When you’re travelling, there’s always that fear that your smartphone will run out of battery power. There are photos to take, directions to get using Google maps, weather to check, and emails to read. There are places to charge your phone in Paris if you need a boost, but I would avoid using a phone charging station kiosk that only uses USB ports (even though it’s free to use) as it could cost you more than just your time. It could cost you your security. Instead, I have some safer ways to charge your phone (and one really creative solution found in Paris).
[This post was updated December 4, 2019]
Cell Phone Charging Via USB
There are a number of ways to charge your smartphone in Paris for free but this is the one place where you should never charge your phone: USB ports—whether they be at public phone charging stations, bus shelters, airports, coffee shops, or in malls, hotel rooms, or libraries.
I am very cautious when it comes to cybersecurity and there is now a new term to define this crime via USB. Wikipedia has defined “Juice jacking” as “a type of cyber attack involving a charging port that doubles as a data connection, typically over USB”. Whether this is true or not (no reported cases so far), I’ve decided not to take any chances with free phone charging stations that use USB ports.
As you know, when you connect your USB cord from your smartphone to your computer at home, you can not only charge your phone, but you can sync the information from the smartphone to your computer and visa versa. So, the same could also be done when you plug that USB cord from your smartphone into that free public USB charger.
Yes, you could get a boost to your battery, but sadly, you could also be susceptible to having the data on your phone stolen. Hackers could replace the USB ports at the free charging stations and infect them with malware and steal your data, passwords, and other important information. There is no way I would want to take a chance.
USB Charging Cables
There have been reports it might not just be the USB port but also the cord, so if the cord is already attached to the charging unit definitely don’t use it. Supposedly there are USB cables that are constructed to ONLY allow charging; however, I have not decided to invest in these. I’d rather just charge my phone via an electrical outlet.
Avoid Phone Charging Station Kiosks And Paris Bus Shelters
Did you know that in Paris, besides the airport, libraries and coffee shops that have USB charging ports, the bus shelters come equipped with USB chargers? They’re free to use (but I wouldn’t).
This looks like an ordinary bus shelter but it is also a charging station. This added feature has been provided by the outdoor advertising company, JCDecaux for the last few years to over 2000 bus shelters in Paris. At the bottom is a USB port where you can plug in your smartphone for free. You’ll just need your power cord to plug it in. As for how secure it is for your data, I can’t comment. One person suggested that you power off your phone before plugging it in.
Why Are Cellphone Charging Stations Free To Use?
The simple answer: for the advertising. They have a captive audience who is plugging their device into their outlet. We’re standing there waiting for the cellphone or tablet to be charged so what better way than to show us some ads. These charging stations are just another marketing tactic like kiosk ads, billboards, and television ads.
Safer Ways To Charge Your Device
Yes, it’s awful to see that the battery indicator shows RED! Sometimes you just need a quick charge. So you ask, “If I can’t use a USB port, where can I charge my phone?!” Here are some (safer) charging solutions:
1. Use The Electrical Outlet At The Phone Charging Stations And Kiosks
At most airports today, you will likely find a charging area with electrical outlets in the wall to enable you to get some additional charge. Fortunately, it isn’t as much as a fight to get that one outlet as terminals are providing customers with more available kiosks and charging tables where you can sit, eat, and charge your many devices. This is how and where I charge my phone most of the time-using an electrical outlet, not a USB port.
What is more difficult, however, is finding public electrical outlets in restaurants or stores. I’ve tried finding an outlet near a table where I am having lunch or dinner and I’ve been shocked how hidden (or unavailable) they are. I’ve searched everywhere, but they all seemed to have been hidden. Guess they didn’t want patrons using their electricity.
2. Free Device Charging While You Cycle (Electrical Outlet)
At many rail stations, there are places where you can charge your phone for free, but you’ll have to cycle to do it. At Paris’ Gare de Lyon, there was a phone charging kiosk that has been constructed by WeWatt. Their bikes are called “WeBike” and their kiosks are at airports, 6 Paris railway stations (including Gare Saint Lazare–pictured above—and Gare d’Aéroport CDG 2 TGV), and shopping malls throughout France and the world.
Sure, you have to expend a little energy—-your peddling will get you the same amount of charge as if you plugged your smartphone into an electrical outlet (but peddling faster won’t help. It’s the time it’s plugged in that matters). If you get bored, you can always use the free on-bike Wifi. According to their website, 10 minutes of biking can give recharge about 15% of your battery.
The company uses recycled materials and the phone charging kiosks are constructed by disabled people in Belgium. WeWatt, was an initiative of former Flemish minister Patricia Ceysens and entrepreneur Katarina Verhaegen.
3. Use A Case That Has A Built-In Charger
Sometimes there isn’t a cell phone charging station near me, so when I travel now, I use the Mophie Juice Pack Air Case. I absolutely love this product and never see the battery symbol go red.
It’s a case with a built-in battery that can charge your phone another 100%. It has a 2,750mah rechargeable lithium-ion polymer battery and is solidly built with high impact protection as evidenced by the numerous times I’ve dropped my phone. No damage to the screen or the phone. The added weight is minimal and I really don’t notice that it’s heavier than having just an ordinary case on it. I have used it for a full day out and about in Paris and have never run out of power.
4. Carry Around An External Battery
Before I got my Mophie battery case, I used to carry around an external battery. It’s by Anker and the brand always gets excellent reviews. It’s small, very easy to use and has enough power to charge two iPhones. I just plugged my phone into the battery and in no time the battery was back to 100%. I was able to continually use the phone even if it was being charged. The only nuisance was that my phone was attached to a cord as it was charging.
If your battery is running low, there are places to charge your phone for free in Paris. Just be sure the mobile charging station doesn’t require you to use the USB port.
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