Power Bank or Portable Charger? What Is The Difference?

A question we see a lot is – what is the difference between a power bank and a portable charger? To put it simply both terms refer to the same class of devices and can generally be used interchangeably.

This is why they can spark confusion among consumers, especially those who are unfamiliar with this specific market.

Quick Answer
Generally speaking, portable chargers can refer to a somewhat wider group of products. For example, larger devices such as portable power generators or portable car battery chargers, cannot be really called power banks. Power banks are generally more compact and lightweight.

So the main conclusion is that portable chargers can refer to a slightly wider group of products than power banks, but they can generally be used interchangeably.

What Does the Dictionary Say?

fully charged power bankBoth terms are new in the English language and they have not yet been standardized. Most dictionaries don’t have any definition included for either of them. The only dictionary definition we were able to find, is in the Macmillan Dictionary and it refers to the term power bank: “a rechargeable portable device containing electricity that can be transferred to a phone“.

At first sight, this definition is very simplistic, as power banks can be used to transfer power to a wide array of devices, not only phones. For example, laptops, gaming consoles such as the Nintendo Switch, Bluetooth headphones, and smartwatches, are all types of devices that could be charged using a power bank. But we digress…

At the time of writing this article, we weren’t able to find any other dictionaries that would provide a definition for either “power bank” or “portable charger”. But we suspect that in the coming years, as these terms become more widely used, they will be included in dictionaries as standalone terms.

Do you know any other dictionary that gives a definition for either of these two terms? Please let us know in the comments!

Which Term is The Most Popular?

In order to gauge the popularity of each term, we can take a look at Google Trends which showcases the number of searches each term gets within a specific region.  As you can see from the image below, the term “power bank” is much more popular than “portable charger” worldwide:
power bank vs portable charger

But within the US, the gap is much smaller, both terms having almost equal popularity:

the difference between power bank and portable charger

Another Common Dilemma: Power Bank vs Powerbank

Yet, another very common dilemma is the spelling of the term “power bank”. Many people don’t know if they should spell it using one or two different words. After a long time in this market, we can definitely say that “power bank” spelled in two different words is the wider accepted spelling.

This can also be noticed in Google Trends as well:

power bank or powerbank

This is why, on our site, we’re using the more popular spelling “power bank” instead of “powerbank”.

Use Cases for Power Banks and Portable Chargers

Understanding the specific scenarios in which power banks and portable chargers are most useful can help consumers make informed decisions based on their individual needs. Here are some common use cases for these devices:

1. Daily Commuting and Urban Use

  • Power Banks: Ideal for individuals who spend long hours commuting or working away from power outlets. A compact power bank can easily fit in a purse or backpack, providing a convenient charge for smartphones, tablets, or wireless earbuds.
  • Portable Chargers: Larger portable chargers can be useful for those who carry multiple devices or need to charge laptops on the go. They are also beneficial for freelancers or remote workers who work from cafes or co-working spaces.

2. Travel and Adventure

  • Power Banks: Essential for travelers who need to keep their devices charged during long flights, train rides, or bus journeys. They are particularly useful for charging cameras, smartphones, and e-readers when access to power is limited.
  • Portable Chargers: For adventure travel, camping, or hiking, larger portable chargers, especially those with rugged designs or solar charging capabilities, are ideal. They can charge multiple devices simultaneously and are often built to withstand harsh outdoor conditions.

3. Emergency Preparedness

  • Power Banks: In emergency situations like power outages, a power bank can be a lifesaver for keeping communication devices like smartphones operational.
  • Portable Chargers: Larger capacity portable chargers can power essential devices for longer periods, making them suitable for emergency kits, especially in areas prone to natural disasters.

4. Events and Conferences

  • Power Banks: For attendees at conferences, festivals, or other all-day events, carrying a lightweight power bank ensures that devices stay charged throughout the day, allowing for continuous networking and social media updates.
  • Portable Chargers: Event organizers or professionals who need to charge tablets, cameras, or laptops for work purposes during events can rely on larger portable chargers for their higher capacity and multiple charging ports.

5. Gaming and Entertainment

  • Power Banks: Gamers who use handheld devices like the Nintendo Switch can benefit from a power bank to extend playtime while on the move.
  • Portable Chargers: For outdoor movie nights or extended gaming sessions away from a power source, a high-capacity portable charger can keep entertainment systems running without interruption.

6. Health and Medical Devices

  • Power Banks: Individuals who rely on electronic health devices, like glucose monitors or CPAP machines, can use power banks as a backup power source to ensure these devices remain operational, especially while traveling.
  • Portable Chargers: For more power-intensive medical devices, larger portable chargers offer the extended capacity needed for continuous operation during power outages or while away from home.

Other Common Terms

Besides the most common terms, there are many other variations and synonyms that people use to refer to the same class of products. Here are some examples:

  • Battery pack
  • Power pack
  • Portable battery
  • External battery
  • Battery bank

However, these are much less popular than either “power bank” or “portable charger”.

In the end, because this class of devices is pretty new and does not yet have an established identity within the English language, we’ll see many different terms circle around for a while. But as things look like now, it’s very likely that in the future the term “power bank” will win the popularity race and so it will get to represent the official definition for the entire class of products.

Did you come across any similar terms recently? Please let us know in the comments!

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