Solio: a solar powered battery recharger

After buying an Apple iPhone 3G recently, I quickly discovered the reports about short battery life were all true – the Achilles Heel of an otherwise cool device. Making it through a day on just one charge was a challenge. Plugging in overnight was not optional. Once, I’ve even run out of power *despite* having started on a full charge – in frustration, I bought spare charger cables for the office, the backpack, adapters for the car. [Sigh]

Then I found Solio.
Basically, its a battery that you can charge using built-in solar panels or from a USB port on a laptop. Once charged, you can carry it in your bag, and then use it to charge an assortment of small electronics as needed.
 
Pro:

  • Seems to charge quickly, and in various light levels.
  • Holds that charge for at least up to a couple of weeks of being carried around in a bag, and still works as hoped.
  • Brain dead simple to use.
  • When fully charged, it can recharge a dead iPhone, and a GPS receiver, and a bluetooth headset, with still some extra juice left over for at least some part of another charge (still experimenting with power limits).

Con:

  • The device has two connections on it; one for charging the battery (power in), and one for using the battery to charge other devices (power out). Personally, I’d prefer to have the power out connection (and maybe even the power in connection?) be standard mini-USB. All the electronics I use have cables that connect directly to USB/mini-USB, so this would have made sense to me. Instead, the Solio uses some proprietary form of pseudo-mini-headphone jack connection. They give you a cable to convert from that to USB, which you can then plug your USB-to-device cable, so it does work fine… but….well… it just seems to me that it could have been neater if there were fewer cables to carry around. Not sure how much money they make on selling the extra cables, and not sure of the design/manufacturing consequences of using a slightly larger mini-USB, but this feels to me like a v1.0 nit.

Summary: I’ve used this for about a month, and really like it so far. There’s something refreshing about a device that works as advertised, right out of the box! The nit about connection sockets is just that, a personal nit. Of course the real test will be later this year, when I go camping in the desert. Lets see how that goes! 🙂

5 thoughts on “Solio: a solar powered battery recharger”

  1. I had a similar predicament. Due to the cost and the fact that I’m indoors most of the time, I went with an APC portable battery. Same deal but no solar panels. For about $20 it was a bargain and can charge my iPhone more than once on a single charge.

  2. Thanks, I read about this but many solar gizmos are nearly snake oil. It seems the Solio’s solar panels put out 1W at best (twice the Brando solar charger’s) and its battery stores 5.5 Watt hours (only slightly more than the iPhone 3G), so does it takes about 8 hours of full sunlight to recharge?

    Everyone agrees that any device that can’t power itself and recharge its battery over USB == complete FAIL, yet it’s hard to find this out from reviews and specifications. My Olympus FE-230 camera, Sanyo Katana II DLX and MM-1000 phones are all failures, but they had to die while plugged in to USB before I found out.

  3. hi skierpage;

    For these first few charges, I’ve been making sure to fully charge/discharge/fully charge out of a personal paranoia about battery memory. The manual says 8hr for full charge on sunny day, 12hrs on a cloudy day, and 10hrs from USB, so I’ve always been leaving the Solio all day to charge, just to be super sure. Over the coming months, I’ll start experimenting with just how long does it *really* need for a full charge – stay tuned!

    (also, fyi, the manual claims the solar panels have 0.85W max output.)

    tc
    John.

  4. John,

    Quick note, make sure to turn “ask to join wireless networks” off as this feature wakes up the wifi radio every couple minutes to check for beacon packets…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.