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PopGrip JumpStart review: what if a battery bank were also a PopSocket?

Photo of someone holding an iPhone, with the PopGrip JumpStart between their fingers.
PopSocket’s battery bank isn’t a small accessory. | Image: Mitchell Clark / The Verge

We’re smack in the middle of new phone season and getting close to the time when some of us are going to have to start worrying about wish lists and stocking stuffers, so I want to look at an accessory that may be on some people’s radar: the PopGrip JumpStart, a $35 battery bank that attaches to your phone via PopSocket’s quick release mechanism and provides around a 50 percent charge via a built-in Lightning or USB-C cable.

When I first heard about it, I hoped that the JumpStart would be both a good battery bank and a good way to hold my phone. Unfortunately, I found that it was relatively mediocre at the first job and worse at the second, making it a bit unclear who exactly this product is for.

I will say a few nice things before I really dig in, though. The JumpStart is a very nice object, made of a textured plastic shaped into a little ovular puck with the classic PopSocket sleeve on the back. On the top of the puck is a single button, which you click to start charging and which has a light that acts as a power indicator.

When you attach it to PopMount 2 products (aka the ones with the replaceable tops), it clicks into the mount with a satisfying sound. However, once you pop it out, it spins freely, so the puck can end up perpendicular to your phone. I couldn’t figure out any use for it doing this; it’s far too prominent to act as a kickstand, and it doesn’t really change the experience if you’re holding your phone in landscape instead of portrait. The only thing the spinning did was annoy me and occasionally detach the JumpStart from the phone.

Image showing the JumpStart’s integrated Lightning cable, which has been slightly removed from its holder. Photo by Mitchell Clark / The Verge
The integrated cable is about as good as it could be.

The integrated Lightning or USB-C cable (you buy it with one or the other) is around seven inches long and feels surprisingly sturdy. I’d expected that it would come loose and flop out of its slot, but that didn’t turn out to be the case at all. If anything, it’s almost a bit too difficult to deploy; I really had to dig my nails in and pull. But while I’m happy PopSockets is using a good cable, I really wish the JumpStart just used wireless charging, like other mountable battery banks from Anker, Otterbox, and Apple.

In theory, the built-in cable would make the JumpStart more convenient than having to carry around an external battery bank and corresponding cord, but I honestly found myself wishing I had gone with the latter solution whenever I was just trying to use my phone. The JumpStart’s bulk made it difficult to get my phone in and out of my pocket (a problem that’s even worse when you’ve got the cable plugged in), and it made the phone very uncomfortable to hold, even when I was using it like a massive PopSocket.

The obvious solution is to just take the JumpStart off when I’m not using it and put up with the worse ergonomics while I’m charging. The problem with that is that it seriously cuts down on the convenience factor because it means I have to carry the JumpStart around with me in either a pocket, bag, or purse if I want to use it when I find myself running low on juice. And if I have to carry something external around anyways, I’d probably want to go with something that could provide a bit more power.

According to PopSockets’ website, the JumpStart has approximately 2,200mAh of capacity. In my testing, that was enough power to take my phone from around 15 percent charge to around 80 percent (there was one outlier where it only managed to boost my phone by 40 percent, but that was a worst-case scenario where I was using GPS while charging in the cold). Your mileage may vary, though, because my iPhone Mini 12 has an itsy-bitsy battery. I don’t expect you’d get as many percentage points with a larger phone.

To be clear, that’s definitely enough power to get you out of a jam if you suddenly find yourself with a dead battery. But personally, it's just not worth the annoyance of either having to keep track of the JumpStart or trying to use my phone with a bulky spinny thing on the back. That’s especially true since my phone supports MagSafe, meaning I could use Anker’s $50 wireless charging battery bank with over double the capacity — there’s even a version with a built-in PopSocket, though that does cost more.

Image of the JumpStart’s USB-C port, with the accessory extended into the holding position. Photo by Mitchell Clark / The Verge
I appreciate the USB-C and passthrough charging — but I don’t appreciate how much the JumpStart swivels around when I’m trying to use it.

I do think the combination of too much bulk to be comfortable while not being bulky enough to really charge up your phone is kind of a shame because PopSockets clearly put some effort into this thing. No matter which version you get, you charge the JumpStart via USB-C, a boon for anyone who’s annoyed at Apple for sticking with Lightning on its phones. It also supports passthrough charging, meaning it can charge your phone while it's plugged into the wall — I have two dedicated power banks from Anker and Mophie that don’t have that feature.

At the top, I said I’m not quite sure who this is for. The one exception is someone absolutely dedicated to the PopSocket lifestyle who can’t live without a grip on the back of their phone and who either doesn’t want to use MagSafe or has a phone without it (aka the Android phones PopSockets targets with the USB-C version of the accessory). But I think anyone else will probably want to look at other, more traditional battery banks or go with the even newer magnetic tech.

Source: The Verge

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