I live in Eastern Iowa and I recently had a good opportunity to put a solar-powered charger to good use. My community wasn't affected by the flooding as deeply as some, the levies held and sandbaggers turned out en masse to protect the town, but before relief came there was uncertainty. Will the river pour over the flood levy? If so, how far will it go? The main concerns were for the water treatment plant and utilities plants. If the utilities plant went down, we were expected to lose power for potentially significant periods of time.
My wife was living an hour and a half away in another flood-affected Iowa town. I was worried by the prospect of losing power and being unable to keep my Motorola Krazr charged (my primary communication mechanism with my wife). Enter the Devotec Industries Solar Charger. I unboxed it and was pleasantly surprised to find that it had the exact tip necessary to connect to and charge my cell phone. The peace of mind that provided was unbelievable.
The packaging for the Devotec Solar Charger is understated but crisp and functional. Everything has its place and nothing rattled around when I gave it a quick shake or two. The company also gets extra points for not encasing their product in "plastic carbonite" like so many gadgets are these days. This cardboard package was perfectly secured and it was easy to access the goods inside.
The package contained everything you needed to get started: the solar cell itself, an assortment of adapter tips for various gadgets, a carrying case, instructions, and various other cords. My only major gripe about the product: the instructions are barely written in understandable English. At one point the booklet actually says, "Don't charge the build in battery in your charger for too long time if you charge it with computer or AC adapter." How long is "too long time?" It might be useful to know just how long I have. What will happen if I do charge it too long? Will it blow up? Burst? Simply overheat and stop working? All big questions, especially for me, a first time user of any solar-charging device.
The solar cell itself is very well put together and solid. At first I was afraid to scratch its surface or to dent its cover. However, trial by dropping revealed that it was well put together. The solar cell itself is simple, containing only two ports and two indicator lights. You can charge the cell various ways: you can plug it into a wall outlet, you can plug it into your computer using a USB cable, or you can charge it from sunlight. Charging by sunlight is obviously, the most intriguing option and thus the one I chose.
The instructions say that the charger will need sixty minutes in the sunlight before being able to "transfer energy" to your device. I found, however, that my cell phone began charging while connected to the solar cell in less than thirty minutes. At first, my Krazr tried to tell me that there was an "Unauthorized Charger" attached. It seemed to get past this little hang up however, and away it went.
I also tried the Devotec charger successfully with my Dell Axim x50v, iPod 5th gen 30B, and Motorola HS850 Bluetooth ear piece. This success was not in part due to the large array of adapter tips that the device ships with.
As long as the charger remained in the sunlight it could continue charging my various gadgets. If the solar cell was taken out of sight of the sun, it would last around fifteen to twenty minutes before it would give out. I would have liked to see that figure a little higher.
Overall, I was pleased with packaging, design, and usefulness of the Devotec Industries Solar Charger. It worked with all the gadgets in my life that I could currently use with it. The company did give me a warning that it doesn't currently work with all newer iPod models due to some proprietary Apple technology. All things considered, however, and coming in at £24.99, I can comfortably recommend this device to any gadget lover.
Update: Devotec contacted me to let me know that they have fixed all the issues that I talked about with the instruction booklet. Specifically, they have made them more specific and also improved the readability in English.