The challenges of using a solar mobile while camping

If there’s one occasion you’d expect a solar powered phone to be useful it would be camping. To test this assumption, we gave Aino Aaltonen a Lokki prototype when she attended the world’s largest scout Jamboree in Sweden. After an action packed ten days of outdoors fun, this is what we discovered.

10 action packed days to remember

Diary: The best thing about the camp was the atmosphere. I loved the fact that you could go to talk to strangers and it was great to meet so many people from so many different countries. The only regret I have is that I didn’t take part as much as I could in the spontaneous activities. Still, it was a very active ten days and I know it’s an experience I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

Harvest time

Data analysis: Lokki collected charge for more than five minutes of talk for five of the ten days of the scout camp. That is equal to more than 9mAh, assuming the phone was kept off. On only one of those days did it get enough to completely energize the phone for stand by and some calls.  This was Monday 1st August, when Lokki was almost continuously in the sun and harvested 76 mAh, good for 46 minutes talk or 38 hours stand by, or mixed use 24 hours stand by and then additional 17 minutes talk. During the entire ten days, Lokki harvested a total of 141 mAh.

Lifestyle versus power

An obvious challenge for any user who’s constantly on the move is how to expose the solar phone to the sun, while staying mobile and not changing their lifestyle. It’s very rare that people can just hang the phone somewhere in the sunshine and forget about it for hours on end.

During Aino’s stay on the camp Lokki was often able to catch full power, but very rarely and only for short periods, so the harvested energy never reached significant levels. Unavoidably the battery voltage drifted down. Nonetheless, in Aino’s case the solar panel still provided 15% more operating time.

How a solar mobile would work best outdoors

Diary: I’ve been thinking about the solar mobile phone and how usefulness it was on camp. I wouldn’t say that a solar charger on the camp is the handiest thing, as there isn’t much time to charge the phone. Plus, you don’t dare to leave the phone alone for charging in a big camp like the Jamboree. And personally, I wouldn’t like to charge the phone by hanging it around my neck as I’d feel like a six year old!

Of course the solar panel doesn’t get in the way, so it would work well as some kind of a bonus feature. Perhaps a solar cell would be better for smaller junior camps, for example Brownies’ trips. The solar phone might also be better suited to outdoors activities like staying at a summer cottage.

It’s clear from Aino’s experience that a key issue is how to carry the solar phone. Aino had solar power available for twelve hours a day in Sweden, but had trouble harvesting it on a large and busy campsite. Consequently, the coverage was very thin and the harvesting very occasional. If you can think of any ways to overcome this challenge, we’d love to hear about them.

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6 Responses to The challenges of using a solar mobile while camping

  1. Dieter Knittel says:

    I have been in Mongolia this summer and been living with nomads. There was no way in chaging mobile phones except with solar charing.
    The way we charged the phone was as follows: put a small solar pannel to the top of the tent and charge a charger equipment, which contained a battery (standard cells). During the night the charger charged the phone in normal charging time with the optimal efficiency (via standard USB jack). This avoided any challenges of having the charger electronics busy for minor charging currents or any other mentionned problems, like “hanging the phone around the neck”.
    So I think the approach of charging the phone directly never can be optimal due to all restrictions, even the loss by charging different batteries can easy be overcome by a bit bigger pannel (ours was 20cm*15cm)
    Sunny days to all :-)

  2. Pingback: Conclusions: Where, how and when a solar powered mobile phone works best | Nokia Solar Charging Blog

  3. What a great experiment! If we could all start to use solar charging options for our cell phones, especially on camping trips, the vacations would be so much easier.

  4. Graciela Navarro chalan says:

    Vivo en argentina en la pcia de Buenos Aires, para el lado de el sur , en Mar del Plata, es viable ese sistema aquí , porque no he leído que se haya probado específicamente en América Del Sur . gracias.

  5. Blackberry says:

    Going on camping is always fun. Almost everybody knows that unless you have a couple of spare batteries you phone is not going to last for more than a couple of days. So, this concept of having a phone which can be charged through solar energy is just wonderful!

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