EE customers can get a 'free' power bar – a portable smartphone charger – just by texting to get a code (costs 35p) and showing it in-store.

Plus once the power bar has been used to charge a device, you can then recharge the portable battery yourself or, if out and about, swap it for a fully-charged replacement bar at any EE store nationwide for free as many times as you like.

However technically this is a hire agreement, and if you leave EE you will have to give the power bar back or you'll be charged a £5 fee.

We explain how the deal will work below. Also see our Cheap Mobiles guide for our top tips on getting the best deal on your handset.

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EE's new portable smartphone chargers were launched on Thursday

Am I eligible to get the power bar?

All EE, Orange and T-Mobile customers with a 30-day, 12-month, 18-month or 24-month mobile, tablet or broadband plan can get the power bar for free.

Pay-as-you-go (PAYG) mobile customers can also get the deal as long as they've been with EE for at least three months.

How do I get the power bar?

The power bar deal launched on Thursday 16 April. Here's how you get it...

  • Mobile customer: Text POWER to 365 (texts cost 35p).

  • Broadband customer: Text JOIN plus your EE landline number to 60005 (texts cost 35p).

  • Tablet customer: EE originally said it would announce how tablet users can get this deal on the day the deal launched. However it still hasn't released details of what tablet users need to do, despite us chasing for details repeatedly – we'll update this story as soon as we know more.

Once you've sent the text you'll receive a code, which you need to show in any EE store to get the power bar (you can't get the power bars in third party stores such as Carphone Warehouse). Most people get sent a code immediately, though some have found it hasn't arrived for a few hours, so you may need to be patient.

Some people also reported receiving a reply saying the service launches on 16 April, despite them having texted on 16 April. We're awaiting confirmation from EE on why this happened but it's thought it may be because some people texted before 8am when the deal launched. If this is the case, try again.

What if I get a power bar and then leave EE?

Technically this is a hire agreement. So be warned that if you get a free power bar but later decide to cancel your EE mobile, broadband or tablet contract, you must return the power bar to any EE store within 60 days. If you don't, EE will apply a £5 fee to your bill.

The terms and conditions also imply that the charger must be returned to an EE store after 18 months when it will then decide if you can get another power bar.

However despite asking EE a number of times, it still hasn't given us full details of how the 18-month hire works in reality. We'll keep pushing it for a response and will update this article when we know more.

How does the power bar work?

The power bar includes a micro USB lead, which is used to charge the bar but also to charge the phone from the bar. However while this should work for the majority of phones, if you have an iPhone you will have to use your own iPhone charger cable to connect to the power bar.

If your phone isn't a smartphone you might also need a separate adaptor.

EE says the power bar has enough life in it to charge a typical smartphone once before it needs to be recharged itself. It takes around four hours to recharge and EE says it has a guaranteed life of 500 charges.

That said, EE customers can swap power bars for free in EE stores whenever theirs runs out. The bar itself will indicate how much charge it has left in it so you know when to recharge it.

What's the power bar worth?

EE is selling its power bar to non-customers for £20. But if you're thinking of getting one, compare prices first as it's likely you can get a similar charger cheaper elsewhere.

A brief look on Amazon revealed chargers with the same capacity as EE's (2,600mah) costing around £5-£10.

Why has EE launched this deal?

When EE axed its decade-long running 'Orange Wednesday' 2for1 cinema deal and 2for1 offer on both mains and dough balls at most Pizza Express restaurants it said two deals would be launched to replace it.

Last month it revealed that all new and existing EE, Orange and T-Mobile mobile and broadband customers will have access to a blockbuster film rental every week for £1 from streaming service (see the EE reveals online streaming offer MSE news story).

See our Cheap Cinema Deals guide, which includes information on Compare the Market's new 2for1 cinema offer, and our Watch TV and Movies Online guide, to cut costs.

And earlier this month EE revealed free rechargeable batteries as its second rewards deal, although at the time no launch date was announced (see the EE unveils portable smartphone chargers MSE news story).

EE says its research shows that nearly 60% of UK smartphone users claim their battery doesn't last a full day, while over half of all smartphone users wish there were more ways to charge their phone in public places – this rises to over 70% of 18-24 year olds.