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BlackBerry charging solution shootout

CrackBerry Idol - Josh
By Kevin Michaluk on 6 Aug 2010 11:37 pm EDT
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BlackBerry Charging Solution Shootout

Through many years and many BlackBerry devices I have never ventured beyond the factory charger. It has always been a point of frustration that the cable included with the BlackBerry has a straight tip, yet the Micro USB connection is on the side of most devices. This makes it awkward when charging and a few times led to bent pins if the device falls from it's charging perch. There are a number of options available for charging your BlackBerry. Which charger charges the fastest? Does the type of charger make a difference regarding battery life throughout the day? Is the most expensive option the best?

To answer these questions and to take a deeper look into the world of device charging let's look at 3 charging options for the BlackBerry:

The BlackBerry Charging Pod:

BlackBerry Charging Pod

The PowerMat Charging System (along with the PowerMat Receiver Battery Door):

PowertMat

The Solio Solar Charger:

Solio Solar Charger

I put each of them to a head-to-head comparison to see which solution comes out on top. I used the MeterBerry application (available on the CrackBerry.com App Store here) to provide the data needed to compare each of the charging solutions.

The Chargers

Let's begin with BlackBerry's own solution: The BlackBerry Charging Pod. The Charging Pod is simple, easy to use, and aesthetically pleasing. When used with the existing charging cable included with your BlackBerry it allows you to just drop and charge. Once connected, your BlackBerry turns into a nightstand clock or you can simply turn off the screen. You can use it to charge while playing music or even watching videos. Priced at around $25 this charging option is the cheapest out of the 3 charging systems. It's small and will not take up too much room on your desk or nightstand.

Next let's look at the PowerMat Charging System. Priced at around $100, the PowerMat Charging System is on the more expensive side and promises a wireless charging solution. Despite being plugged into the wall by a wire it provides a wireless experience between your BlackBerry and any other device it is compatible with. Used in conjunction with the PowerMat Receiver Batter Door (sold separately for $30) you simply set and charge. The PowerMat uses induction charging through magnets to wirelessly charge your BlackBerry. Also included with the PowerMat is the PowerCube and a number of device connectors. A little silly if you consider the need to plug the connector into the PowerCube and then into your device to then set on the charging mat. That's one too many steps if you ask me. The PowerMat has 3 LED lights underneath to indicate your device is charging. Upon setting or picking up your device an audible (adjustable) sound plays to confirm connection or removal. The mat is a little over a foot long and only about ½ inch thick. I did have trouble finding a spot where it did not look completely out of place and also found it hard to be too far from the outlet due to the shorter power cable length. The PowerMat is sleek and sexy and provides exactly what it promises.

Last, but not least we see the Solio Solar Charging Solution. Out of the three chargers I was most excited to use this green option for charging my BlackBerry. The Solio Solar Charger resembles a large egg when closed and when open has 3 petals each with it's own solar panel. Included with the charger was a pencil used to prop the device and a number of different connectors for other phones and portable devices. When placed in direct sunlight the included internal battery charges and promises to hold that charge for up to 1 year. There is one button that when clicked blinks up to 5 times indicating the level of charge. Each flash is equal to 20%. There are two connectors on the side, one to connect your BlackBerry device and another if you want to connect it to a charging source. Also priced around $100 this device is in the same cost neighborhood as the PowerMat.

The Data

To establish a baseline I began logging my battery usage two days before testing each charging solution. For the first two days the numbers are below:

(Note: Each day removed from charger @ 5:30am at 100% battery level) 

Day 1

  • Average Hourly Decrease: 5%
  • Charging Start: 11:00 PM
  • Starting Charge: 54%
  • Fully Charged: 12:18 AM

Day 2

  • Average Hourly Decrease: 5.5%
  • Charging Start: 11:12 PM
  • Starting Charge: 52%
  • Fully Charged: 12:30 AM

After establishing the above baseline I began using each charging solution for 2 days each. Those results are below:

(Note: Each day removed from charger @ 5:30am at 100% battery level)

Blackberry Charging Pod

Day 1

  • Average Hourly Decrease: 5%
  • Charging Start: 11:18 PM
  • Starting Charge: 55%
  • Fully Charged: 12:10 AM

Day 2

  • Average Hourly Decrease: 4.5%
  • Charging Start: 10:01 PM
  • Starting Charge: 54%
  • Fully Charged: 10:48 PM

Solio Solar Charger

Day 1 

  • Average Hourly Decrease: 4.5%
  • Charging Start: 10:43 PM
  • Starting Charge: 42%
  • Fully Charged: NA - Partial charge to 62% by 2:00 AM

