by Tony Rushin
In past tips, Richard warned us about charging our phone in one of those public USB ports (Be Careful Where You Re-Charge Your iPhone) plus he told us how we could charge our phone more quickly (Charge Your iPhone Faster). These were great tips, especially for busy legal staff and the attorneys they support – and those who frequently travel.
What if you notice that your phone is low and you need a charge but there’s no plug available? This could happen most frequently at the airport (electrical outlets are at a premium) or in your car. You may have a quick and easy solution if your laptop is with you. Many newer laptops, if purchased in the last three years, will have a USB port that is “always-on”: even if the laptop is turned off. Yes, that’s right: even if the laptop is turned off.
One of our engineers, Jason Ellinger, shared this tip at a company meeting a few weeks ago. Jason was recently in Florida helping a client set up a new office (we only focus on companies in metro Atlanta but some of our clients have offices in other cities). Just before he started back to the airport to fly home he noticed his phone battery was low. He had his regular charger but not his car charger so he simply plugged his phone into his laptop’s always-on USB port. By the time he turned in his rental car, his phone was almost fully charged.
A fellow engineer, Michael Saba, initially discovered the always-on port by accident on a flight. His laptop was on and he was charging his phone prior to take off when he dutifully shut off his laptop as requested – with the phone still plugged in. When he could turn his laptop back on he noticed that his phone was already charged. Since that discovery, Michael often uses his laptop as a portable charging unit when it’s in his backpack and his phone needs a charge.
Not all USB ports have this capability. The “hot” port is typically identified by a lightning-bolt icon like this one on the HP EliteBook:
Dell and Toshiba laptops also use a lightning-bolt icon for the always-on port. However, not all laptops use the lightning-bolt icon. Lenovo uses yellow color-coding to show which USB port is always-on:
Unfortunately, my research found that none of the USB ports on an Apple MacBook Air come with always-on capability. However, the MacBook Air does create confusion since it comes with an Apple Thunderbolt connection that is identified with a lightning-bolt. A USB cable won’t fit into a Thunderbolt port.
Charging your phone from a laptop that’s turned off or sleeping will obviously drain some of the laptop battery. However, it doesn’t drain much. We conducted a test with a fully charged HP EliteBook and an iPhone that had 21% power. After 40 minutes the iPhone was charged up to 50% power and the EliteBook battery still had 85% charge left.
Check your laptop for the always-on port and test it out so you’re ready to use it in a pinch.