solBAT II Solar Powered Battery Pack [Review]

Powering your phone from the sun? Yes please! But is there enough juice there to make it your primary charger?

I’m what I like to think of as a ‘reluctant environmentalist’. I get the idea of saving energy, but my primary driver is to reduce the amount of money I pay out. Sure, I’m interested in saving the planet too, but it’s the monthly bill rather than the polar ice caps that make me wander round the house turning off the lights in empty rooms!
The thing is, life is so saturated with technology these days, and all of those pieces of technology need to get their power from somewhere. My smartphone isn’t too smart when the battery runs out. So what if I were able to charge my devices using a readily available power source that doesn’t have any ongoing costs? I’m talking about the sun, of course, and the guys at Mobile Fun were kind enough to send me a solBAT II solar phone charger to try out.
solBAT II solar phone chargerFirst impressions were good – the solBAT II comes with a window mount for, er, mounting it on your window, and a carabiner for attaching it to a bag or rucksack while you’re out and about. I’ve tried it in both situations and found that having it on a bag makes it charge more quickly (I guess it gets more direct sunlight?), but it really spends most of its time on my office window. That’s no biggie, since the office gets direct sunlight all morning, but I thought it might be useful to know.
So, does it do the job? Well, sort of. It certainly works, and seems capable of adding several hours worth of charge to my iPhone, but the solar panels do take a very long time to charge the solBAT II up. We’re talking days when attached to my window, which means it’s not a viable option to use the solBAT as my phone’s only power source. It is, however, useful when you’re out and about and realise your phone is about to die… I’ve had the solBAT take my iPhone from 13% battery back up to just shy of 40% which, for me, takes it back out of the panic zone!
It’s worth noting that the solBAT also has the option to charge via USB. While the solar panel can take days, the USB cable will take the solBAT up to full capacity in just a few hours. In that case, it becomes a spare battery. Handy again for emergencies.
And that’s the key, really: the solBAT II is a great emergency charger. It does what it says on the box and, if you charge with solar, that’s free energy. But it’s not viable as your phone’s primary charger, which means I won’t be getting rid of my mains iPhone charger just yet.
The solBAT II solar battery pack is available on Mobile Fun for £23.95 (at time of writing).