Power banks with incorrectly labelled capacities are a major problem in South Africa, especially at the lower end of the market.
There are a number of power banks available to purchase in South Africa which have real capacities much smaller than their stated capacities. For example, a 30,000mAh power bank might only have 8,000mAh of actual capacity.
While it can be difficult to determine this without testing each power bank, there are a number of ways South Africans can avoid these products, according to Mañana Technologies director Abu-Huraira Abdalla.
Mañana Technologies was founded over 10 years ago and provides ICT Consulting for various prominent companies.
The firm has conducted buying, testing, and advisory for many technical products and services over the years, and its customers rely on Mañana Technologies to provide them with expert technical advisory.
MyBroadband spoke to Abdalla about the prevalence of fake power banks in South Africa, as well as how local buyers can spot these incorrectly-labelled products.
"Over the years, we've seen many counterfeit products, and we've noticed the number of counterfeit power banks being sold through unofficial channels is on the rise," Abdalla told MyBroadband.
"Most are easy to spot, as they're likely to have spelling mistakes, poor-quality branding, housing, and/or packaging, or have fake capacities on them that are easy to sniff out." Warning signs
Determining whether a power bank is fake requires inspecting the actual cells and comparing it to the product's labelled capacity, but Abdalla said there are a number of obvious signs which buyers should keep an eye out for.
He said the most obvious signs that a power bank is fake include the following:
The power bank is too small for its rated capacity. The power bank is too light for its rated capacity. The power bank is too cheap for its brand or capacity.
With regards to the last point, Abdalla said that brands play an extremely important role in helping to determine the veracity of a power bank.
"Brands play a very important role as various manufacturers conform to various standards, while some brands do not conform to any standards," Abdalla said.
"Prominent retailers have to comply with NCC regulations, and part of their internal quality control checks is to ensure that the products they sell meet or exceed regulatory specifications such as being marked correctly, having the required certificates of compliance, etc."
"A trusted retailer, online or otherwise, will do whatever they can to ensure that they don't sell fake, counterfeit, or incorrectly-marked products," he said.
He added that it would be best to search for IEC certifications, but South Africa does not require these to be included on the product. Testing your power bank
Short of taking your power bank apart, it can be difficult to determine its real capacity.
Abdalla said that tests conducted by his company found that you can usually gauge the rough capacity of a power bank by using it to recharge another device.
"We've done some rudimentary tests and what we found was that it is safe to say that a 10,000 mAh power bank will charge an 8,000mAh device – on average, a 20% conversion/utilization loss is normal," Abdalla said.
"So an easy way is to tell whether your power bank is what it's supposed to be, is to see how many charges you get out of it, keeping in mind the 20% loss of power (when a power bank is in good condition)."
"For example – if you have a phone with a 2,000mAh battery, you should get 3.5-4 full charges from a 10,000 mAh power bank," he noted. "If you get under three full charges, something is wrong."
He added that the power banks they had tested used two types of lithium cells, 18650 cells (which are cylindrical) and pouch cells (which are rectangular).
Noting the sizes and weights of these cell types can be useful in gauging the capacity of a power bank without taking it apart.
"The lightest 10,000mAh power bank using 18650 cells we have come across was 230g, and the lightest 10,000mAh power bank using pouch cells was 200g," Abdalla said.
"This is a fair benchmark of how to tell if you are getting the correct capacity – a minimum of 50g per 2,500mAh is a safe assumption."
He added that no 10,000mAh power bank should be smaller than 150 x 74 x 13 mm in volume, as this is the most compact size for this cell on the market right now.
"These power banks feel relatively heavy when lifted, as they are densely packed," Abdalla said.
"These dimension rules are not always the most reliable means of ascertaining the legitimacy of capacity claims as technologies and designs vary and higher-density batteries should come to market in time to come."
The methods above might not be 100% accurate, but used together, they should help to protect you from purchasing a fake power bank – especially if its price seems too good to be true.