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.
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.
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.