The iPhone doesn't have a user-changeable battery. To some that was a non-starter. To others, that was a call to action. Enter the iPhone external battery charger. We've seen them in several forms now, from built-in cases like the Mophie Juice Pack to plug-in units like the RichardSolo 1800 for iPhone.

TiPb had a chance to meet with the very gracious Richard Thalheimer at Macworld, who shared his enthusiasm for the RichardSolo 1800 and asked us to give it a try. Seeing as how, between email, twitter, blogging, texting, and calling, I was draining our iPhones near dry, I was more than happy to.

So how did it do? Read on after the break!

What's in the Box

The RichardSolo 1800 for iPhone comes with the battery charger itself, which is shaped roughly like smaller, thinner version of the iPhone, and includes a locking dock connecter (yes!), charging light, and two buttons which activate the laser pointer and the LED flashlight.

Yep, it's a multi-tasker, and while I haven't yet found a use for the extra features, it is kind of reassuring to know they exist in case I ever need to find my keys in a dark room, or simply annoy a friend.

Also included is a retractable mini-USB to USB cable for charging with adapters for both an AC outlet and a car charger. Since the purpose of RichardSolo 1800 is to keep you juiced up on the go, it's nice to have multiple options for charging the 1800 itself. However, while USB is a standard, I can't help but think if the RichardSolo 1800 itself used a dock connector for charging, just like the iPhone, that AC adapter and car charger could do double duty charging the iPhone as well. (Note: you can work around this by plugging the iPhone into the RichardSolo, and the RichardSolo into the USB cable, so it's a small niggle).

Lastly, the box includes braces for both the iPhone 3G and the original iPhone 2G. If you're ever in a pinch and need to use your iPhone while charging it with the RichardSolo 1800, the brace will help keep everything more stable. It's not as solid as a case-form external battery charger, of course, but if you're careful, it's usable enough.

How it Works

To charge the RichardSolo, you plug it into the retractable USB cable, and plug that into a handy USB socket -- or into either of the adapters mentioned above. RichardSolo recommends you charge the 1800 for a minimum of 5 hours, twice, to get maximum initial capacity. That's probably a fair indication of ongoing best practices as well.

Once the RichardSolo 1800 is charged, you plug it into the iPhone and move that charge on over! Thankfully, the 1800 will "lock" onto the iPhone dock, and requires you to pinch two buttons on the side to release it -- a nice feature to prevent unintentional disconnection. Since the 1800 charges through a dock connector, you could theoretically use it to charge the iPod touch -- or any other iPod -- as well, though I personally haven't tried that out yet.

From nearly dead to fully charged, it took somewhere between 1:30 and 1:45 to completely recharge my iPhone, and the 1800 still had power left to spare.

Final Thoughts

Is it unwieldily? Sure, hanging even a slim battery sized object off the bottom of your iPhone can be annoying, but what's more annoying is running out of power halfway through a conference, nary a port or outlet in sight. So it comes down to a choice, something less obtrusive like the aforementioned Mophie Juice Pack, which only works on the iPhone 3G, or the RichardSolo 1800, which isn't as elegant but can be used on all iPhones and iPods alike?

Pros

  • Can charge any iPhone or iPod
  • Slim profile makes it highly portable
  • Includes USB, AC, and car charging options
  • Built in flash and flippin' laser beam!

Cons

  • Dongle-like solution less ideal for using-while-charging

TiPb Rating

The iPhone blog 4 Star Review