when they have been active in smart battery technology for decades! Would it shock you to findout that Apple added and extra chip to it’s charger to deal with the “vampire draw” that virtually no other company uses? I don’t know if they did or not but it is the type of attention to detail Apple does.

    Even Sanyo who appears to be the first company to ship these ultra low leakage batteries didn’t invent the technology behind them. They just made marketable batteries.

    These are no just “good” batteries. These are the best freaking batteries around for low power long duration rechargeable. I’m sorry if the “best” is not good enough for Apple to boast about these as being something better than your average rechargable batteries. Because if they hadn’t I would have assumed they were just over priced average batteries with no real advantage. I thought the number of millamp was the bets mesure but it makes sense for these types of batteries the low drain and low vampire draw charger would be the most important.

    So get off your high horse, Apple boasts about things because they don’t do things half ass which the vast majority of their competitors do. Apple went LED before most of it’s competitors. Apple uses the highest quality touch sensors in the industry (based on independent testing) for their touch devices. Apple doesn’t just sell expensive junk, they sell high quality stuff that cost more to produce.

    Apple may not have invented video calling but they implemented it better than any of the other solutions that came before them and deserve credit for that. Apple pushes the industry forward, there is no way we would be where we are with smart phones had Apple not pushed the industry with the iPhone. Android would not be as open and usable on the big carriers had they not been looking for any way to compete with the iPhone and the leeway AT&T gave Apple to allow Apple to sell Apps and Music on the iPhone.

    Look back at how locked down phones were before 2007 here in the US and you will understand that wether you use Apple products or not your tech life is better because Apple is out there doing things that others wouldn’t do. Hell 6 months ago you can read hundreds of posts on how there is no room for tablet devices and how the iPad will never compete with the combination of laptops and netbooks. Next year you will dismiss Apples roll in making that platform popular and talk about how all these competitors are virtually just as good as an iPad but less expensive.

    Wow! how did this turn into such a rant. I guess people who don’t give Apple their due piss me off just as much as apple boasting about their products pisses you off!

  7. Oh my god!!!! A manufacturer claiming their product is better than the others in some way! Freak me out….I pine for the days when creators of products would tell me their product sucked and that I’d be idiot to buy from them. Those were the days when America was great.

  8. I have used Emeloop batteries for quite a while, and they are not “decent”, they are outstanding. Their ability to retain a charge makes them much more useful than conventional NiMH batteries. I followed your Google shopping link where you claimed that you could get 8 Emeloops and a charger for less than $29 and didn’t see anything like that. Eneloops are more expensive than conventional batteries, and rightly so. This is one of the few cases where Apple isn’t overinflating the prices, unlike $30 for an iPhone bumper case.

  9. Do Some More Analysis Tuesday, August 17, 2010

    I agree with Toby. Where the hell is Edward R. Murrow these days? The blogosphere saddens me. Where the hell is journalistic rigor, or even any sort of search for truth?

    Sure, they may be Sanyo Eneloops. Good batteries. I use ‘em with a Sanyo charger. Get it at Costco. Great deal. You fail to show any power draw for any competing battery chargers, and go on to mention other products that Apple should decrease the power draw on without mentioning the power draw at idle at all, at least not until the comments. Wait until publishing your article next time.

  10. Dude, try presenting some facts instead of your own pre-conceived views about a company. Apple can do no right, we get it, and everyone is entitled to their opinion. However, when I have a misinformed opinion I reexamine it. When I have an uninteresting opinion I forget about it. Either way, I keep it to myself. You however, feel the need to broadcast it to the world. Why?Do you think this makes you brilliant, important, interesting or powerful?

    1. My understanding of a Blog is to present your personal view, it does not have to be journalistic. I have a blog for my gardening (which I should update) and on one day I ranted about the F*#$%#g chipmunks digging up my crocus. I did not research what chipmunks do with the bulbs because I did not care. It was my blog.

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