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Richard Solo 1800 charger for iPhone/iPod February 18, 2010

Posted by antimeme in Apple.
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Richard Solo 1800

It has a flashlight and a laser pointer. Who wouldn't want one?

A Cool Idea, But Does It Work?

I use my iPhone a lot when I am out and about. I am constantly listening to audiobooks or music. I take calls and I text. I use it for notes, reminders and taking photos. And if I am standing in line somewhere, I play The Creeps, The Deep, or The Plataeu. The only problem I have is that the measley 1200mA battery runs down long before I do.

Lots of Extras

Enter the Richard Solo 1800. RichardSolo.com is the brainchild of Richard Thalheimer. You’ll remember him as the founder of The Sharper Image, so you know he has good ideas. Is this charger one of them? Yes and no. Mostly no.

When both my iPhone and this device are fully charged, I get a theoretical 2-1/2 times the battery life. Reality makes it closer to just a doubling of useable time, but for most purposes, that is more than good enough.  The device also sports a flashlight and a laser pointer, in addition to three status lights and a global but mostly useless on/off switch.

It's retractable and useful.

The entire package also has a lot of useful swag. The charging cable is modular and retractable; it coils up into a nice compact unit. It is a standard USB on one side and a mini plug that goes into the RS 1800. This side, too, uses a standard plug that is compatible with many of the devices you already own. The USB connector can go straight into a (powered) USB port on your computer. It can also plug into the supplied wall charging unit. Even nicer, they have thrown in a dual-USB car charging unit, so you can charge the RS1800 (and your iPhone) as well as your GPS device on your way to wherever it is you’re going.

The other good news is that it charges pretty quickly. The marketing copy says it takes 90 minutes to fully charge an iPhone, but it feels faster than that to me. Using the RS 1800, I can go from about 20% to 60% in less than twenty minutes. That’s impressive.

So what’s wrong with it?

Sadly, there is a lot wrong with this device. I’ll start with the biggest issue.

dual USB car charger

There's room for two (USB devices)

The iPhone is about 4-1/2 inches long. The RichardSolo 1800 is about 4 inches. Put them together, and you now have a device that is 8-1/2 half inches long. It won’t fit in a shirt pocket. If you have it in your pants pocket, you feel it whenever you sit. Worse, you can feel the stress caused from bending. That stress is concentrated at the connector. Yes, it comes with various support braces. These things help. A lot. But even with them, there is a lot of stress on that connector. I think that stress has damaged the dock connector. The phone doesn’t always charge when it is plugged in. Sometimes when I plug it into a charger – any charger – it shows the charge icon but doesn’t charge. Other times, it shows the fully-charged icon regardless of the actual charge level. Sometimes it does nothing at all.  Sometimes it works fine. My iPhone is pretty promiscuous – it

iPhone docked with RS 1800

Are you charging your iPhone or are you just happy to see me?

plugs into a lot of devices and cables. So I cannot say with absolute certainty that the RS 1800 is the culprit. But it seems likely to me.

I see that the company also offers a charger that has a cable rather than a direct connection. That would be better for the dock connector than the setup I have. Even so, I still wouldn’t get one. This thing has…

Other Issues

There are three status lights on the RS 1800: A blue one, a green one, and a red one. The blue one tells you that the RS 1800 is charging an iPhone/iPod. The blue light will stay on even when the iPhone is fully charged. They call this the “topping off” period.  It will keep charging your phone until the RS 1800 is drained. At that point, the red light comes on, and the RS 1800 will stop charging.

The green light comes on when the RS 1800 is plugged in to be charged. If it is flashing, the RS 1800 is charging. If it is a solid green, the RS 1800 is full. Think about this. If it isn’t either plugged in and charging or connected to a phone and completely drained, there is no way to tell the status of the device. Even if it is charging, you only can tell if it is full. If it is at 95% full or 95% empty, the green light flashes. That is no help at all to me.

Then there is that useless on/off switch. As far as I can tell, its only purpose is to allow/prevent you from using the flashlight or laser pointer. This is silly. It isn’t like either of those lights will ever turn on accidentally. It takes a fair amount of pressure activate them. When you remove the pressure, they turn off. There is no way to have either light remain on without holding the button down – it would have been nice to have a stay-on-until-I-turn-you-off option, which would have made the on/off thing in the back useful. But it doesn’t, so it isn’t.

Final Thoughts

I need supplemental charging when I am out. And the 1800 mA provided by the RS 1800 is enough for my needs. Anything less would not be. And the charging time is relatively fast. But its flaws far outweigh these benefits. It puts far too much stress on the iPhone’s dock connector. The status meter of “somewhere between empty and 99%, inclusive” is worthless. The flashlight and laser pointers are cool, but totally unnecessary. All in all, this is a great idea that is executed poorly. And it costs the better part of seventy bucks. There are better products that cost less. Skip this one.

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