Day 2

  • Average Hourly Decrease: 3.5%
  • Charging Start: 8:15 PM
  • Starting Charge: 33%
  • Fully Charged: NA - Partial charge to 58% by 11:00 PM

(Note: Due to a defective first PowerMat there were a couple of days in between testing the Solio Charger and the PowerMat Charger)

PowerMat Charging System

Day 1

  • Average Hourly Decrease: 5.5%
  • Charging Start: 10:31 PM
  • Starting Charge: 52%
  • Fully Charged: 11:36 PM

Day 2

  • Average Hourly Decrease: 5%
  • Charging Start: 11:47 PM
  • Starting Charge: 57%
  • Fully Charged: 12:57 AM

How They Stack Up

Landing in last place is the Solio Solar Powered Charger. I was excited to use the Solio Solar Powered Charging solution, but that excitement was quickly met with disappointment. I followed the included instructions and put the charger in direct sunlight for over 8 hours on both days. The highest level of charge I received was 60%. While this may be a good interim solution while camping or on the go it is not a recommended charging solution for someone who uses his or her BlackBerry throughout the day. Times got a little tough when my BlackBerry was showing only 35% battery life remaining at 4 o'clock in the afternoon. When you combine its limited ability to charge with its price this is clearly one option I wouldn't choose again.

Coming in a close second is the PowerMat Charging Solution. Mainly because of its lofty price tag, this sleek and sexy system provides the wireless charging experiencing it promises. The ability to charge my BlackBerry along side my iPod Touch or other device makes this a great option for any gadget conscious person. Originally I was turned away by the $100 price tag, but when you consider you can replace 3 chargers with one it begins to make sense. The PowerMat Receiver Battery door allows for this option to be practical if you like your BlackBerry as close to factory as possible. One negative is the bulge it creates on the back of the device. If your BlackBerry finds its home in a slide or snap-on case then this solution won't work for you. Quick, easy, and cool sum up this expensive home charging option.

Topping our head-to-head comparison is the BlackBerry Charging Pod. Simple, consistent and easy to use this inexpensive charging option provides the most versatility in one small package. Leave it to BlackBerry to get it right - the charging pod does what it needs to do without overdoing it.

Each of the charging solutions used in this review are available on the CrackBerry.com Accessories store.

Reader comments

BlackBerry charging solution shootout

33 Comments

Kevin (aka Ryan Seacrest): Great work Josh. Great set of products you picked to review and a tricky challenge. I'd say you pulled it off great. Now let's see what the judges had to say about your review.

CrackBerry Idol Judges

Dieter: Really pleased to see the hard data in your review here - reviewing charging and battery solutions is really tough and including real numbers makes a big difference. Solid video, too, very clear and well-framed. Voters: move this guy to the next round.

Georgia: Wow, sleek and professional. It was a pleasure to watch the video and it was the perfect length. The written review was very well formulated and easy to follow. The addition of diagrams were a treat. You went well beyond the basic review, awesome job!

Craig: Josh this was a solid review and hit all the points. Your video had high production value and if I didn't want to see the battery use data in your written review (very useful by the way) I could have just watched your video and been completely satisfied. Your written review was well structured and very useful. Keep it up!

I second this notion; Josh covered the product without any fluff, and didn't miss any details out. He's definitely got my vote.

There was some minor confusion as to why the results for the solar charger only display how much it charged up to a few hours after it was plugged in, where-as above it it says that he's charging each device each day until 5:30 A.M., but everything else is so well done, that I'm more than willing to over-look that detail :-D

I bought the Solio charger from crackberry a few months ago. Ive never been more disappointed with a product. It really left a bad impression of solar chargers Ended up buying a different charger from amazon that worked perfectly. Charged my Storm2 in just about the same time as if I had charged it from my computer!

Great review too!

I want the charging mat but after the 100$ for the mat you have to shell out more for each device and its not compatible with very many devices.

Great review! awesome video too Josh, didn't need to read the review after watching that vid, got all the information i needed (but i still read it anyway lol, nicely done!).

I agree on the BB charging pod being the best of the three, not too expensive, great design/appearance (gotta love the BB logo too!) and simple. It's really convienient as you can place it on your desk or night stand and best of all it beats stabbing your phone with the micro/mini usb charger.

I've actually been looking for an alternative charging solution for my Blackberry. I really never considered the pod but now i realize it really is the most simple option. Anyways, Josh is a keeper, the review seemed very professional.

Having spent a lot of time recently watching Berry and Droid videos online to get an idea of which phone I plan to use for my next upgrade, your video would fit right in with the best of professional ones I have seen. Your video did an excellent job telling us what we needed to know. Appeared professional. Worth my vote!

