My Solar-Powered Phone

This entry was posted by on Tuesday, 19 May, 2009 at

Time for geeky gadget reviews! My first review is of the Solio solar charger. My employer (Google) handed some of these out as “Earth Day gifts” to engineers in Chicago, and it’s pretty cool.

The idea is simple: spread the solar panels, put it in bright sun all day long. The sun charges up its internal battery. Then at night, plug in your cellphone or usb device, and it transfers all of the energy into your gadget. This allows you to walk around saying glib things like “yo, my phone is running on pure solar energy.” OK, maybe not literally… but spiritually. 🙂 This thing is conceivably awesome for camping too.

So does it work?

Yes and no. It works for me, but not exactly as promised. The instructions say that 8 hours of direct sun should charge the battery to 100% (at which point it’s ready to charge your gadgets). But over a month of testing, I’ve concluded that this must only hold true if you live in Florida or somewhere near the equator. It takes at least two days of Chicago sunlight to charge it up. For example, today it was 80 degrees and *intensely* sunny — not a cloud in the sky. I had the thing sitting in a part of the garden that gets direct sun from 8am to 5pm. After 9 hours, it’s only 50% charged.

My other setback is that while it charges my Android G1 phone just perfectly, it doesn’t work on my Kindle. The Kindle sorta acts weird when I plug its usb cable into the Solio: instead of a solid charging light, the light goes on for 5 seconds, then off for 2, then on for 5, and so on. After an hour of this, the Kindle’s battery gets *drained* down to nothing!

But heck, I still like saying that at least my phone is running on solar energy… every other day. 🙂

4 Responses to “My Solar-Powered Phone”

  1. Jack

    Maybe it’s a matter of a full day of sunlight *and* actually being pointed at the sun. Perhaps to work as claimed you’d have to track the sun.

  2. I can’t believe you still use ancient non SI-Units, so for non-US readers: it was about 27 degrees and quite sunny. 😛


  3. In the interests of science … ship it out and I’ll try it in California!


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