If there’s one thing that stands out as a technology darling for the summer of 2014, it’s the bombardment of gadgetry designed to keep the stuff in the digital garden charged and ready.
Two such things showed up on the doorstep last week as evidence, amongst tons of other affordable (meaning sub-$100) options.
One: The Mophie “Juice Pack,” which clamps onto your phone, acting as both a protective case and a power source. Charge the bottom part of the two-piece case and slide it onto the phone. When the phone gets low on juice, push the button on the back of the case to pop it into charging mode. Voila! Suddenly the iPhone 5 works all day and into the evening.
The second: A fold-up solar panel, made by Anker, and sent over for evaluation by the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers, presumably to point out what can happen as the industry continues to focus its attention on sustainable energy.
How it works: Unfold it. Find a wide, sunny place. (It’s a lengthy bugger, unfolding to about yardstick length.) Plug your gadget into one of two USB ports; watch it charge.
Obviously, a sunny day matters with this one, and the documentation contains all kinds of near apologies for the weather. (Sorry, Seattle!)
The Anker panel folds up to about the size of a large Kindle. It doesn’t hold a charge, it just dispenses energy to gadgets as available by the sun.
Advancements in battery life aren’t new — and the volume of R&D around the category continues to run at a sprint pace. It’s because of all of our stuff, of course, that needs and drains energy. More drain if you’re using your phone as a wireless access point, or if you forget to turn off the Bluetooth transmitter.
(Or, in my case, if you plugged your stuff into an unprotected outlet in another country, promptly frying the charger and elbowing the battery into fast drain.)
My strong preference, between the case/charger and the solar panel, is the panel. It’s sunny 333 days per year in Colorado, and the charging mechanism from the sun seems to go much faster than when plugged into the wall.
Of course, always an option is to plug the charging case into the solar panel, thus using the sun to fill up the battery.
In mulling the “power summer” that is 2014, one thing seems pretty clear: The industry could assuage the embarrassingly huge and widely observed electricity draw of things like set-top boxes by including some form of solar alternative. Most people want to make a difference, and doing the “right thing” by plugging into the sun seems a pretty easy way to deliver a “feel good” experience.
On the other hand, there’s not much left of summer. Unplugging is also an option.