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I met the people who 'invented' disposable phone batteries and wow do they suck

Pawamini batteries
Pawamini batteries (Image credit: Android Central / Russell Holly)

I see these little disposable batteries all over the place now. In coffee shops, mall kiosks, even bookstores. They're showing up at music festivals, handed out to those who need a quick boost. For $4.99, you can get this little battery for your phone with just enough juice to get you through the next hour or so. It's packaged like a piece of candy, there's no way to recharge the battery, and when you're done, you can quickly toss it in the trash.

I hate these things. They're incredibly wasteful and sold in places which all but guarantee they'll never be recycled responsibly. The folks at Pawamini are handing them out like candy to delighted CES attendees this year, claiming these were their idea and everyone else who makes them copied them. Every question I asked made me feel worse about how extremely wasteful these batteries are, and how they're not going away anytime soon.

Why do these exist?

Pawamini disposable battery

Source: Android Central / Russell Holly (Image credit: Source: Android Central / Russell Holly)

Ken, the guy staffing the booth at CES, would have you believe these batteries are for disaster recovery efforts, as well as for soldiers overseas. He wants these to be handed out to people in disaster relief efforts, so those without power can have enough juice to make a few phone calls and sort their affairs out. I admit, having something like this in an emergency kit would be super handy and more likely to be useful compared to my larger battery backups I often forget to charge until the power is already out.

The separate model made for US troops is also great. These are a much larger capacity and have ports on them for multiple device types, so it's a quick and disposable way to get power to a lot of different things in an emergency situation. Plus, it's dark green, because soldiers.

The only problem with this explanation? Nothing about the packaging or the retail partners suggests this is real. These batteries aren't sold by the box-full next to the 10lb container of Mac and Cheese at the surplus store; they're marketed to people who need power right that second. You can buy them in 12-packs on Amazon (opens in new tab), but that's it. Everywhere else, they're sold as impulse buys for folks who know they're running now and won't be near power for a couple of hours. This explanation doesn't line up with the people he's selling this product to, and he knows better.

Why aren't these rechargeable?

According to Ken, these batteries could easily be rechargeable. It would have cost him $.07 per unit to add the port needed to recharge them, and users would have been able to do so for quite a while. He didn't do that, because it would have ruined the experience.

The casing for these batteries is made of a paper-like biodegradable material. If there had been a port on them to recharge, people might use them more than once. If you handle this material for more than a couple of uses, it's likely to tear and wear away and could potentially become dangerous over time. He could have made the casing out of plastic, but then there'd be plastic waste to deal with.

Also, the batteries in here aren't the best. Ken explained he buys them from China, where he claims to have 7-8 patents on this whole thing but can't do that in the US because it's too generic, and so recharging these multiple times wouldn't get you back to a full charge each time.

What do you do with these when they're empty?

Pawamini Batteries

Source: Pawamini (Image credit: Source: Pawamini)

While the packaging does very little to demonstrate it, perhaps the most crucial detail of all of this is you actually can recycle these batteries. The casing is made of a biodegradable material, and the batteries can be pulled from that packaging and sent to just about any battery recycling facility. And if you don't have one of those nearby, you can mail the battery back to Ken, and he says he'll give you 30% off your next one.

Pretty sweet deal, right? Only, this isn't clear at all on the packaging. There's a small recycling symbol, and a line on the back saying to compost the casing and recycle appropriately, but that's it. The only people who know any better are the ones who asked Ken at CES.

Ultimately, everyone knows what's going to happen to most of these little batteries. They'll be used once, likely inside the very shopping mall they were purchased from, and then immediately thrown into a trash can. So much more could be done to discourage this behavior directly on the packaging, and none of it happens because the people selling these don't believe they'll actually be recycled and don't care.

Please, please encourage the use of better products

Bring Your Own Battery

There are so many great options when it comes to reusable, rechargeable batteries for your phone. They aren't $5, and they aren't on the counter of your local coffee shop when you really need them, but they're also considerably less wasteful and charge your battery for much, much longer.

If you see someone considering one of these in line, help them see there are so many less awful options.

