27
Mar
RIMG_0581_1600x1200
Last Updated: June 2nd, 2012

When I review a product, I don't take going into nearly-full-on-cheerleading-mode lightly. I know everyone has individual needs and wants that must be addressed when they're making an investment into almost anything, and that not every product is meant for every person. But after using the Powerbag Instant Messenger, I can't help but think the company has spawned an entirely new (and amazing) segment, the likes of which I wish had been around for the last 2 years.

So, what is a "Powerbag," exactly? The Powerbag Instant Messenger is a messenger bag. Inside that messenger bag is a 6000mAh battery, and a dock for said battery to snap into. From that dock, power is delivered to two cables (one microUSB/miniUSB, one Apple multi-pin connector) in small pouches on the inner-front of the bag (see photos), and there's also a standard USB port to plug in an extra cable. You charge up the battery through a small AC port on the side of the bag, or you can remove the battery and charge it separately.

RIMG_0671_1600x1200

Let me be frank: it is a ludicrously simple concept. Think about it - what we have here is a portable, high-capacity charger (of which many exist, including those made by the sister brand of Powerbag, myCharge), combined with a messenger bag, connected using some cables and fabric. The rest is just a matter of making sure the whole thing doesn't spontaneously burst into flames (there's more to it, but you get the gist).

And holy crap, is it ever awesome. And not just for the idea, mind you - it's a great bag, too.

The Breakdown

  • What is it? A messenger bag that charges your phone(s). Also available in backpack and "Oh god, really? Are you serious?" rolly-briefcase forms (paper bag not included with rolly-briefcase version).
  • How much? $180.
  • What's in the box bag? The bag (with micro/mini USB, Apple multi-pin, and female USB 2.0), a 6000mAh battery pack, and a wall charger.
  • Do I want it? Of course you do - it's awesome.

The Good

  • Who doesn't want a messenger bag that charges your phone? It's like MAGIC.
  • A 6000mAh battery comes standard (enough for about 4 full "average" phone charges, but I got 3 at best), and you can buy more in various sizes to swap in and out (3000, 6000, and 9000mAh are available).
  • The compartments are so well thought-out and useful - it's clear someone actually thought about how people with gadgets use their bags.
  • Speaking of which, there still manages to be enough "big item" space, especially with the dedicated laptop sleeve.
  • It's pretty discreet, as well - there's no ridiculous branding or showboating going on, so you won't look like you're 15 when you're wearing it.

The Not So Good

  • It's a messenger bag. If you don't like messenger bags, you won't like this. There is a backpack version, though, so you may like that (same price).
  • Quality of construction is good (don't get me wrong, it's actually quite sturdy), but it's definitely not hand stitched by artisans in a small Italian village - I've had to snip a few wayward threads already.
  • Like the Model T, it comes in any color you want - so long as it's black.
  • The way the plastic buckles... buckle... is annoying (though it does make it look cooler) and cumbersome.
  • $180 is a lot for a bag. But unlike that ice cream maker in the garage, you'll actually use this. 

In The Bag

Let's get down to brass tacks: it's a bag. You want to know how it looks inside, and how much stuff you can jam into it. Relatedly, taking pictures of an open bag is incredibly difficult.

RIMG_0685_1600x1200

RIMG_0647_1600x1200 RIMG_0679_1600x1200 RIMG_0695_1600x1200

Pictures only tell some of the story here, though - the real question is how much can you actually fit in it? Well, this is what I've managed:

  • 1 15.5" Sony Vaio S Series laptop with sheet battery (fits in laptop sleeve area)
  • 1 ASUS Transformer Prime with keyboard dock (in main compartment)
  • 1 Motorola DROID BIONIC (in charging sleeve)
  • 1 Canon SX230HS compact camera (in device sleeve in main compartment)
  • 1 Logitech M305 wireless mouse
  • 1 pair Etymotic Research earbuds
  • 1 6000mAh myCharge portable charger
  • Sony laptop AC charger
  • TFP AC charger
  • Motorola AC charger
  • Canon AC charger
  • Powerbag AC charger
  • 2 spare camera batteries
  • 50 business cards
  • 2 pens (in slots)
  • 1 Thermos Backpack Bottle
  • 1 bottle Aleve Liquid Gels

And there's still room for more at that point (not much, but a significant amount - a couple of t-shirts, perhaps).

