Think your smartphone is charging at full power? Think again. Your phone may tell you it's charging - it may even think it's charging - but like a freshman at a liberal arts university, it doesn't know what it's doing or what it wants. This is where Practical Meter steps in. Think of it as an academic adviser for charging phones. It tells you how fast your phone is charging, and if used correctly, can help you get things moving in the right direction. Practical Meter's appeal is so strong that Power Practical just closed its Kickstarter funding period with sixteen times more money than they asked for.


Here's the gist of how the Practical Meter works. Your smartphone may say it's charging, but depending on which cable it's using and where it's plugged in, the phone may be charging half as fast as it should be, if not slower. This is why Power Practical put forward the Practical Meter, a flash drive-sized device that users plug into a charging source before attaching a power cable. Its LED lights display how much power the cable is pulling.


Meter5 Meter6

If used in conjunction with Power Practical's optimized charging tips, it can speed up how fast the handset changes. A four hour charge time man suddenly become two. The cable comes with the obligatory Apple dock, but it supplies both mini and micro USB tips as well. The product is already developed and ready, and you can see it in action in the video below.

Power Practical wanted $9,999 for the project, but they received $167,820 from over 8,000 backers. This put them over both their 100K stretch goal (10 watt metering for tablets) and their 150K goal as well (charging cable color options). Those who pledged support shouldn't have to wait long to get a product in their hands. The Practical Meters are scheduled to ship sometime in September.

The Practical Meter: Know your power!

Bertel King, Jr.
Born and raised in the rural South, Bertel knows what it's like to live without 4G LTE - or 3G, for that matter. The only things he likes sweeter than his tea are his gadgets, and while few objects burn more than a metal phone on a summer day, he prefers them that way anyway.

  • Misti curia

    Trust apple to have a stick so far up their ass that they make their devices charge slower on PC even though it has as much power output as a mac

    • Marc Edwards

      pc's sometimes have a setting that basically means usb devices stop recieving as much current after a certain amount of time inactive. this is nothing to do with apple, it's a default setting in windows that makes sense with something like an external hard drive plugged into a usb port but causes problems when it's a phone you're trying to charge. it makes laptop batteries last longer.

      • Misti curia

        And yet using a different cord you can charge at full power on pc

        • Marc Edwards

          not really. using the same cord but fiddling with the pc settings so as to prevent it trying to save power makes it charge at full power. it's a setting intended for laptops to improve battery life.

          • Cerberus_tm

            Actually, I would like to try that. Any idea where this setting is in XP? I'll Google around a bit...currently, my PC charges my Galaxy Nexus at 0.5 A, while my wall charger gives it 1 A. As you say, I use the same cable between charger (which is just a block without a cable, with a USB slot) and phone as between PC and phone: it's a USB-to-micro-USB cable, which Samsung included.

          • Marc Edwards

            no idea i'm afraid. in windows 7 it's called usb selective suspend, under advanced power settings.

          • Cerberus_tm

            OK thanks, I'll see whether I ca find something similar.

  • Gloria Tortorella

    So? If you discover it's charging slowly, what can you do? What's the practical use of this? Help me understand.

    • Mehmet Fatih

      You change your usb cable to increase the performance.

      • OmniWrench

        The limiting factor on a device charging slowly is... The USB cable? Not the source you're plugged into? Is that what this device is claiming?

        • RajivSK

          Maybe you guys should watch the video. You know, the explanatory video, where all is explained.

        • squiddy20

          Most chargers for Bluetooth headsets (which, from my limited experience, are wall chargers only) charge slower than a USB cable. It used to be (not sure if it still does) that the stock Android battery stats would tell you if you're plugged into a high output (like a wall charger) or a low output (most USB cables). Whenever I plugged my phone into one of those chargers that came with the Bluetooth device, it would invariably show up as USB, even though it was a plugged into a wall outlet.

          • http://mavi222.deviantart.com/gallery/ Mavi

            Yeah, this happens mostly because the android checks if the data pins are active or not. " If they are active, the charging rate is limited to the standard 500mA USB supply. If open, the phone goes into AC mode which allows up to 2A (2000mA) charging rate depending on the power supply." - Las_Vegas @ http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1473613

    • atlouiedog

      I've got 4 computers and 2 USB wall adapters on my desk at home. There are two different models of e-readers, smartphones from multiple manufacturers, tablets, and different micro/mini usb cables to use with all of these things.

