Apple Battery Charger hype

The latest in spin from Cupertino.

Traditional rechargeable batteries have a short shelf life. They self-discharge quickly and cannot handle many charge cycles before dying.

Apple has introduced a charger with six AA rechargeables using enhanced technology rechargeable batteries. At $29.95 it’s not a bad value as things Apple go, though you are limited to recharging only two batteries at a time and have to avoid the gag reflex when reading the usual hype on their web site. Still, given the low self-discharge rate, that’s not a big deal. Charge two, charge two more, etc. They claim that the recharger has very low static current draw but it would seem to me that any sane person would not leave the charger plugged in unless it was actually charging, so hardly a feature.

The Apple device actually uses Sanyo Eneloop batteries which have been around a while. You can read about the technology here.

And, needless to say, you can do much better on the price by buying the Sanyo four battery charger which comes with eight AA and 2 AAA batteries for $29.45 from Amazon. It also comes with C and D size adapters which take your AA batteries but that’s dumb as small AA batteries will not run long in a high drain device like a flashlight (English: ‘Torch’, which is far more accurate) which typically uses C and D cells. So you get more batteries and a four cell charger for less than the Apple device. No surprise there. Plus the recharger will also charge AAA cells; at least one of my remotes uses those.

Additional AA/AAA Eneloop batteries are very inexpensive at Amazon if you need more than the eight/two supplied. Eight AAs sell for $20 with 4 AAAs at $9, meaning you are getting the charger for all of $5 in the kit.

The model of Sanyo recharger is 110 volt only, but there are multi-voltage versions out there is you look. I cannot tell from the hype on Apple’s web site which voltages their charger works with.

What’s the downside? These batteries can deliver no more than 2000 mAh of current, compared with 2700 for fresh, throw away alkalines. So if you have very high current draw devices, they will seem weak. On the other hand typical uses – Bluetooth wireless keyboards, computer mice, TV remotes, clocks, etc. – will pose no problem.

The upside? Less toxic waste and you always have a battery handy when needed. These will work fine with the Apple wireless keyboard (four in the white original, three in the first aluminum one, two in the current aluminum one) and, best of all, with Pentax DSLRs as Pentax seems to be the only manufacturer out there with the common sense to use regular AA batteries in its fine SLR cameras.

Once my supply of disposable AAs is exhausted I’m buying this little kit. And you can bet I’m not falling for the Apple recharger hype, a device marketed by a company which increasingly regards its customers as stupid.