Here comes the sun!

by Laura Fumiko Keehn 

Sometimes you come across an idea so simple you’re sure someone must have thought of it already. Better Energy Systems have produced a simple product that will be on everyone’s wish list this year; a compact portable solar-powered charger for all your mobile de­vices. It’s called the Solio.

The product was launched November of 2004, and has already attracted much attention. Coldplay and Arnold Schwarzenegger are high profile fans, and Solio was named Best of Show by MacWorld magazine. Solio has also been quick to find alliances with ma­jor portable gadget companies. A Global distribution agreement was signed with Apple, and a Vodafone-branded model is available in Greece.

How does it work exactly? The egg-shaped Solio fans out into a three-petal flower shape with solar pan­els on each petal. Simply lay it out towards the sun. For the Solio to fully charge takes ten hours of direct sunlight. The gadget of your choice connects to the So­lio through various adapters, called tips. Most are sold separately depending on what you buy. Tips are availa­ble for iPods, Game Boys, palm pilots, and cell phones. Adapters for USB and car chargers are also available, and Solio also plugs into the wall. Why, you ask? In case the sun fails to shine, Solio can also charge the old fashioned way.

Although most people will want Solio for its con­venience, the product is also very eco-friendly. On the solio website Better Energy Systems claim, “Over its lifetime, Solio will ideally produce more energy than energy used in its construction.” In simple terms, it cuts back on the use of rapidly depleting fossil fuels by going directly to the source: the sun.

The sun, or lack thereof, is also what causes the main drawback to the otherwise handy product. Rick­ey Spero discovered, in his review of Solio for The Mac Observer, that unless the charger is in absolute direct sunlight, “it takes prohibitively long” to charge. Solio is also unable to charge anything as big as a laptop, limiting its usefulness somewhat.

Despite these drawbacks, a product this sim­ple and this convenient is sure to sell itself. After it’s initial launch in the UK, Solio apparently sold out in the middle of winter with no marketing. No mean feat, considering the lack of sun during the British winter.

To find out more information, or to order online, visit