Until the sun at last bakes our planet like a little purple potato in about 7.6 billion years, it will go on giving life to the plants and animals of earth. But until recently we doubted whether sunlight could really be used efficiently to give life to the tiny portable devices that we all carry around. Hope has come in the form of a mighty little tablet-shaped solar charger called the the Joos Orange. In the past we’ve seen lots of solar chargers on the market that were flimsy, inefficient “green” gizmos destined sooner or later for that great trash pile in the ocean.
The Joos Orange is different–it actually charges phones, iPods, and iPads in a reasonable amount of time, under a reasonable range of light conditions. And its manufacturers have so much faith in its toughness that they’ve put up YouTube videos showing it being shot with a gun (“yep, she’s workin’…let’s shoot it again!”) and submerged in a bucket of water while charging. Read on to get the down and dirty on this powerful little charger which you may or may not also be able to use as a bullet-proof shield (we personally haven’t tried it as such, and have no plans to do so either).
The Joos Orange comes in standard eco-friendly packaging. It’s ensconced in a brown box not much bigger than the unit itself. The only plastic in sight is a ziploc baggie used to contain all the Orange’s cables and cable adapters. These include a USB to micro-USB cable (used to plug into your computer for charging and getting info on how the battery is doing) as well as a charging cable that can be mated with a variety of adapter plugs to work with the energy-hungry device of your choice. No case for the Orange is included, which is potentially a bummer for those wishing to avoid scratching the solar cell window (we managed to do that just carrying it around in a bag), but Joos is now releasing a sleeve for it that can be purchased separately.
The Orange is about the size of a thin hardcover book, but has the heft of a thin hardcover book made of pure lead. At 1.5 pounds it’s heavy for its size, but with a 20 watt hour (5400 mAh) monster of a battery nestled inside the weight is understandable. At first glance the device is refreshingly simple. There’s a rubber gasket where the cable plugs in on the end. On the back there are two fold out legs, and on the face there are 2 LED lights that indicate battery status and whether it’s getting adequate sunlight for charging. At the top it’s got a hole in it for locking it to stuff (like your beach umbrella, for instance), and in the middle, of course, is the solar cell array.
The Orange gets its power-generating punch from high grade monocrystalline solar cells with anti-reflective coating that Joos has sealed under a layer of clear, high-quality urethane. Wired in parallel for optimal efficiency (i.e., so it can potentially charge even in the shade), the solar cells generate 2.6 watts per hour (peak) in full sun. Other features include complete waterproofness and the ability to operate in temperatures ranging from -4 degrees up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit (don’t set it on fire just to see if it can “handle it”). Though it can’t charge laptops (Joos claims it is now developing a charger that can), it will charge just about any other mobile device out there that uses a 3.7V battery.