If your phone, tablet or smartwatch isn’t charged, then it isn’t a mobile device—it’s a paperweight. But keeping all these devices charged, at home and on the go, is no small feat.
I admit, we are a family of tech fanatics, with a lot of devices to charge: four smartphones, three tablets, two smartwatches and several sets of wireless headphones—not to mention all the batteries we keep on hand, just in case the devices peter out. Since I am the Chief Charging Officer in my household, I have invested many years and dollars in finding the setups and solutions that ensure most of our devices are powered, most of the time.
Here are the biggest charging problems I have faced—and conquered:
The powerless wake-up. Waking up to an empty battery just starts the day off on the wrong note. But it was a problem I experienced all too often when I relied on a multidevice wireless charger that was a little too finicky, or conversely, on a mess of separate cables and power bricks that could easily come unplugged if I tugged on a cord while putting my devices to bed.
Finally, I arrived at the perfect solution: a bedside charging stand with separate cubbies for my phone, tablet, headphones and watch, but where I supply my own multiport charger and cables (so they’re easy to replace if one dies). For those who are as nerdy as I am: I got a four-port GAN charger that’s nestled discreetly inside my charging stand, from which four cables snake out to charge my various gadgets. Since the cables are secured by the stand, I no longer find myself accidentally unplugging a cable, then waking up to an uncharged device.
The power thief. I’m not sure how our marriage survived our earliest years as smartphone owners, when there were just a couple of USB cables dangling from adapters in the living room. I’d plug my gadgets in to charge, then come upstairs to discover that my husband had unplugged one of my mobile devices so that he could charge his own. And yes, I was at times guilty of similar behavior.
For a while I solved this problem with a 24-port charging tower—which in all honesty was overkill, even for our tech-crazy house. Even worse, I hated the aesthetic of a 12-inch charging obelisk in the middle of our living room, which just gave rise to a new problem: People (also known as teenagers) walking off with the charging cables. I tried giving each family member their own dedicated cable color, so that I could catch my children red-handed when they stole one of my cables. It didn’t stop them.
What actually worked: zip ties! I have set up little charging stations in all the relevant parts of our house, and zip-tied the cords to their respective stations. An enterprising child could certainly snip a zip tie, but that requires looking for a pair of scissors—way too much work.
Cable chaos. Unless you are some kind of superhero who carries one perfectly maintained charging cable from room to room, you probably have micro-USB, mini-USB, USB-C and/or lightning cables scattered around the floors and surfaces of your home.
Putting your power bar in a special charging box can help; we have one under our coffee table, so it’s easy to stuff all the cables back in the box to quickly create a little order (well, the appearance of order) when you have visitors. But if you’re actually using the power bar to charge things, you’re going to have lots of cables snaking out of the box, so it doesn’t do a whole lot to reduce the chaos.
What works better: Find (or place) a table in the corner of your living area, a couple of inches from a wall. Make the edge of that table the home for a charging stand that has a covered compartment for a multiport charger, plus open slots for all your devices. That way, all the cables snake out over the edge of the table, hidden against the wall. If I need to plug in a phone, tablet or battery, I just reach into the abyss beside the table, pull up an unused cord, plug in my device, and drop it in one of the slots.
Charging out the door. It’s easy to ignore a dwindling battery until the moment you need it—typically, when heading out the door. The best way to avoid that scenario is to make a habit of keeping your devices plugged in while you’re at home (or at your office). That means you need to make it easy to charge wherever you are.
In our home, every seating area has a nearby power bar with built-in USB outlets, and extra long (4- to 10-foot) cables for charging our phones. The aforementioned tabletop charging stand that holds most of our cables and devices is right behind our sofa, so I use the two most powerful charging ports for high-speed cables that can reach to either end of the sofa, and charge our phones up to 50% in about half an hour. I’ve zip-tied charging cables so they dangle off the front of each of my children’s desks, visually nagging them to plug in their phones while they’re sitting there. And I keep a couple of charging cables plugged into the power bar on my own desk.
For those times when we still manage to run down our devices while sitting at home, I’ve taken a page from my favorite hotels: I keep a bank of mobile batteries plugged in and charging near our front door.
Headphone charging. Running out of power on a phone or tablet may be annoying, but running out of juice on wireless headphones is even worse. After all, you can always plug your phone into an outlet or battery, but if your headphones are running on empty, your only choice is to hold your phone up to your ear, like some kind of animal. Worse yet, you may find yourself unable to listen to music or a video, so that you get stuck listening to your own thoughts and feelings—just what smartphones help us to avoid!
I keep an extra charging case for my wireless headphones on my nightstand; if I come to bed with my earbuds in, I don’t have to go looking for my primary charging case. And for those big, noise-canceling headphones, I have installed a tension-mounted closet rod in a bookcase shelf. All our headphones hang over the rod, and I’ve placed a 4-port USB charger at the back of the shelf so that it’s easy to plug them in when they’re low on power.
Excessive? No question. And I still dream of the day when I can hire a charging concierge—a domestic employee who can make a full-time job of keeping all our cords labeled and our devices charged. While I’m playing that role myself, however, I’ll keep on tinkering with the accessories and systems that make it easy for us to stay at 99%.
Dr. Samuel is a technology researcher and co-author of “Remote, Inc.: How to Thrive at Work…Wherever You Are.” Email her at email@example.com.