LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:
Do you feel your smartphone batteries tend to run out just at the wrong time, usually when you're far from your charger?
From member station WHYY, Elizabeth Fiedler reports on a solution.
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ELIZABETH FIEDLER, BYLINE: It's around dinner time at Honeygrow, a casual Center City Philadelphia eatery. Erin Campbell was on her way here to meet a friend when she realized every phone owner's nightmare: her phone battery was dying.
ERIN CAMPBELL: I noticed that I only had 14 percent left and I actually texted her on my way in to see if she could bring a charger with her.
FIEDLER: Campbell's friend told her there was no need to bring a charger because just inside the door of Honeygrow is a kiosk where customers can charge their phones. Campbell did just that. After eating, she stopped to unlock the little door and unplug her phone.
CAMPBELL: So I was able to charge it while we were eating and it went from 14 percent to 66 percent in like a half hour so.
FIEDLER: To use a kiosk at Honeygrow, a customer picks an empty pod from the kiosk and opens it with the key that's in the lock. Inside there are power cords for iPhones 4 and 5, BlackBerries and Android phones. The customer plugs their phone into the correct one, lays the phone on the shelf, and locks the door with the key.
DOUG BALDASARE: We need our phones so much in our daily lives, we clutch them like it's part of us, it's a life line and when our phones run low, we're really anxious.
FIEDLER: Doug Baldasare founded ChargeItSpot after his own brush with phone battery death a few years ago when he was with friends.
BALDASARE: All of our phones were dead, so we were saying, you know, how are we going to find each other? And I pointed to a store, it happened to be an Urban Outfitters, and I said why can't I walk in there and charge my phone?
FIEDLER: Now Baldasare's company has phone-charging kiosks in, of course, Urban Outfitters, as well as Whole Foods and other retailers and restaurants in half a dozen states - including a ski resort in Colorado.
There are companies with similar products but Baldasare points out they often charge customers to plug in. ChargeItSpot's kiosks are free for phone owners - businesses pay to house a kiosk. Baldasare says in exchange, traditional brick and mortar retailers get new customers.
BALDASARE: I started to realize, you know, that would be good for the retailer. It would bring me off the street, into their store and, wow, if I could lock my phone up while it charged, now I would be really captive. I wouldn't have my phone on me. I don't know what to do with my life without my phone, so I'm going to shop.
FIEDLER: Back at Honeygrow, owner Justin Rosenberg says customers are extraordinarily happy to be able to charge their phones at lunchtime.
JUSTIN ROSENBERG: A lot of people come in here with the, I guess, the infamous 5 percent on their phone bar and they know they can go to 25 percent by the time they leave for lunch - or leave lunch, which is always good.
FIEDLER: Rosenberg says the kiosks are driving sales, at least a little. People come in, buy something that's relatively cheap - like a drink - and charge their phones. He says as his business grows, he plans to include kiosks in his new locations.
For NPR News, I'm Elizabeth Fiedler, in Philadelphia.
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