Anyway, suffice to say, you can jam a lot of stuff in the Instant Messenger, and the best part is it's all pretty damn easy to keep organized with the plethora of sleeves, nets, and zipper compartments in and on the bag. Hell, there's even a cable guide if you decide to hook up to the extra USB port on the charging hub. Speaking of which, how's the Messenger's party piece actually work in practice?

Powering Up

Using the charge function on the Powerbag is dead simple. Snap in your battery (it should come pre-charged), hook a device into the micro/miniUSB (... or Apple multi-pin) port, and hold the "power" button for 2 seconds. You'll see a small row of lights above the logo, and you can tap the power button at any point to see how much charge you have left (there are 4 lights, for 25% increments). It will also turn itself off after a few minutes if it notices no gadgets are connected.

RIMG_0701_1600x1200

RIMG_0714_1600x1200 RIMG_0713_1600x1200 RIMG_0726_1600x1200

The standard bag ships with a 6000mAh battery, which is enough to charge a 1500mAh smartphone around 4 times. In actuality, you'll probably get around 3 with a phone sporting a battery that size. This is because unless your phone is completely off, it's always sucking some juice, and the power transfer is obviously not going to be 100% efficient to start with. Still, three charges isn't bad at all, and you can always buy a spare battery pack, too (it's $50 for a spare 6000mAh pack).

Note to Transformer Prime owners: the Powerbag will not charge your Transformer Prime tablet. This is because ASUS has configured the Transformer Prime to charge only over its factory AC adapter.

To Conclude

What's so revolutionary about this? For someone like me, who constantly forgets to charge my phone, it is a truly magnificent invention. Never again do I have to worry about forgetting my phone charger, or leaving in the morning with my phone at 40% battery - because I never forget my messenger bag. And if I forget to charge up my bag, I've got my backup portable charger, as well as the bag charger, with me at all times - because they're in the bag. I could also just carry a charged spare battery for the bag in one of the smaller outer zipper compartments.

The Instant Messenger fills the last gap in the "range anxiety" conundrum for me - since having it, I've never been in a situation where my phone was without a source of juice, and that's a problem I face surprisingly often. It's particularly useful on long flights, as well. The best thing about it is you can just stuff your phone in the charging pocket and forget it - it's just so damn convenient. It doesn't hurt that it's also the best messenger bag I've ever used, hands down (even better than my Dakine and Timbuk2 bags). Is it a little pricey? Sure. But it's a great bag, a great idea, and there really isn't anything else out there like it.

David Ruddock
David's phone is whatever is currently sitting on his desk. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • http://codytoombs.wordpress.com Cody Toombs

    2 things...

    First, I'm about 90% certain you can solve that Transformer charging issue with a pigtail adapter or dongle that shorts the correct wires. I bought one for my SGTab 10.1 and it works pretty well.

    Second, video dude ;) You say pictures don't tell the tale (and I agree, it's impossible to get the context of what a close-up is showing), so just do a short video review and maybe stuff some things into the bag to show off how it would all fit.

    • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

      Agreed - we demand video. Video! Video!

      • Zack

        Third! VIDEO VIDEO VIDEO!!

  • J Valenzuela

    The Transformer Prime won't charge because the output is not 12volts or greater. That's why it won't charge.

  • spydie

    The Transformer Prime will ONLY charge through it's AC adapter? I did not know that. Crap. What about the older Asus Transformer TF-101? Same problem? If not, I may sell the prime and buy an older one. After all, if I'm traveling and not near an AC adapter and need power, I'd love to have one of these, buy why buy it if I can't charge my prime?

    • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

      That would explain why I came to a dead Transformer Prime while traveling - the cable was plugged into my Samsung charger. So I can verify this is definitely something to be aware of.

      • http://royblumenthal.com/portfolio Roy Blumenthal

        Yip. Confirmed. I have the first generation Asus Transformer. And it can only charge from a 12 volt source... The supplied charger. I've tried charging from my I.sound 14000 mAh portable battery. Nogo.

  • cole

    Very cool bag. I had a powerskin for my myTouch 4g and it was excellent for extending my battery life. This just might find it way into my grasp. Great review. Thanks.

  • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

    Not that chargers in bags are a bad idea, but I got my 8200 mAh PowerCore in my backpack at all times, and that thing's a beast. And I can take it out and walk around with it (though I think you can do the same with the battery from the PowerBag too). So, I have my own PowerBag in a sense, made from my favorite backpack.

