Apple’s Batteries Over-Hyped

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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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