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Once upon a time, it seemed like everybody was buying battery cases for their iPhones to squeeze the extra juice they needed to get through the day. However, the problem with a battery case is that it makes your smartphone heavy and bulky, and with phones growing larger and larger, the battery case just doesn't always make as much sense as it once did. In my opinion, an external battery pack is the way to go.

To that end, I've rounded up the best portable power banks and chargers for iPhone out there. Although they cost more, I personally like batteries that have a Lightning cable built into them, so I don't have to worry about carrying around a charging cable for a quick charge. But I've also included some budget picks for those who want to spend as little as possible. And, while we're planning a separate roundup for Android phones, anything here without an integrated Lightning cable will work perfectly well with an Android smartphone (or any other portable gadget), so long as you provide a USB-C- or Micro-USB-compatible cable.

Read: The best USB-C PD chargers of 2019  

Note that CNET may get a share of revenue from the sale of the products featured on this page.

Best battery packs with built-in Lightning cables

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Mophie has discontinued its swanky aluminum-clad PowerStation Mini Plus, which has an integrated "switch-tip" Lightning/Micro-USB cable (an adapter converts the Micro-USB to Lightning). However, it's still an excellent charger that you can find online at a discount and there are even better deals on certified refurbished models (I bought two of the pink ones for less than $10 each on Amazon, and they seemed perfectly good). The Mini Plus is available in versions with 4,000 and 6,000 mAh (milliamp hours). The latter is about a third thicker. 

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The Hub Mini has integrated Lightning and Micro-USB cables. This portable charger for iPhone is not so slim, but it is compact and easily fits in a pocket. It has a 3,300-mAh battery inside and costs $50 on Amazon. 

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The newest version of Mophie's PowerStation Plus ($80) has a fabric finish and houses a 6,040-mAh battery. Like the PowerStation Plus Mini, it has an integrated Lightning connector. If you buy one of the Apple-exclusive versions, the battery conveniently charges with any Lightning cable (rather than Micro-USB). The version on Amazon charges via an included Micro-USB cable. It's an expensive battery pack -- and slightly thick -- but it is well designed and reliable. With the USB-out port, you can charge or recharge two devices simultaneously.

Best battery packs with built-in Lightning cables and fold-out wall plugs

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I've used the PhoneSuit Journey (3,500-mAh battery) for a while, and it's held up well over time. With its foldable prongs, you can plug it right into a wall outlet, and it also has integrated Lightning and Micro-USB cables. I've charged another power bank with the Micro-USB cable while simultaneously charging an Apple iPhone with the Lightning cable. You can find it for $45 on Amazon.

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Like the PhoneSuit Journey, the Ventev Powercell 6010 Plus (currently $30 on Amazon) has integrated folding prongs and both an integrated Lightning cable and Micro-USB cable. But the Ventev is thicker and larger because it houses a larger 6,000-mAh battery. There's also a USB-out so you can charge or recharge another device with an extra cable.

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All of MyCharge's Home & Go chargers have an integrated foldable wall plug and USB-out port (or dual ports). However, this version also has a built-in Lightning cable, which is why it costs more. The 4,000-mAh capacity version costs $30 on Amazon, while the 8,000-mAh version runs $40 on Amazon.

Best affordable slim power banks (without integrated cables)

The Anker PowerCore Slim 5000 ($30) houses a 5,000-mAh battery and, as its name implies, is quite slim. While it's been around for a few years, it will work with all the latest iPhones (and Android models), but you have to bring your own cable to the charging party.

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MyCharge GoExtra is a simple (pictured in the center), slim battery with an integrated fabric loop. The 4,400-mAh version costs $25 while the step-up Go Big (6,000 mAh) costs $5 more and has two USB-out ports instead of one. Additionally, there's a 2,600-mAh Go Mini for $20, and the smallest of the bunch, the Go Style, which you can stick on a keychain (although it's a little big for that), can be had for $10.

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The Mophie Powerstation Mini is a slim -- and slick-looking -- fast-charging brick that houses a 3,000-mAh battery to recharge or charge your phone. No cable is included, but you can get these in a two-pack on Amazon for $30. (Only the blue version is available at that price on Amazon, but it does come in other color options.) 

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The Anker PowerCore Lite 10,000 mAh retails for about $35. While it's thicker than some of the chargers in this roundup, it is one of slimmest 10,000-mAh portable chargers and has a USB-C input for charging the battery, but no USB-C output. No cables are included. 

Best battery packs with fold-out wall plug (no cable)

Anker

This Anker model is basically an oversized wall charger that plugs in like a power adapter with a built-in 5,000-mAh battery. It's got two standard USB charging ports for juicing up multiple devices such as your smartphone and a secondary device (or two phones) simultaneously, and a little LED indicator on the side lets you check the charge level at the press of a button. It's available in white, black or lipstick red for $26 to $30. 

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The MyCharge Home & Go Portable Charger has built-in foldable prongs so you can plug it right into a wall outlet for fast charging. The smaller and slimmer 4,000-mAh version costs around $30 and has a single USB-out (no Lighting cable included), while the 8,000-mAh version costs $40 and has dual USB-out ports for charging two devices simultaneously.   

Best pocketable rugged mini charger

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Available in a variety of capacities, MyCharge's Adventure series battery packs are designed to withstand drops and offer both dust and water resistance. They also include a carabiner so you can clip the battery onto a backpack.

