When it comes to devices that charge your gadgets on the go, there are tons of external battery options out there, tons of portable solar panels and transportable solar panels out there, and finally, many crossover devices that are portable solar panels with built in external batteries.
Of all the choices out there today, one of the seemingly clunkiest has got to be the Joos Orange.
At 1.5 lbs, it’s certainly not light, and at 5400mAh, it’s weight to battery capacity ratio is far far below average. A 5400mAh battery can charge an iPhone 2.5 times. At that capacity, external batteries that have no solar panel or ruggedness are far far smaller. In fact, batteries of roughly 1.5lbs typically hold over 11,000mAh or more, more than double the capacity of the Joos Orange.
And solar panels, no matter how incredibly efficient, are still not very efficient at all.
So, why do I LOVE this solar panel battery so much?
Three main reasons and one small reason:
– FIRST, it’s got the most efficient solar panel I’ve seen yet. Keeping in mind that I can’t really tell the efficiency difference between a 3″ solar panel, a folding textile based solar panel, and the Joos Orange panel, the only factor I can really use is how fast it charges. The Joos can charge its internal battery via the sun about 5% every hour, requiring 18-22 hours to fully charge. That would typically mean about 3 days of charging by sun to get one full charge of the 5400mAh built in battery. But since a fully charged Joos Orange battery charges an iPhone to 100% 2.5 times, the Joos battery really only needs about a 35-40% charge on itself in order to get an iPhone from 0-100%. Basically, that means just over 1 day of solar charging = 1 full iPhone charge. Put another way, in a pinch, roughly 1 hour of charging the Joos battery in direct sunlight charges an iPhone enough for 2 hours of talk time.
And that’s damn efficient compared to other portable solar panel chargers I’ve seen to date. You might argue that It’s less effective than a trans-portable solar sheet, but it’s way more effective than any portable solar device I’ve ever seen. It’s likely more efficient per square inch than a transportable solar sheet, and of course, you can’t really charge a transportable solar sheet while walking around, as you have to set it up on a stand.
NOTE: Two other solar chargers I own are much less efficient as they get about 10-20 minutes talk time with a 60 minute charge and have only a 1000-1500mAh battery built in. Better than nothing, for sure, but a far cry from the Joos Orange and really only good in the most desperate of conditions.
– SECOND, Toughness. There are two major thieves of the weight to battery capacity ratio. First, the solar panel itself adds a lot of weight to the battery (and forces the larger size too) when compared to pure external batteries. Second, and just as big a thief of the weight to battery capacity ratio is all that ruggedness built in. And I truly, deeply thank Joos for that toughness. This little gadget is so tough you can drop it in a stream, pick it up, and it’ll keep on working. You can have it out by the pool and if it gets splashed on or if it accidentally falls into the pool, no problem. You can wash it under the faucet or in a stream if it gets dirty….This baby isn’t just water resistant, it’s completely water proof, and submersible. In addition to that, it’s also shock proof and dust proof. That’s not just worry mitigation, that’s worry proof. In an emergency situation or out camping/hiking/boating, it’s one device you can count on for years and years of use and storage.
For that kind of maintenance free and worry free toughness and dependability, I’ll happily deal with the reduced weight to battery capacity ratio.
NOTE: There are plenty of folding transportable solar chargers out there that are water proof, but the very nature of a product made of textile material in these large and cumbersome folding solar panels means that these chargers need regular care and maintenance and have higher risk factors for damage over years of use and non-use (long term storage can dry and damage textile materials without proper maintenance and care). The simple, solid materials of the Joos Orange means that it will not suffer the wear and tear prone to textile materials.
– THIRD: Light range. One of the biggest problems with most portable solar panel chargers is that they just don’t work under cloudy conditions. The other ones I have don’t charge at all even on a sunny day unless aimed directly at the sun. The Joos Orange may not be a sci-fi level super fast charger, but even under cloudy conditions, it charges. It actually, really, charges. This alone is an unbelievable value in my eyes.
