Monday, March 23, 2009

Review of Solio Solar Powered Charger

I received the much-anticipated Solio charger as a gift recently, and I couldn't wait to try it out. The thought of having my cell phone taken "off the grid" was pretty cool.

When I received the package, I was impressed that it came in a reused Motorola cell phone box. They could have chosen a fancy packaging with their logo out of virgin materials, but instead chose to keep with their green image.

Since I have an iPhone, I had to order a special attachment for the charger. When it arrived, it took me a while to figure out that I had to use my computer USB adapter for the iPhone, along with their adapter cable, in order to get things to connect together properly. I made a call to customer service, and they were able to set me straight. The instructions provided were mainly pictures of what to do, which usually are sufficient, but i kept looking for some written instructions for specific issues like this one. Once I got the pieces aligned, I was able to start capturing the sun for my own personal use.

You need to first charge your Solio via the computer first, before charging your device. I fully charged the Solio, but had trouble getting the charge transferred to my iPhone. Turns out you have to turn off your cell phone completely to have the device begin charging back up. That wasn't very clear either. Finally, some success! I was able to charge my phone from the Solio. Next step, getting a charge from the sun, instead of my computer!

I work in an office building that doesn't have any nearby windows, so I used the cool suction cup feature to set the charger on my car windshield while I was at work. I work in Florida, so sunshine is not a problem. After work was done, I expected to find a partial charge on the device, but was disappointed to find the same charge level as when I left it.

What happened?

Turns out the Solio likes to have a direct sunlight right at the device, otherwise it doesn't show a red charge light, and therefore is not charging. Maybe I am unfamiliar with solar technology, but I figured you could just lay the charger on the dashboard, and any sunlight, direct or not, would get captured. Since a full charge requires 12-24 hours of direct sun, i've been unable to get a full charge. I think I would probably need to go out to my car every couple hours and adjust the device so it has the best position to capture sunlight. Maybe I need to park my car in a certain angle so there are no shadows or nearby cars to block the sunlight. I think I need to completely rethink my parking situation at work.

Bottom line, I so wanted this device to be an easy way to avoid charging my phone with electricity, but it has been really frustrating so far. The company gets an A for effort, but I would rate it a C for execution so far. I haven't given up hope yet, but I've been pretty disappointed. Maybe my expectations were too high to begin with. Look for updates later, if I find success with this device. If I can find a spot that gets good sunlight most of the day (without leaving it outside, or on top of my car), then that might take care of my main issues.