I often carry a spare Lightning cable with me to charge my iPhone(s aapl), but that’s not always helpful when I’m riding the subway or out for the night with no power supply in sight. Native Union largely solves this problem with Jump – a convenient, portable charging cable wrapped around an 800mAh battery. It lets you connect to a power source when one is available, but also provides its own supply of backup juice so you never need to worry about a dead battery.
Where to find it and how it works
You can preorder the Jump with a $40 pledge at Kickstarter through Thursday, February 13 (the campaign has already far surpassed its $40,000 goal). Native Union expects the device to start shipping in May, with availability in retail stores at some point after that for $50. I got a chance to spend some time with a prototype model before the Kickstarter campaign closes.
The Jump comes in either Lightning or microUSB-equipped models. The Lightning version is Apple-certified and allows you to charge the iPhone 5, 5c and 5s. The microUSB model should work with all microUSB-powered Android(s goog) phones.
Unlike a standard charging cable, which can easily get tangled up in your bag or pocket, the Jump is a lot neater to carry around. It’s a 1.9-inch square plastic brick that’s just under half an inch thick, with two eight-inch cables that tuck neatly into ridged edges along the outside of the device. One of those cables is a USB cord, which can plug into a free computer port or wall adapter. The other cable is a Lightning or microUSB connector, depending on which model you choose.
The cables themselves are thick and wrapped in black and white fabric. They tuck snugly into the edges of the device and I never worried about them coming undone accidentally. I do worry somewhat about the amount of tension you need to place on the cords in order to fasten them, as I’ve frayed plenty pairs of headphones that way. But these cables feel fairly resilient.
The front of the device has a cutout that houses the USB connector, next to three tiny status indicator lights. These lights tell you when the device is on, when it is connected to a power source, and when its built-in battery is full. The back of the device is home to the Lightning or microUSB connector, along with a power button that activates the backup battery.
When you plug the Jump into a USB port, then plug the other end into your phone, it starts charging your phone automatically. It does this until your device is at full capacity, then draws power to charge its own internal battery. If you’re plugged into a computer, you can also sync your device this way. I had no trouble using the Lighting version of the Jump with an iPhone 5s, connecting it to an iMac and MacBook Air, as well as a wall-mounted power adapter.
If you aren’t near a power supply but you still need a charge, the Jump is home to an 800mAh backup battery. That isn’t huge, but it’s big enough for at least a few extra hours of charge on most phones, which should be long enough to let you track down another power source. All you have to do is plug the Lightning or microUSB port into your phone, the press the button on the back of the Jump to activate the battery.
Should you jump on it?
What I like about the Jump, compared to other backup charging cables like the Nomad ChargeKey, is that even when there isn’t a power source in sight, the Jump should still be able to provide just enough juice to keep you going. On the other hand, I can see the Jump being something I don’t always remember to carry with me, whereas the ChargeKey is a cable that fits right on your keychain.
Compared to a backup battery like Mophie’s Powerstation Mini, the Jump offers a lot less in the way of actual battery power. The Powerstation Mini holds 2500mAh of power, which should be at least a full charge for many phones. On the other hand, it doesn’t have pass-through capabilities, so you can’t use it to sync your device or charge it directly from a power source. It also doesn’t come with cables neatly built in, so it’s not as convenient as the Jump.
If you want a ton of battery power at your disposal at all times, it’s still best to carry a larger backup battery. If you want a really simple solution you’re almost guaranteed to always have on hand, the Nomad ChargeKey is a great bet. And if you want something that combines some of the versatility and functionality of both of those solutions, the Native Union Jump fits the bill. It’s a simple, convenient way to make sure you always have enough power to stay charged while on the go.