This makes the Joos Orange the only useful portable solar charger I’ve ever owned.
NOTE: With transportable textile folding chargers, you have to set it up at a camp site and ideally adjust the angle once in a while to aim at the sun. If you sit at a camp site all day, no problem. But if you spend much of the day away from a camp site, or set up at a different location every day, you only get a few hours of sunlight each day to set up and charge, especially if you worry about animals getting to the site while you’re away, wind knocking it down, or even have a few trust issues with other campers. With the Joos, you can strap it to a backpack or waist pack, keeping it with you, and charging all day long while walking, boating, or doing other activities. No setup, just make sure the panel faces outward and you’re charging. And unlike other portable chargers, you don’t have to constantly monitor the angle of your device to charge. Just strap it and go. Speaking of which, this is why i think an open faced case with more strapping options would be ideal.
– Finally, and this is a small thing, the device is designed with a rather large hole at one end making it easy to strap to a backpack using string or a large carabiner. That means keeping it attached to your backpack and sun charging while you’re hiking or moving around, something you can’t do with transportable textile based folded/rolled solar charger, and as long as the panel is facing outwards, you don’t need to worry about direct sunlight like you do with other portable solar chargers, and even better, even if it’s raining, you can keep it attached to your backpack and know that it’ll keep charging and won’t get water damage.
That’s a huge benefit compared to transportable textile based solar chargers which have to be set up at a camp site, and portable solar chargers which, while also able to attach to backpacks, only charge when pointed directly at the sun.
All in all, the Joos Orange chose all the right compromises and combination of features. More battery capacity and more effective in low light conditions than other portable solar chargers, more “charge on the go” utilitarian and long term toughness than transportable textile based solar chargers, and a truly maintenance free and worry free portable solar panel.
When broken down into scenarios, I’d say that it may only be reasonably useful on business trips as the feature gains reducing weight to battery capacity ratio aren’t as highly valued, but, it’s extremely useful on camping trips and boating trips where those those feature gains are not only valuable but critical.
One more thing, in this era where smart phones have become not only a critical voice communication tool, but also the be all and end all triage device for all things communication, internet, and GPS, the worry-free toughness, solar efficiency, reasonable battery capacity, and portability of the Joos Orange is not a nice-to-have in an emergency 3 day kit, but an absolutely must have.
NOTE: Incidentally, if you’re worried about the battery losing efficiency over time, as batteries tend to do over years of use, note that the back panel opens up and the battery is replaceable. I imagine that there is at least one o-ring, possibly more to ensure a water-tight fit, and they don’t sell the spare batteries today. But it will hopefully be an option in the future.
NOTE2: I hope they create a case (denier fabric or strap weave or skeletal frame) with attachment options (e.g. 4 corner carabiner rivets or something along those lines) to give more flexibility to attach it to backpacks, tents, car windows, or even a car roof, etc. while still leaving the solar panel fully exposed to making charging in a variety of scenarios much easier. The single large hole is useful, but hard to stabilize.
NOTE3: I’m not sure, but I believe the front bezel is white to try and partially mitigate having the device get over-heated when out in the sun all day.
NOTE4: The only bummer with this device is the cabling. It’s a female micro-USB. That’s okay, but the port is shaped a little funny, more rectangular than a typical micro-usb female plug. some of my other micro-USB cables didn’t work, some did. I ended-up spending $45 with SolarJoos in additional cabling so I can have spares in case I ever lose one.
NOTE5: I have heard from customer support that charging via USB only gets the internal battery to about 90% (with considerable slow down around the 85% mark). So it may be best to charge the internal battery via sun for the last bit to get it to 100%.
NOTE6: The one feature available on other solar portable chargers that I wish the Joos Orange had is some method (e.g. a button) to be able to see the blinks to know, whenever I want, what the charge level is).