We all use power. For those of us never too far away from a reliable mains electric source we occasionally worry about running out but can always top up. But what about the times where we don’t have access to the mains like when we’re travelling or camping? Taking it one step further what about the times and the people who seldom if ever get access to a decent electric supply?
We’d still want to use our phone and tech – but how? The first way is with a battery – this extends the time you can get away from a decent power supply. The second thing you might want is a way to make power. This might mean a generator, wind turbine, a thermal converter or a solar panel.
The WakaWaka Power+ Solar is both an answer to the first world problem and something for the developing world as well.
Lets look at the product first. On first sight the Power+ might be mistaken for a very bright yellow phone. Look closer and what looks like a screen turns out to be a solar panel and device turns out to be a combination solar charger, battery and light. So how does it work?
The Power+ is a battery which can charge itself. When your phone runs out of charge plug from the USB port on the Power+ to the phone and it starts automatically charging the phone. Straightforward. Charging the Power+ can be achieved two ways. First you can just plug it into a USB wall wart or your PC just like a conventional battery. Secondly and more interestingly it can charge via the sun.
We’ve experimented with solar panels before and found them reasonably useful but not quite ready for prime time. The WakaWaka changes that. It is designed to be pointed directly at the sun and to help you do that has four LEDs at the top. These indicate how much charge you are getting and let you adjust the direction and angle of the panels to get the most power. The WakaWaka has a built in stand that lets you adjust the angle quickly, has a hole in the middle that lets you use a bottle as a stand or hand it and with a little work let me attach it to the back of my bag.
Solar power charges slower than mains but even in the weak English sun I was able to get significant power. A full day in the sun with hourly checks to keep an ideal angle gave me around three quarters of a charge which was enough to refill my phones battery. When attached onto the back of my bag and therefore rarely at an ideal angle the Power+ collected around half its battery full in a day outside which was enough to bring my phone back to around 75%.
Finally the Power+ is a light and a very bright one. It has four levels of brightness from 70 lumen to 5 lumen and at the lowest can provide a light for a manufacturer claimed 150 hours. The Power+ can also be used to summon help with an SOS flash mode
About Manufacturer: WakaWaka
WakaWaka is a very unusual company. They were set up in 2010 as a social enterprise after the founders travelled to Africa and realised the dangers of the kerosene lamps that were in regular use. A Kickstarter later and they had a very efficient economic solar light that has been immensely popular throughout the developing world. From there they have expanded to the phone charging market and have recently launched a camping base station. They operate on a buy-one give-one basis that keeps them commercially viable and charitable at the same time.
The Ergohacks Evaluation
The Power+ is versatile and leans itself to a variety of uses, users, situations and changing circumstances. Its ability to use as a normal battery, light or solar charger depending on the situation makes it useful far more often than when you are camping.
It is accessible to people with diverse abilities with auto-on for charging devices, and a single simple button control for starting the light. Its design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and circumstances.
The Power+ has an ergonomic design with autopower on, a stand that automatically stays where you put it and a large rubber button. It can be used efficiently, comfortably and with minimal exertion by those with most physical conditions.
Environment & People
When it comes to environmental and social credentials the WakaWaka Power+ is impressive. WakaWaka was originally setup to discourage the use of kerosene lighting and provide an economic and viable alternative. The Power+ continues this tradition and adds to it with its provision of power for what is likely to be the only internet access of its users.
All Power+’s have a code printed inside which lets select where another Power+ will be sent. In my case I had the option to send it Rapid Disaster Response, Syrian Refugee’s in Turkey or to a Nigerian women’s group. As it was sent I received updates and information about how it will be used.
The making of: The Power+’s shell is made from 100% recycled ABS plastic. The packaging is made of recycled cardboard with a clear plastic insert. It is recyclable although so well designed and pretty you might want to save it
Post-use: Post use the Power+’s shell is recyclable and the lithium ion battery inside can also be recycled when it is no-longer useable.
The Power+ is not the cheapest battery you can buy. It is not the cheapest solar charger available. It is a reasonable price for the combination and it’s social credentials and the fact that it is buy-one give-one makes it a very cost effective item.
Battery: 2200mAh Lithium Battery
Solar panel: 1050 mWatt 22% Cell
Connectors: MicroUSB in, USB out (1.5A)
Light: Up to 70 lumen, 35 lumen, 17 lumen or 5 lumen
Usage light: 70l for 10 hours, 35l for 20 hours, 17l for 40 hours or 5l for 150 hours (manufacturer figures)
Size: 12.1 x 1.7 x 7.8cm
Weight: 141 grams
Materials: Recycled PC-ABS Plastic
Packaging: Recycled cardboard easy open
Warranty: 1 year
It might sound obvious but the Power+ needs a good unobscured line of sight on the sun to operate. I tried it in shade and got no charge, I was able to get some charge on a very overcast days and was able to get a reduced charge rate through a window and through a car windscreen. The brighter and stronger the sun the faster it will charge.
When reviewing a product we try and look for how well it fits into a number of categories. Is it ergonomic, versatile? Is it environmentally friendly and is the company involved socially aware? Is it cost effective and a good deal? It is very rare when I can find a product that scores in every one of these categories but the WakaWaka Power+ is that product.
The Power+ is very well designed and carefully made with impressive technology inside and is ergonomic and accessible outside. The product itself is environmentally friendly in use and the company behind it has an excellent environmental and social policy.
If you want to buy a product that will give you light, let you charge your smartphone and be a socially and environmentally smart thing to do the Power+ is it. Mine has earned its way into a permanent place in my bag. Highly recommended.
The review is based on the updated version of the WakaWaka Power+ kindly provided by WakaWaka. This post contains affiliate links. First published on 13th October 2015.