Planon's charger works a bit differently from other emergency chargers we've seen; in fact, you could almost think of it as a second battery. Rather than delivering juice through hand cranking, AA batteries, or even the sun, the Planon charger uses good old electrical power. That means you must first charge it before you can bring a phone back to life. Once charged, it will then hold the energy until it's time to be connected to your phone's battery. While that arrangement works quite well most of the time, it also means you'll have to remember to, ahem, charge the charger before you set out. Otherwise, you'll wind up with two dead gadgets.
The Planon charger consists of four parts: the main universal mobile charger, an AC adapter, a phone cable, and a connector for your phone's charger port. It's a simple arrangement on the whole, but it can make for a lot to carry if you're short on pocket or bag space. The rectangular charger measures 3.0x1.8x1.0 inches and is covered in basic black. It was a bit heaver than we expected (3.8 ounces), but it shouldn't weigh you down too much. The AC adapter is no bigger than your standard cell phone adapter, and the phone cable is a generous 4 feet. You get a choice of six devices that will fit into most Nokia, Motorola, Kyocera, and Sony Ericsson phones, as well as iPods and a number of digital cameras. LG, Samsung, and Sanyo phones aren't supported, however, nor are older Motorola models that don't use the Mini-USB connection.
Setup is so easy we barely had to read the directions. A green light lets you know when the charger is powered up. You then only have to plug in the phone and charging will begin. Again, the green light will indicate when charging is complete. After you're all done, you can disconnect your phone and make that all-important call.
It took about four hours to get a full charge on the charger. We then connected it to a Sony Ericsson W600i that was just about out of battery power. The charger kicked into life immediately and started to deliver juice to the phone. It took only about half an hour to deliver about a 90 percent charge, which is quite satisfactory. Yet no matter how long we left the charger connected the W600i never showed a completely full charge; instead it stopped just short. That's not a huge deal, but it is less than we were hoping for. Also, after only about 20 minutes of talking, the W600i's dropped down to about a 60 percent charge. Both issues could be due to the phone, however.
We also used the Planon to charge a Nokia 6133 and a Creative Zen Vision MP3 player. The Creative Zen took a bit longer to power. From a completely dead battery, it took about two hours to get a full charge on the charger.