The Jump Cable (originally a Kickstarter project from Native Union) is now available in stores. It’s a very sound concept that suffers from some problems in its implementation.
The idea of the Jump cable is to perform as a USB to Thunderbolt cable for everyday use as well as functioning as an iPhone or iDevice recharger in a pinch. There is a battery embedded in the cable recoiling block (e.g. the cable tidy), which recharges whenever the cable is plugged into a power device, so that it has a battery charge available to you when your phone needs recharging, or some extra juice in a pinch.
The product is very likeable at first, because it is small and lightweight – fitting easily into a spare pocket. The battery winder keeps the cables neatly tucked away and the battery itself – although not rated – purports to offer an extra 30% of battery life to your iPhone in a pinch.
As you use the product, however, you will find a few things to gripe about…
First, the price. $50 is a lot for a small battery recharger with a cool form factor. This would be better priced around $20, especially as the battery isn’t particularly large. It’s better as an emergency battery backup to help you make that all-important last-ditch call before your phone dies, or to help you send some really important emails.
Second, the cable tidy itself grips the plugs on the ends of the cable so tightly that it’s really hard to pop the USB and Thunderbolt ends out of the casing. You will definitely need nails to do this… and will probably break a few along the way.
Third, the trigger button is a very bad idea. Basically, you need to press a small button to tell the device that it should start sharing its battery juice with whatever is plugged into the end of it. In reality, this is a safeguard so that the device doesn’t run itself down when plugged into a phone, except when you want it to. That’s the downside of having the same cable you want to use on a regular basis also doubling as your emergency phone battery! The button is fiddly and it has some effect on three tiny, tiny LED lights that are supposed to give you visual feedback as to what’s happening. I think they flash when they are in juice transfer mode, solid when not. Or, are they flashing when the unit is recharging? It’s easy to forget which. All I remember is that three solid LEDs mean that the battery in the Jump is fully charged.
I haven’t used it for more than a few weeks, but should point out that other users have said the battery starts to lose its charge after a few months of use. I am unable to confirm if that’s true. It’s possible that they are just as confused (as I am) as to when to press or not press the trigger button, which may interfere with the Jump’s battery recharging process. I’ll keep an eye on this and report back.