When a device is as easy to set up as the Joos Orange, you tend to suspect that you’ve missed something. But no, it really is as easy as just connecting your portable device to the charger. Leave it in the sun as often as you can, and you’ve done your part. If there’s no sun you can also plug it into a USB port to charge the Orange’s battery from your computer, and then install a downloadable app that tells the battery status. But wouldn’t you rather just get outside and start using the thing? We would too.
What surprised us most about the Joos Orange was how damn *fast* it charged stuff in direct sunlight. It took only 2 hours of direct sun to bring our dead iPod to a full charge–just a few minutes longer than it takes to do the same using a wall charger. Our little flip phone went from dead to an almost full charge in mostly direct sun within 2.5 hours, but then we were disappointed to find that it wouldn’t keep charging the phone using the ambient light that occurred around dusk. On cloudy days, as at dusk, the Orange wouldn’t charge the phone directly but would continue charging its internal battery, from which we could top off the phone’s battery.
When it was overcast we could get it to charge our iPod at midday, but the Orange stopped doing that as the afternoon wore on. It seems that in low light conditions the Orange is designed to do a lot of work using its huge internal battery, which has over 3 times the capacity of an iPhone battery (or about 3/4 the capacity of an iPad battery). This means, of course, that you should keep it in the sun as much as possible to ensure that it’s got enough back up power to keep things going in all conditions. You’ll have to leave it in the sun for a whole day to fully charge the Orange (or you can charge it off of your computer, but that’s kind of missing the point, isn’t it?), so before you take it on a big trip to the backcountry, make sure you plan to do that well ahead of time.
Once fully charged, the Orange’s battery charge is easily topped off on the trail–just keep it strapped to the outside of your bag, rain or shine.
The Joos Orange is indisputably tough and–in moderate to full sunlight–highly efficient. It relies heavily on its internal battery for less-than-ideal sun conditions. It also has a nice feel–we enjoyed tossing it around, dangling it from the finger using the provided “security hole,” and generally showing it off at the coffee shops around town. It’s heavy, too, so we’re not sure how eager we’d be to throw it in with our ultralight backpacking gear when the moment comes to hit the trail.
But when weight is not an issue and you want a highly reliable solar cell/external battery for keeping your phone and iPod charged, the Joos Orange is currently one of your best choices. It prices for around $149.