Portable battery packs have become an appreciated bit of crapgadgetry in the smartphone era, especially since swappable batteries are a rare feature in a modern phone. How about a keychain battery? Or a clip-on crank-powered pack? Need it waterproof? On it. Hell, even Apple sells a battery pack phone case now.
As nice as those may be, most external battery packs will only net you one phone recharge—two if you're lucky. For those off the grid or facing a broken grid in an emergency, popular battery and charging gadget maker has just launched the "Powerhouse," a 10-pound, aluminum-shelled block that has a 120,600 mAh capacity. That's enough to recharge a phone around 40 times, a laptop around 15 times, or even run a television or small refrigerator for a few hours. (Although not all at once.)
Overkill for around town? Absolutely. But that's not the market Anker is trying to address with this one. Instead, it's hoping the Powerhouse will replace other portable charging solutions that use heavier lead-acid batteries, like the popular Goal Zero Yeti 400, which has a similar energy capacity but weighs almost three times as much. (It also has a nicer AC converter and more 12v and 110v outlet plugs, so the game isn't over for Goal Zero quite yet.)
These types units are popular for car campers and overlanders, as well as those who live in areas where electricity isn't on tap; filling up the electron bucket when in town or storing a bright day's sunlight can be the difference between having hot water or light when away from the grid. Doing it with a box full of lithium-ion batteries, as Anker has done, makes the whole thing smaller and lighter than lead-acid alternatives, and much smaller than even the smallest gas generators.
Of course, you'll pay the greatest for the latest: $500, no carrying case included. (Although you can usually find a deal for $400 during the launch, like using the code "ANKPower" on Amazon.) Given the trajectory of battery pricing over the years, it's likely the Powerhouse and its competitors will get cheaper; you can weigh the premium against your likelihood of power outages.