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Here’s a neat gizmo for speeding up charging your smartphone over USB. The Practical Meter plugs into the USB socket you intend to use to charge your phone and has built-in indicator lights to show how fast the charging connection is. The problem its creators are attacking is the vast difference in charging rates over USB. Charge speed can vary depending on the device you’re charging and the USB port and charger cable you’re using. Yet this difference isn’t usually flagged up to the user.
The Practical Meter solves that problem by displaying the charging strength of the current combination — using signal bar style indicator lights — so it’s possible to figure out whether the phone is going to be fully charged in about an hour. Or require more like four hours to get juiced up. Here’s an example of the Practical Meter’s signal scale when charging an iPhone:
The Practical Meter has already passed its $10,000 funding goal on Kickstarter, with more than 3,200 backers and still more than 20 days to run on the campaign. Shipping date is pegged at September. Price per Meter is now $19, which also includes a three-in-one charger cable that’s designed to enhance charging performance. This cable has an Apple dock, Micro USB and Mini USB ends so it’s compatible with a range of phones.
Each of the three connectors has built-in circuits to maximise its charge rate — meaning the cable alone can speed up charging performance, according to its creators (the price for just the cable is $7).
Another possible use for the Practical Meter is in combination with a solar charging panel, as it allows the user to figure out the best position to place the panel to maximise its power output. The device can also be used for figuring out tablet charging rates too — although its creators note that it only meters the first 1000 mA (1 amp) of current, adding: “With our charging tips you will be able to draw 5 watts or 1000 mA of current into your ipad from your PC/Laptop! Stay tuned to learn about the possibility of a 10-watt version or stretch goal.”