Cellular Line iPhone / iPod Solar Emergency Charger Review

Most of you who own an iPhone or iPod Touch know that it’s a wonderful piece of technology, which is both a good and a bad thing. The good? You can do anything on it and you rely on it for music, gaming, GPS, office work, email, social networking, video viewing… The bad? The battery dies as fast as you charge it and you’re constantly trying to juggle between your needs and the settings for screen brightness, WiFi, 3G and Bluetooth connectivity, and Push email and notifications. Try to go on one road trip and if you don’t have a car charger, this becomes a daunting painful task.

This is where Cellular Line’s iPhone and iPod Solar Emergency Charger from MobileFun.co.uk comes into play. There are a lot of portable chargers out there, but I have had a fascination for solar powered chargers for a long time and thanks to this review unit, I was finally able to test one of them.

This portable charger packs in a 1900 mAh battery, which means that if it’s full, it will be able to charge the new iPod Touch 4 (930 mAh battery) twice and the iPhone 4 (1420 mAh battery) once with a bit of juice left for another time. The top consists of the solar panel which is used to group the energy from the sun to fill it up. On one side, you also have the 30pin out-charger that will fit your iPhone or iPod Touch.

On the other side, you have the 30pin dock in-charger, which will allow you to charge the unit from your computer (instead of solar energy) using the same USB-dock connector cable you use to charge up your iPhone/iPod. It doesn’t come with the cable in the box, so you will have to use yours.

The top panel also houses 4 blue LED lights that notify you to the percentage of charge in the Cellular Line unit. These notification lights are only visible when an iPhone/iPod is plugged in, when the unit is out in the sun or hooked to a computer and charging. They’re super useful to keep you ready for when it needs charging or when it finished charging.

The Solar Emergency Charger is as wide as an iPhone or iPod, but in terms of thickness, it is a bit thick at 15mm, in order to accomodate the big 1900mAh battery. The difference in thickness might not be very important when you’re using it with an iPhone, but with an iPod Touch (especially the new 4th generation one), it is a bit difficult to hold both units when undergoing charging.

And this is actually my main gripe with this solar solution: you have to let it rest on a flat surface in order for it to charge, don’t even think about using it while your iPhone/iPod is in a car dock as the charger will fall, or while playing a game as it is very uncomfortable. Plus it blocks the 3.5mm headset plug on the iPod Touch so you won’t be able to listen to music on your earphones either.

In terms of usage, charging via the solar panel takes a lot of time, as one would imagine, but I have found an easy solution. I usually keep the Cellular Line unit on my car’s dashboard and given the amount of sun we’re getting in Beirut these days (blame global warming), it keeps on charging all day long. Since I only need a portable charger when I’m on the move and not at home, the fact that it’s always in my car and always handy makes it a perfect solution.

If you’re in a hurry and need it to be filled in a couple of hours, you can also quickly charge it via USB from any computer. The nice aspect of this, is that you can connect it via USB to your computer, then plug your iPhone/iPod in it, and it will also charge and synchronize them. Talk about a multifunctional device!

As a recap, this is one of the first solar chargers I have used and I’m quite impressed with the technology and the ecological implications of it. Yes, speed of charging still needs a lot of optimization, but the Solar Emergency Charger provides the alternative of USB charging for those times when you need a quick boost. The size and shape might not be perfect for car holders, or charging while using, but if you plan on throwing it in your bag or leaving it on a flat surface, it will work perfectly well. It also houses enough energy to charge your device fully once, with some juice left to spare.

The Cellular Line iPhone and iPod Solar Emergency Charger is available from MobileFun.co.uk for £19.95 (around 32$) and is one of those units that pay for itself, at least with the satisfaction of knowing you’re going green in a tiny aspect of your life. If you’re looking for other solutions, MobileFun also offer different iPhone 4 chargers and iPod Touch 4G chargers, with a collection of portable or stationary units.