I have come to conclusion that this round is about long reviews, so I won't consider length as a negative when I vote, but I did like how you broke it up with usage stats, pics and had a nice flow to your review. I didn't feel overwhelmed by the length of your review because it read well, though I don't particularly care for large paragraphs. Good Job! I look forward to your next review.

A nit to pick: the uninitiated may not understand that the pod can't be used on a skinned/cased BlackBerry unless removed from vase/skin first. Having mentioned the bulge caused by the powermat door, this potential limitation should have been pointed out about the pod.

Oh, and not sure I place much value in the "data" provided by Meterberry here. Think about it. You say you started the day at 100% charge at 5:30am and the app said you averaged 5% battery use per hour? But at 11pm you had 50-some % charge remaining? Something doesn't make sense there and for me there's no point having a review mention a statistic that doesn't make sense or mean anything to the review. Or did you think the different charging methods were going to give you different average consumption results?

But overall a good review.

I realize that he reviewed the blackberry pod charger, but the seidio one can accommodate the berry with or without the seido case on it. The case has cutouts on it for the contacts. I use the 360 sometimes and sometimes no case. The pod comes with a plastic insert to make it work both ways. I love the pod and can't imagine using anything else!

Very well done video and write-up. You showed how to use each device (without a 15 minute video) and the write-up showed some very good info.

I wonder if the Solio would charge better with the BlackBerry off (or in stand-by mode), since it does seem to have a slower charge rate.

Very good! Looks like you'll be here for the next round! :)

I remember back in Feb '10 Powermat was suppose to come out w/ a wireless charger due for purchase on Jun '10. You would have to purchase a new battery which would recharge on the mat (no special cell phone door to purchase). I'm sadden and frustrated that this still isn't out. There has been no info on why this hasn't come out. Has anyone heard anything?

Great job! The video review was short, sweet and to the point--no wasted space. Excellent way to bring out the cons of the devices. I feel like I can just come in to Crackberry and breeze through your review and I'm all set. Easy, simple and easy to follow!

i bought the charging pod through crackberry over 4 months ago and i dont charge my phone any other way. dont even use the wall charger anymore. POD works great. its a great buy!!!!

Even though I don't really see the point of using a dock or power mat, you did a really good job of presenting the facts. IMO, when using the dock or mat, your really just giving up the option to comfortably use your device while charging. Kind of upsetting the $100 solar charger wasn't satisfactory. You spoke very clearly and the music was a nice touch. I can tell you put a lot of effort into you written review too. Great job.

Great job, so far the best this round! This is an excellent video, one that will keep on coming back to you for a source of knowledge.

The video flowed well and easy to understand. Full of information but easy enough to digest on the first pass. I really like the popus and their timely display. Also thank you for giving the PRICE during the review. That is a key piece of information that most reviewers keep on forgetting.

=X=

Excellent!

This is the quality of product review I look for and would want from the this contest winner.

Good quality video, no fluff, clear, informative. Considering you reviewed 3 items, the video length was perfect.

Your write up was good and in laymen terms (some reviews can get technically overwhelming).

Nicely done Josh.

You started your report by saying you do not venture much beyond the stock chargers due to the connector. There are numerous chargers with right angle adapters. The same for data cables. You then go on to talk about the charging pod but fail to mention one flaw: If you use a skin or hard case (even Blackberry's own) for your device then the charging pod connector will not reach your device. You must remove the case which takes the convenience out of using the pod.
The remaining comments were accurate.

Loved your video although you burst my bubble with the solar charger unit (POS) don't bother thank you. you saved me the headache of getting one and then returning it. You definitely getting my vote for the next round up sir. Once again your video looked very professional and informative.

I am in the market for a charging solution, since I have really beaten up the mini-usb port in my curve. Your review led me to the bb pod. They are on Amazon for about $10 btw. Thanks again, and still hoping for a good solar option.

I'm currently looking for an alternative solution to charging and you just saved me $100 (possibly TWICE)!!!

Great review! Can't wait to see what you can do in the next round!

Doing a lot of camping and outdoors activities off the grid, Crackberry needs a round up of green solar charger options such as the Lexmar solutions that utilize a battery that allows the solar to recharge and then you charge your Blackberry/pda off the charge from the battery that's enclosed in the charger.

While going out into the great outdoors, I may not always have cell coverage in remote areas but I still like taking my BB for GPS and for GPS photo tagging.

A battery operated solar charging solution would allow for charging the unit during the day while it's sitting in camp and then recharging my BlackBerry in the evening when the sun goes down. The non-battery enclosed chargers mean that it must be connected to you device during the day when your are "doing" things.