Veho Pebble Smartstick Mobile Phone Charger

You know what it’s like – you’re out and about and, for one reason or another, have been using your mobile phone more than normal. As the day wears on, you realise you’re getting through your battery at an amazing rate and will shortly run out of juice.

Veho Pebble Smartstick Mobile ChargerWhat do you do? I guess you could cut back on your mobile use (I’ve found myself turning the screen brightness down, switching bluetooth and WiFi off, and even turning Airplane Mode on in case I need to make a call later) or resign yourself to the knowledge that your precious device will soon be defunct… at least until you can get it back home for a charge.

I’ve tested portable chargers before, notably this handy solar charger, and Mobile Fun were good enough to send me another unit to test out; this time, a Veho Pebble Smartstick.

The Smartstick is basically a large rechargable battery with USB connectors for charging both it and your mobile devices. The Smartstick’s battery capacity is 2200 mAH (milliAmp-Hours). My iPhone 5S’ battery is apparently 1570 mAH, so the Smartstick should be able to charge it fully if we assume 100% energy transfer.

In reality, using the Smartstick to charge my phone from nearly empty took it from 5% battery to 93% battery overnight but I should add that my phone was still on at the time… so it’s using energy while charging. Still, that’s an impressive rate of charging and more than enough for a boost if you notice your phone is getting low. If you catch it earlier you should be able to get back to 100% easily.

It’s worth noting that the Smartstick doesn’t come with a lightning connector, so if you are going to use it with the latest Apple devices you’ll need to use your charging cable. It does, however, come with an adaptor for Apple 30-pin connections, Mini and Micro USB, and Sony Ericsson and Nokia connectors. There is a standard USB port, though, so if you have USB chargers for any other devices (I’ve used it to charge my FitBit Flex) it’ll work just fine.

Charging the Smartstick is a simple case of plugging it into the USB port on your computer, or into the mains with an adaptor (not provided). In a few hours the light on the Smartstick will turn blue and you’re good to go.

Overall I’m pretty impressed with the Veho Pebble Smartstick. It’s small enough to shove in your bag or pocket, and it’s a lifesaver if you need to boost your device’s battery while you’re out.

The Smartstick costs £16.99 from Mobile Fun at time of writing, and is available from their site.

Driverless cars – coming soon to the UK?

Driverless Car

One of Google’s driverless cars – photo by Marc Isler

There’s an interesting article on the BBC News site today saying that the UK Government is going to allow driverless cars on public roads from January of next year (2015). There have been driverless cars in the UK before now, but they have been restricted to running on private roads because of concerns over insurance and safety.

If you’re not quite sure what a driverless car is… well, it’s exactly what the phrase suggests: a car without a driver. Instead, you set your destination and the car takes you there, using an array of sensors to “read” its surroundings and a computer to determine what actions are safe to take.

I can kind of understand some of the concerns people have about driverless cars. Will they recognise a child running out into the street? Will they be able to cope with other drivers behaving badly? Well, I guess that’s the point of testing and, in the US, Google’s fleet of driverless cars had covered 700,000 accident-free miles as of the end of April 2014. Personally, I think having both driverless and human-controlled cars running on the same road will be a huge challenge, but one I’ll be interested to see how they deal with.

What do you think about driverless cars? Good idea? Dangerous? Scary? Or something else altogether? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments and let us know your opinion.