What is the best solar powered charger for iPhone?
January 28, 2010 9:12 AM   Subscribe

My dad is going to Haiti to do trauma counseling and critical incident stress debriefing and needs to keep his iPhone charged. Can you please recommend the best solar charger for an iPhone, or one that can be used with it? I don't know anything about these products or about solar power and my dad knows even less!
posted by nitor to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Never had any experience with this, but a bit of googling turned up some promising (seeming) results.
CNET: Solar as well as hand cranked -- not too comprehensive but the only review I could find.
Selected solar iPhone chargers
posted by Truthiness at 9:29 AM on January 28, 2010

I have no experience of these bags, but they appear to work and would also be multifunctional, since they're backpacks as well.
posted by sciencegeek at 9:39 AM on January 28, 2010

This charger has a built in battery, and can also take a charge from a computer or mains power if he occasionally has access to it. If he buys this cigarette lighter adapter, he can also charge it or the iPod from a car.

It says an hour of sun equals 30 minutes of talk time or 50 minutes of music.
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:48 AM on January 28, 2010

Not to derail, but would he have service down there right now?
posted by BobbyDigital at 10:15 AM on January 28, 2010

The solio charger mccarty.tim links to comes up frequently on hiker and biker forums as a good choice. In the amazon images, you see it connected to a small tripod, which is an Ultrapod, which might be a useful addition to his kit so he can charge it faster. The customer that rigged the connection of charger to Ultrapod used a strong rubber band (looks like the kind you'd get when you buy broccoli banded together) to keep the Solio on the tripod. You might also be able to use a couple of small strips of velcro onewrap (dual sided velcro) if you decide to try that setup.
posted by BlooPen at 10:21 AM on January 28, 2010

Modern Outpost has a lot of introductory information about this stuff. I used it extensively to research solar powering my laptop (and using the info on their site determined that it was impractical (price and weight) for my purpose). I've ordered battery packs and other electronics fro them and their service has been good.

Might also look at a solar backpack from Voltaic. I use one of their battery packs and it's great (again, though, I don't actually use it with a solar panel).
posted by Emanuel at 10:22 AM on January 28, 2010

Disclaimer: I work in the satellite telecommunications industry.

Your father should not rely on GSM/GPRS/EDGE mobile phone service functioning in a place that's economically in bad shape (much more so after the earthquake) and has just had its only submarine fiber optic link to the outside world cut. Yes, companies like Digicel and the other GSM providers in Haiti are busily trying to repair their networks, but it's going to be decidedly sub-optimal for quite a long time to come.

Anyone that is serious about doing post-disaster work, or working in an active conflict zone should take a satellite phone. If you have the budget for one you should get the Iridium 9555 kit and a 20W solar charger for it (about $1500 + $300). If you do not have that sort of budget you can look on eBay for some perfectly fine Iridium 9505A kits for around $1100 or even sometimes less, which you can also use with a solar charger.
posted by thewalrus at 10:37 AM on January 28, 2010 [3 favorites]

Following up on thewalrus, three years ago I rented an Iridium phone from Outfitter Satellite for a highly off-road motorcycle trip. Depending on how long he'll be there and how much he'll use it, this might be a cheaper alternative than buying a satphone.

I have no connection to Iridium, Outfitter Satellite, or anything else useful here.
posted by workerant at 11:01 AM on January 28, 2010

Via laughingsquid.com - http://solarlighting-s.com/portable-solar-charger/
posted by bwonder2 at 11:39 AM on January 28, 2010

Anyone that is serious about doing post-disaster work, or working in an active conflict zone should take a satellite phone.

This, in bold, fiery letters a mile high. I also do disaster response. There is no way we would go into a situation like Haiti only relying on cell phones. As a secondary system, fine, but not as a primary. Any of the satphone providers would be fine.
posted by bonehead at 11:53 AM on January 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

Woo. And they're the supargeniouses behind the SPOT too. Yeah, I'd stay away from these guys. We've used the Iridium for years. Sorry for the misinformation---I thought the shady operators had shaken out a few years ago. Guess I was wrong.
posted by bonehead at 12:59 PM on January 28, 2010

Well to be fair to them the SPOT tracker uses the -other- transponders on their satellites, which have not started spontaneously failing... But the two way voice service is pretty much toast until they launch their new satellites. Even when it was working correctly they did not have the same coverage area as Iridium due to the basic architecture of their system.

In Iridium, your phone establishes a two-way data session with the satellite that happens to be above you at the time, and that satellite uses ka-band intersatellite links to hop your call through space across other Iridium satellites until it reaches whatever satellite is above the Arizona gateway, at which point it meets the PSTN.

Globalstar satellites do not communicate with each other, it's a bent pipe approach, so if your phone is talking to a satellite that does not have line-of-sight to a gateway earth station (there's a couple dozen around the planet) your call will not go through.
posted by thewalrus at 3:23 PM on January 28, 2010

« Older Obligatory Toto joke here   |   Please find me some walls to stare at Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.