Priced at around $23, the Adventure Mini pictured here houses a 3,350-mAh battery that will fully charge most phones. It has one USB-out port (no cable is included) while the step-up Adventure Plus ($25) has a 4,400-mAh battery and dual USB-out ports to charge or recharge two phones at the same time.

Best portable wireless Qi chargers

Amazon

MyCharge's Unplugged series comes in 3K (3,000 mAh), 5K (5,000 mAh), 8K (8,000 mAh) and 10K (10,000 mAh) models, all of which are portable battery packs with wireless charging capabilities. Additionally, they have a USB-out port or ports for wired charging with a cable (you can charge two devices simultaneously). It's like having a wireless charging pad without the cord. 

They start at $30 for the 3K version, which is obviously the slimmest of the bunch. While the 5K wireless charger is a little thicker, it doesn't cost much more and probably delivers more performance for your money.    

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Moshi's Porto Q 5K (5,000-mAh) isn't cheap at around $85, but like the MyCharge Unplugged, it's a portable battery that doubles as a wireless charging pad. It's swankier and more stylish than the MyCharge Unplugged and charges via USB-C instead of Micro-USB. There's a USB-out port for wired fast charging, and you can charge two devices simultaneously. 

Best power bank for iPhone that charges via Lightning

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The Belkin Boost Charge comes in 5,000- ($40) and 10,000-mAh ($50) versions. The higher capacity model (pictured above, left) is one of the slimmer 10K power banks currently available, weighing 7.48 ounces (212 grams). While neither comes with a Lightning cable, one of the Boost Charge's key differentiating points is that you can charge or recharge with a Lightning cable so you don't have to carry around a Micro-USB or USB-C cable to charge it.

The 5K version (pictured above, right) has one USB port; the 10K has two USB out ports for charging two devices at the same time.

Bonus pick: Power bank with built-in speaker

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If you're looking for a portable battery that can also play music, the Esquire Mini 2 ($130) is a slick Bluetooth travel speaker that has a USB-out port for charging devices (no Lightning cable included). It sounds surprisingly good for its slim size.   Read full review

Battery packs compared

We used all of the models above in anecdotal testing during recent weeks and months. The ones highlighted above are ones we recommend for a quick charge over the dozens if not hundreds of others currently on sale at Amazon and elsewhere, which is why we zeroed in on a handful of favorite brands: Mophie, MyCharge and Anker, with some notable one-offs from PhoneSuit, Moshi and Harman Kardon thrown in for good measure.

iPhone Battery Packs

Product Capacity Built-in Lightning? Built-in AC prongs? Price Weight
Mophie PowerStation Mini Plus 4,000 mAh Yes No $45 3.84 oz.
MyCharge Hub Mini 3,300 mAh Yes No $50 3.52 oz.
Mophie PowerStation Plus 6,040 mAh Yes No $80 6.35 oz.
PhoneSuit Journey 3,500 mAh Yes Yes $50 4.5 oz.
Ventev Powercell 6010+ 6,000 mAh Yes Yes $43 6.72 oz.
MyCharge Home & Go Portable Lightning Charger 4,000 mAh Yes Yes $29 6.4 oz.
Anker PowerCore Slim 5000 5,000 mAh No No $30 7.4 oz.
MyCharge Go series 4,400 mAh No No $25 2.4 oz.
Mophie Powerstation Mini 3,000 mAh No No 2 for $29 3.18 oz.
Anker PowerCore Lite 10,000 mAh 10,000 mAh No No $34 7.4 oz.
Anker PowerCore Fusion Portable Charger 5,000 mAh No Yes $26 6.6 oz.
MyCharge Home & Go Portable Charger 4,000 mAh 4,000 mAh No Yes $29 4 oz.
MyCharge AdventureMini 3,350 mAh No No $23 3.2 oz.
MyCharge Unplugged 3K 3,000 mAh No No $30 4.8 oz.
Moshi Porto Q 5K 5,000 mAh No No $85 5.5 oz.
Belkin Boost Charge 10K 10,000 mAh No No $50 7.48 oz.
Harman Kardon Esquire Mini 2 2,200 mAh No No $130 8.8 oz.

What to look for

Here's a few things to keep in mind when shopping for battery packs:

  • A higher power rating (mAh, short for millamp hours) means more charges -- but also a heavier weight. 
  • For the latest iPhones (everything after the iPhone 7) you should buy a battery with at least a 3,000-mAh capacity, which should give you at least one full charge for a device. With the exception of the Harman Kardon, all of the models featured above hit that mark. 
  • Multiple USB-out ports will allow you to charge more than one smartphone -- or one device -- at a time.
  • These products all use lithium-ion (li-ion) rechargeable batteries, and should thus always be stored in carry-on luggage when flying. Airlines and regulatory agencies are increasingly banning lithium-ion batteries in checked baggage.
  • None of the battery packs above are USB-PD (power delivery) models, so don't expect these to juice up a device beyond phones, wireless headphones, small tablets or some other small USB-powered device. That said, these chargers may trickle-charge a larger USB-C device (laptops, Nintendo Switch and the like). Likewise, these chargers may juice up iPads, but often at slower rates than large-wattage wall chargers.

Read more: 

Xiaomi Mi 9 comes with three rear cameras and a teardrop front camera

Best portable chargers and power banks for Android devices

Quick-charge your phone on the go with Aukey power bank

Originally published March 2.