An iPhone Solar Charger makes a lot of sense. There are tens of millions of these devices in the world, sucking up power every day – so why not have them soak up the energy from the sun, rather than from our grid? Not to mention that it’s more convenient to have the phone recharge itself, rather than hunt for a socket – especially in an emergency.
Unfortunately, when it comes down to reality, the iPhone solar charger – like the Eton Mobius – is a step in the right direction but not the final solution.
First off, it’s bulky. It’s like having half an iPhone sandwiched onto the back of your existing one. That’s because it’s really a solar battery recharger and not just a solar panel. The battery in the solar recharger unit is an 1800mAh one and it adds roughly 20mm of extra thickness to your phone.
The reason for combining a rechargeable battery with the solar panels is that you get a variable trickle from the solar panels, which – if plugged straight into your iPhone – would send your iPhone into a tizzy. I know, because I’ve tried this in the past and it doesn’t work. You go somewhere shady and the phone thinks the power plug’s been pulled… and it beeps. You go somewhere full sunshine… and it’s happy. You go somewhere in-between and it keeps on bleeping and complaining that “this accessory was not designed for this iPhone” and all that malarkey over, and over, and over again. It drives you mental.
So, instead of feeding a fluctuating voltage directly to your iPhone, the solar charger sends it to a rechargeable battery instead. This battery then provides a steady charge to the iPhone – topping it up when needed.
There is a bonus, of course. This rechargeable battery can be charged from a wall socket (via micro-USB) and used to keep the phone going throughout the day – although this defeats the purpose of using solar energy to power your phone.
According to the – Mobius Spec Sheet – one hour sitting in bright sun gives the Mobius the power to juice your iPhone for an extra half-an-hour of talk time. Or, two hours if you’re only using it as an iPod.
When you think about it, this isn’t very useful. It means leaving your phone in a window, or somewhere, for an hour over lunch just to get an extra half an hour of talk time. Of course, you could leave the battery to recharge itself somewhere and reunite it with the phone when it’s ready. But, if you’re travelling around all day, this isn’t very practical. Unless you’re able to chuck it onto the dashboard of a car and leave it baking in the sun while you’re out and about.
Maybe this is useful in an emergency. Otherwise, it seems to be more of a hassle to me for what it’s worth.
Perhaps it would be far more practical to use the Mobius in the desert, or somewhere with bright steady sunshine and no power outlets whatsoever? But, then again, when you think about it – the Mobius’ solar panels are going to be covered by your hand while you talk, tap, type or swipe – so, the phone isn’t going to do much recharging on-the-go. Besides, the solar panels themselves are too small anyway to create the charge you need to get juice in a hurry.
If you really want to run your phone from solar panels – and you’re somewhere that has no electricity outlets – then I would recommend the Solar Gorilla. It isn’t a rechargeable battery. It’s just a pair of really big, fold-out panels that can create enough of a charge in bright sunshine to charge your iPhone quickly.
You will notice that there are complaints about the Solar Gorilla not charging laptops properly. This is because the vendor likes to advertise them as laptop rechargers. But, don’t bother. They do, however, work great with handheld devices and tablet computers. Chuck it in a car window, or clip to the back of your backpack, and it will charge your portable devices on the hoof.
In any event, if you want to buy an iPhone rechargeable battery pack anyway and you are somewhere that gets a lot of sun but hasn’t got that many electrical outlets – the Eton Mobius might be a handy back-up device for you. Either that, or get the Solar Gorilla. Even better, get them together. That way, you’ll always have exactly what you need in a pinch.