In many countries across Asia where bus rides can be lengthy, bone-jarring experiences, an MP3 player or phone can mean the difference between tolerable ride or collapse of sanity.
Many times I've been caught unprepared with a depleted iPod, only to realize the grim reality just as the baby seated behind me begins to wail. The Juicebar Pocket Charger (model: DO10-JB) -- a portable solar charger -- would have been a lifesaver; I'm excited to finally own one of these things!Dealing with Unclean Power
The power on Southeast Asian islands or in developing areas is often unsafe and unreliable. In places where electricity is mainly just for lighting, generators are cranked up -- if at all -- without warning, causing an unpleasant, device-destroying surge to course down the line into whatever electronics you happen to be charging.
I learned my lesson in 2011 when my laptop -- which I was only running so that I could charge my phone and iPod via USB -- was zapped during an electrical storm in Sumatra, Indonesia. Ever since, I feel that connecting devices to the power grid in remote places exposes them to damage.
The solution? Don't connect devices to the line in unreliable places unless you have to do so! A portable solar charger, such as the Juicebar Pocket Charger, stores electricity when you're in 'civilized' places so that you can charge devices later in less-than-civilized places without risking them.
- Learn more about the voltage in Asia.
- See more tips for protecting electronic devices while traveling.
For outdoor enthusiasts, being able to extend phone life for an extra couple of days may mean the difference in the case that an emergency call has to be made.
What Does the Juicebar Solar Charger Do?
Essentially, the Juicebar Pocket Charger is a power-storing device. Think of it as a portable, lightweight battery that can be charged via either solar or USB and keeps that charge for around 30 days. Although the solar panel is obviously a great perk, you may find that you don't even use it that much! Instead, you can store power in the Juicebar via your laptop or USB charger and then keep it handy for when electricity is hard to find.
When you need to charge other USB-capable devices such as phones, MP3 players, GPS units, and even hand-held game systems, the Juicebar acts as a power device so that you don't have to boot a laptop or risk your electronics to unclean power. In a pinch, you can even run a phone by directly connecting it to the Juicebar charger, assuming that you're in direct sunlight.
Getting to Know the Juicebar Portable Solar Charger
I'm not a huge fan of the shiny, metallic casing around the unit, but construction feels sturdy enough. Charging an empty Juicebar can take around 10 hours in direct sunlight, and leaving a shiny electronic device unattended for that long comes with the obvious drawbacks. The ideal scenario would be to charge the Juicebar in sunlight on the dash of a car while driving, or even take it to the beach with you to top off the charge.
The Juicebar has two buttons: one lights up a glowing charge indicator bar and one activates an LED flashlight on the front of the unit. I don't see myself using the LED light -- a completely bonus feature – often enough to merit its existence. Nevertheless, it may come in handy for making connections when the lights are out. The Juicebar will probably be stored with your other electronic devices.
The blue charge indicator bar on the unit is nice to look at, but hardly accurate. You can pretty much distinguish when the battery is at 100%, 50%, 25%, or out of charge -- that's it.
The regular USB port on the end makes the device completely versatile. If one of the included adapters (even Sony PSP and the Nintendo 3DS ends are included) won't fit your electronic device, you can use the factory cable for charging. You'll have to use your original cables to charge iPods and iPhones.
I like the fact that the device is simple and passive; no need to switch it on or off. Lay it in juicy sunlight to charge and forget about it. Alternatively, connect your phone to the Juicebar for charging and check back in a few hours.
Per the manufacturer, charging a mobile phone takes between two and four hours. The phone will obviously charge faster if it is switched off. A fully charged Juicebar took around three hours to charge my HTC MyTouch 4G.
Juicebar Pocket Charger Specifications
What You Get:
- Portable solar charger
- USB charging cable (for the device itself)
- Universal USB cable that has an adaptable end
- 4 adapters to fit the universal cable to a myriad of devices
- Carry bag
Retail Price: US $49.99 (it can be found cheaper from online sellers: compare prices).
The Technical Stuff:
- Weight: 3.2 ounces
- Dimensions: 4 inches x 2.5 inches
- Battery: 2000 mAh / 3.7 volts
- DC Charging Output: 5 volts; 500 mA
- Juicebar Unit Charging Time: Around 3 hours connected to USB / at least 10 hours via solar
- Time to Charge Phones: Between 2 to 4 hours, depending on the phone. Holds Charge: At least 30 days
Likes and Dislikes
- For such a powerful battery, the Juicebar Pocket Charger is relatively lightweight.
- The carry bag keeps everything together, although a waterproof material would have been nice for adventure travel.
- In theory, you can use a drained device that is connected to the Juicebar while in direct sunlight, effectively converting your devices to solar. I was not able to test this capability.
- The shiny case becomes extremely hot to handle after hours in direct sunlight.
- The charge indicator on the side is aesthetic, but not precise enough to read accurately.
- No iPod/iPhone adapter included (but the Juicebar will work with your regular cable).
I believe the Juicebar Pocket Charger merits adding the extra four ounces to my technology kit. I'm looking forward to field testing it more in remote areas where safe power is often a luxury.
- See more about what to pack for a trip to Asia.