Russell is a Contributing Editor at Android Central. He's a former server admin who has been using Android since the HTC G1, and quite literally wrote the book on Android tablets. You can usually find him chasing the next tech trend, much to the pain of his wallet. Find him on Facebook and Twitter

27 Comments
  • Not a bad ideas at all
  • Android Central: "These things are awful and no one should buy them." Also Android Central: "Use our affiliate link to purchase a twelve pack and we get a cut!" 😂
  • While we whine about the fact that you use them to read about Disney+ on our click-bait page. Whaaa Get in your electric car that fuels up on electricity made by burning coal and go to your apartment that is built of trees that could have offset said coal.
  • An absolute disgrace.
  • Who the people or the batteries? Terrible grammar and usage regarding the title of this article.
  • Welcome to Android Central...
  • Journalists are not hired for their intelligence, only their ability to generate clicks.
  • Welcome to the world of blogs as journalism. As someone with a journalism degree I can assure you that no one here is a journalist, except Phil.
  • It didn't get any better WITHIN the article: "You can buy them in , but that's it." Huh?
  • They may not be marketed great and could be made more reusable or provide information about how to recycle, but there are a lot of good potential uses. I would throw a few in the glove compartment in case you get stuck on the road with a dead cell phone. Disasters is another good use. Communication at that time is huge.
  • If we could have something that we can buy right know, rechargeable, more durable, with more mAh, compact, really cheap right know and more eco-friendly.. Poor of us...
  • If only they made something that would let you recharge your phone off the battery in the car.
  • If they only had a way of inserting an already charged battery into the same slot the original battery is in. Maybe carry your own rechargeable battery with you? (Disclaimer - I'm more than happy removable batteries are a thing of the past but now it seems we're looking to solutions for problems we created ourselves)
  • If they only had a brain.
  • Look, the best way to make sure a ****** product doesn't get customers is to deny it any publicity... These things would be much better if they came with AA batteries - still ewaste, but easier to recycle and to reuse. The excuses from the manufacturer are all junk of course. But like others said, if you are going to call something the worst ever, at least have the decency to hold back from popping an Amazon affiliate link in so people can buy some for themselves.
  • Nice affiliate link for something you seem so passionate about hating... smh
  • You can find on Amazon a 10,000 mAh Power Bank for 10 bucks, on Walmart in stores around 6000 mAh for 10 bucka And some cheaper ones with less mAh but still more durable and give you more charge that those thrash disposable batteries...
    If someone think this is a good idea.. They're the trash who can't even have a power Bank for emergency.
  • What the hell is the point of these?! You can spend a few more bucks and buy a decent mobile charger that can maintain it's charge for weeks or even months and only needs minimal recharging once in a while... I always carry one with me , it's slim, doesn't take a lot of space and can either top up my phone, or fully recharge it at least once or twice, depending on the need... These battery packs are not only head scratching, in terms of usage...but they really make no sense given the existing options...
  • The scary thing is that these batteries are potentially rechargeable. Most of the time they just lack the required circuitry to be able to be rechargable. See bigclive.coms youtube channel as he has done a video about this over the last year or so.
  • Did the people or the batteries suck? "They" is misleading.
  • As currently written, the people suck.
  • they both suck.
  • Yeah the batteries suck, but are some phones so bad that you don't have a choice but to use something like this? I mean, aside from Pixels? 😉
    I've got a rechargeable credit card size charger I got for free 4 years ago, and the only time I've had to use it was in a hospital emergency room. I kept the phones of a few people going through the night, recharging the charger from the USB service port on the TV when needed.
  • Hey, I just noticed you have one of my power banks in your photo, the Kmashi K-MP836! One of my kids borrowed it, and never gave it back, lol. I had a total of fifteen power banks according to my test spreadsheet, and the Kmashi was the third most efficient, delivering a total of 67% of it's capacity. My phone has solid battery life, but I like having power banks on hand for loaning out, taking to the beach, etc. I also use a power bank to charge my phone, unless I NEED a fast charge. Why? Because most power banks automatically turn off when your phone is full. I just tried out that little Goxt 1700mAh credit card sized power bank that's a good alternative to these disposable ones, and it charged my U12 Plus about 30%, which is good for 10 to 15 hours of use. My two favorite power banks are the Zero Lemon 10,000mah which is my beach favorite and the girls expect to see it there, and the Omars 10,000 mAh slim power bank, which I specifically bought to use in my back pocket and power my gimbal.
  • Back in 2013 when I really started playing Ingress a lot, I started investing in Anker external batteries. I've gotten where if I'm going to be "out" I have one with me.
    I can see having a few of these in the "emergency kit", but I'm not a fan of the disposable aspect.
  • Usually I have a rechargable 1 already with me forgot it & needed a charge took a chance on 1 from a dollar store in our mall sadly it wasnt precharged. Wouldve been better buying a wall adapter from there instead. Used it for a while sadly like most cheap chargers the cable connector is cheaply made. The same could be said for type c/lighting. Wouldve perffered this over the garbage ones that are cheaply made to not last I remember SE had a charger that took disposibles that was like 20 yrs. ago not sure if they improved on it. Even energiser had something like it
  • I'll never use something like this, but only because such kind of things are not suitable for me. The problem you try to highlight is not in these batteries, it is in people. Don't blame the creator of batteries, blame the people with lack of responsibility.