    • http://codytoombs.wordpress.com Cody Toombs

      I was thinking something kinda like this while reading the review. It's hard to shake the thought that you could reproduce and customize this idea using your own battery, some decent sewing skills and a couple cheap male-to-female connectors. I never bothered going as far as permanent modding, but I have an old (but great) alienware backpack that's got a few cables strategically strung through various spots for airport travel.

    • Mat

      Thanks for the link to the old review :-) I think I'd rather do something like what you and Cody are saying. I could find a pretty decent bag for ~ $60 that specifically fits my device and style needs, and I have all the extra charging cables lying around. Combine that with a $70 - $90 battery and we're still under $180 for a fully customized bag that's exactly suited to my needs.

      On another note, I really appreciate that you had a "Competitors" section in that article. It would be cool to see that in more product reviews :-)

  • Tyler C

    Pretty cool idea, but a totally absurd price. I'll pass.

  • Ickkii

    The transformer prime can be charged with this bag. It's not Asus's fault - it's the powerbag's fault for not having usb 3.0 instead of 2.0. Usb 2.0 can't meet the 15v the transformer prime needs to charge (it will still charge on 2.0, just very, very, slowly). If they were to change the cable to a 3.0 usb cable the problem wouldn't exist.

    With a bag meant to charge things - it makes no sense to cap that to usb 2.0.

  • cooldoods

    i don't keep my phone in a bag, i keep it in my pocket. that said, i'd like to see one of the small external battery chargers come up with a version that has a clip for the top of my pants so I could charge my phone while it is in my pocket.

    • http://codytoombs.wordpress.com Cody Toombs

      A little glue and a 35 cent plastic clip from a craft or tool store would solve that. These are the kind of requests that don't really make sense to me because they are so easily solved by simple mods to any existing product.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1039082010 Ryan Allen Young

        yup. consumer culture has a weird mindset though. There's a reason the term DIY has now become a label of a "subculture". It's a different mindset than the standard. Applying DIY ethos to consumer culture is what winds up with those weird "why didn't I think of that" products in the 'as seen on TV' store.

  • solomonjets

    I keep a 11,000mAh external battery in my messenger bag so I got juice wherever I go...nice review though I like that bag.

  • adam

    Everyone gangstar rio came out now on android aka google play store.

  • OFI

    For that money i'd really expect it to have a higher capacity than my £25 portable battery pack however nice the rest of the bag might be..

  • Gabba

    That things is FUGLY. I'm not some teenager who walks around with a wool cap on, I need something dignified that I can bring into a meeting and not be ashamed of

  • Jonathan

    I have done this DIY. I bought in Hongkong some really nice Lipo-batterys (4400mAh+, 11.1V). They are the same fabric as those why can buy at home but much cheaper. Then i got a linear voltage regulator which has a stable output of 5V. Together with a voltage checker it protects the battery from getting damaged due to low voltage.
    Stored it all nicely in my massager bag it get the same for 30$ (with out the bag)

    • Jason Learst

      You should make a tutorial on how to make that, or at least links to the parts of you still have them. I was considering building something simila

  • marshall

    One thing you didn't touch on which for me being an Oregonian is of great importance, Is it water proof?

  • SleepIT

    Way too expensive for the low capacity. I have the New Trent IMP1000 which is 11,000mAh and can be picked up for less than $80. Stick it in a bag (much better looking than this fugly messenger bag) and you've got the same thing with 2.5x the capacity!

    • SleepIT

      Ooops, not 2.5x capacity...was thinking about the other comment about a 4,400mAh battery. Still close to 2x capacity.

  • Joel

    David, despite all the people expressing their opinions to the contrary in the comments, you sold me on it. Ordered it last night. I've been using the same messenger-style work bag for about 6 years and it was in dire need of replacement.

    By the way, if anyone wants to get it a bit cheaper, try eBags.com. I used a promotion code I found on TechBargains.com for 30% off (code = EMFBFF). Knocked the total down to $135. Still not cheap, but not horrible.

  • Ian Thomas

    I use my power bag every day as a functional bag however between the first one I ordered and my replacement, neither one charges my Samsung Vibrant with the in bag usb cable. It can charge other phones just not my Vibrant. The reasoning for this is the power requirements of the phone being higher than most. If I used the built in usb port and my standalone usb cable my phone charges perfectly fine from the battery pack. This is unfortunately quite frustrating however the overall functionality of the messenger as a handy tech bag out weighs this annoyance for me so I still use it daily albeit not in the way I had originally hoped.

Quantcast