My quest to find the perfect iPhone case continues (some who know me may just call this OCD). I picked up the SOLAR Battery Case for iPhone 4 on eBay a week ago and gave it a trial run. First, some background. I love how my iPhone looks without a case – most of the time. When I decide to buy one, I want it to either enhance the appearance or add utility. In this case, it’s purely utilitarian.
The battery pack is a slider case. This means that there is no difficult dressing procedure. Simply slide your iPhone 4 into the case and you’re done. The good news here is that you can easily use this only when you need juice. The bad news is that the case offers no protection when dropped (unless you have the most amazing drop skip of your life).
When fully charged, the battery has 2400 mAh, not a bad charge for those flying between coasts on a regular basis. It can be charged both by the sunlight and a mini USB port. Having the battery pack charge your phone requires a manual double click of the only button on the device. One push will activate the LEDs telling you the charge (1 – 4 bars). Two clicks enables phone charging. Holding the button down for 2 seconds turns off phone charging. I’m still not certain I understand this feature since (as far as I can tell) the battery will charge itself and the iPhone simultaneously. The case will also turn itself off automatically once the iPhone is fully charged, but it’s delayed.
To get a good test, I used the battery case for an entire day indoors and did everything I could to block light until it was out of juice (I was never able to get to 0 bars, but the device would immediately turn off when I plugged in my phone – I assume this was empty). The case has a small red LED that will light up when charging via sunlight. I attempted to place the case on my home office desk (there is ample light in there, but it’s not direct) and received no indication of charge. I then put it on my windowsill in as much light as is possible in my home and received some indication that it was charging. I left the device for four hours and still had only 1 bar, but the device did not turn off when I put in my iPhone. I then took the case on an outing to Target (as a side note, I should move closer to Target). In the direct sunlight the LED lit up brightly. Since I don’t tend to leave my electronics on my porch, I didn’t leave my case in the direct light for long. I will say that in my car the light stayed bright red when there was light – that may be a good sign, but again…limited time in the car.
For my last test, I attempted to charge the device while on an airplane. No dice. I wasn’t in ‘direct’ sunlight, but it was bright and the LED did not light.
Verdict. If you are planning on being outside quite a bit, you may be able to gain some charge from the sun on this battery pack. If you are a heavy phone user, don’t bank on it. That said, the case feels good in your hand and when charging with the USB cable charged in a little over an hour. It has no kickstand, which makes it unwieldy on a plane. If you are willing to overlook these weaknesses, and don’t mind spending about $30 bucks (or less when I put it back on eBay), go get one. Personally, the MiLi PowerPack with 3000 mAh and the kick stand is a clear winner.