      I once plugged two identical e-readers in to charge, one via PC and one into the wall. I was surprised to find out after 3 hours that the one plugged into the wall had barely charged, likely due to the cable which had previously worked fine plugged into a PC. This thing would helped me avoid that situation and would save me future hassle with the large number of variables that I'm working with.

  • kay

    Sounds like they really should have put this in the cable itself instead of as a separate device.

    • Ivan Myring

      That's what I thought.

    • c00ller

      Then it won't be as modular. With it being separate, you can connect to any cable you want, maximizing the potential.

  • squiddy20

    Or you just mod one of the many USB cables you have lying around to pull the same amount of charge as if it were plugged into a wall outlet: http://www.podfeet.com/blog/tutorials/make-your-own-charge-only-usb-cable-for-the-novatel-mifi/

  • Claw

    so this is basically a dumbed down, overpriced, one feature mutimeter? Because seriously, if you care for charging speed that much... really...learn to use electronics and a tiny tiny TINY bit of physics and youre good to go. The target audience for Kickstarter projects is really getting dumber and dumber.

    • c00ller

      let me know when you find an easy way to get multimeter measurements somewhere between a USB port, the cable, and the device

      • Claw

        you can calculate the internal impedance of your device trough the usb port, then know the output of your charger by measuring both the current and the voltage provided, and then plug a multimeter between the charging port and the cable through some simple wiring, if you really care. But you're probably american, so just buy that thing..better that way.

        • Claw

          OR you could even just measure the resistance of your charging cable, since if your phone charges slowly and there's nothing wrong with your cable, you should change your charger.

          • c00ller

            "...and then plug a multimeter between the charging port and the cable through some simple wiring..."
            please tell me more about this "simple wiring." i know how to take multimeter measurements and doing so for these tiny usb pins is easier said than done and will need more than "simple wiring". remember, you need to have this wiring in place while the device is connected; you can't simply shove in any wires to something already plugged in.
            yes i'm american (not that it matters); i'm also a PhD student in engineering and am well versed in the distinction between theoretical science (your proposal) and practical engineering (which is what this is all about) so please, get off your high horse.

        • Christopher Lee

          Wow, I'll keep that in mind next time I have my multimeter handy, especially when I'm charging my phone at the next airport kiosk. /s

          This project doesn't particularly interest me, but your sheer arrogance in assuming that someone is a) American because of a comment or b) that that necessarily entails laziness is astounding.

          • Claw

            if you're charging at the airport kiosk it doesn't really matter how fast it's charging isn't it? Because you can't really do anything about it. This is another iPhone user "gadget"....

          • Christopher Lee

            Depends on what you're waiting for. If you've got a long layover, sure, but if you're on a tight schedule because of a connecting flight and your cell died sometime in transit, it's nice to know if one of those ports is broken or not.

            People have different use-cases. This product happens to apply to some more than others, that's all.

          • atlouiedog

            Samsung has been putting charging kiosks in a lot of the airports that I regularly travel through. They have both USB ports and standard standard outlets on them. I once plugged my phone into the USB port while playing a game and waiting for my flight. The phone kept losing power, although at a slower rate. I dug around in my bag and found my wall adapter and switched to the other charging option. My remaining battery then started going up.

            Someone with a different phone with a different cable and a different adapter at a different charging station may have the opposite experience. If I hadn't been doing something so power intensive I may not have realized that my phone could have been charging faster. This thing would have told me.

  • solbin

    Why can't I think of things like this????

  • Leonardo Baez

    old apple connector, but not the new one? silly

    • Christopher Lee

      Considering that Apple has licensing requirements for Lightning, not that much.

  • tbonefsg

    Why didn't this post come before the kickstarter ended?

    • edude03

      Seriously!! I just had to buy one from their store since I didn't even hear about this.

    • Cory_S

      Exactly what I was thinking while reading it

  • Brandon Watkins

    WHY don't you guys post this before it ends!!!!! maybe I'm dumbass and didn't see you post it, and if thats the case ignore me. but otherwise start posting more about new kickstarter projects!

  • Stormprobe

    Anyone who has taken an electronics class knows that this is a very simple device and very cheap and easy to make. The fact that they are trying to get kickstarter money is a scam in itself.