A solar-powered battery should be part of any disaster-preparedness kit, and the myCharge Solar PowerFold can keep an iPhone up and running just by sitting in the sun for a few hours.
We tested the ability of this very portable device to capture the thermonuclear power of our nearest star. Here’s how it went.
myCharge Solar PowerFold review
There’s a size vs. storage capacity tradeoff in any battery, and that goes double for a solar battery. To stay portable, both the battery and the solar panels have to be as small as possible. On the other hand, the larger each of these are the more power they can provide.
The Solar PowerFold finds a reasonable middle ground. When folded, it’s 6.0 inches by 3.25 in. by 1 in., and 0.7 pounds, so it goes easily into a backpack. It’s about the size of phone, if thicker. The 8000mAh battery can be separated from the folding solar panels, and it’s only 0.4 inches thick, making it pocketable if you just want to bring it along.
The folded-up package feels relatively rugged. It should easily survive a long hike, as long as it’s not under a bunch of heavy gear, of course. The exterior is a dark-grey fabric that looks curiously professional for a power bank that’s likely to be used in the woods.
On the back of this accessory from myCharge is a flashlight made of 9 LEDs. This is powerful enough to get you through dark woods, and also offers SOS and strobe modes for emergency situations.
To charge this power bank, unfold three small solar panels and leave them and the battery in direct sunlight for as long as possible.
On the top edge are a pair of full-size USB-A ports, allowing the power bank to send current to two phones, tablets or other devices at the same time. Next to this is a micro-USB port that allows the Solar PowerFold to receive power from a wall socket. It’s always a good idea to have this battery at 100% before leaving on the camping trip.
On the front of the battery is a panel with status LEDs. There’s one that indicates when power is coming in, and there’s a set that indicate how much power is currently being stored. Unfortunately, there’s a bug in this function — more on this in a bit.
myCharge Solar PowerFold performance
To test this solar-power battery, we drained it completely then set it in direct sunlight on a cloudless day for half a day — 4 hours. We then used this power bank to recharge an iPhone XS Max. The battery was able to give the handset a 25% charge.
That’s enough to keep the handset going with light use. And more use is possible if the Solar PowerFold can be kept in the sun for longer, of course.
Starting with a full charge, this product was able to increase the test XS Max by 159%. That’s over multiple recharge cycles, of course.
Unfortunately, most of the time you’ll have to guess how much power is available. The bug mentioned earlier prevents the LED battery indicator from showing power that comes in from the solar panels — it does on our review unit, anyway. If myCharge’s accessory gets current through the micro-USB port, even for a second, the LEDs will jump to the true battery level. Otherwise, they’ll falsely indicate the battery is empty.
myCharge Solar PowerFold final thoughts
If a hurricane knocks out your power for two weeks, the Solar PowerFold can keep your iPhone running. There won‘t be enough current to watch Twitch all day, but you’ll stay in contact with the world.
It can also come in handy on a week-long camping trip, as long as you’re staying in one place long enough to charge up the battery.
The bug in the charge indicator is irritating but not necessarily a deal breaker.
The myCharge Solar PowerFold is $59.99.
Buy from: Amazon
If your travel plans are more urban and indoors, the Fuse Chicken Universal ($84.95) comes with plugs for wall sockets in N. America, Europe and Australia. It offers 6700mAh of capacity.
The Uniq HydeAir ($49.95) also doesn’t offer solar charging, but this 10,000mAh external battery has other capabilities though, including wireless charging and a built-in stand for your iPhone.