Richard Solo 1200 - Backup Battery with Flashlight
If you own an Apple iPhone 3G and use it relentlessly throughout the day, you've probably noticed its battery life often does not last as long as you would like. This is acceptable with something like a music player, but for a cell phone, it's a little more important for you to keep it going. External battery packs seem to be the answer, especially since you can't swap out the iPhone's battery.
We've taken a look at the Mophie Juice Pack for the iPhone 3G, and though we like its functionality, we're not too pleased with the design and the price (too bulky and too expensive). We've also taken a look at the Smart Backup Battery by Richard Solo, which has been around since the original iPhone. Now Richard Solo has come up with the Richard Solo 1200, which is basically the exact same thing, but with a built-in flash light as well. For the extra luminance, you'll have to pay around $54.95 (compare with the $49.95 for the one without the flashlight). The 1200 in the battery's name refers to the 1200mAH lithium-ion battery.
The battery itself is pretty nice and compact, measuring 2.83 inches long by 1.77 inches wide by 0.49 inch thick. We like that it has a steel casing for extra protection, and that it's portable enough to carry in your bag. At the top of the battery is the universal iPhone/iPod dock, which is protected by a plastic cap. The battery comes with a retractable USB cable, which you can use to charge the battery with any computer. It also comes with a wall plug with which you can attach the USB cable. Our only complaint with this is that the USB cable is pretty short, about 23 inches, even when we pulled it out to full length. Note that if you have the original Backup Battery from Richard Solo, you won't be able to use the same USB cable; it has a different connector at the bottom.
Like the original, you'll have to remember to charge the backup battery before you can use it to charge the iPhone. Just charge it up either via a computer or the wall plug, and you're ready to go. On the front of the battery are three LEDs: the first LED glows blue when the battery is fully charged, and the second LED glows blue indicating the battery is working properly. The third LED to the far right is a charge status indicator. When the backup battery is being charged, it glows a solid red, and when it is fully charged, it glows green. It flashes red when the backup battery needs to be recharged.
Also note that you can charge the iPhone and the battery at the same time. Just plug in the battery to the iPhone and plug the battery to the wall/computer. The charger will then charge the iPhone first before it charges the battery. We were able to fully charge our battery in about 2.5 hours, though Richard Solo recommends a full overnight charge for two nights in a row when you first receive it.
We charged our iPhone twice, once from about 20 percent battery life remaining, and once from a completely dead battery. When we charged it from 20 percent, it charged it back up to full in about an hour. However, with the completely dead battery, it only charged it up to around 60 percent, which is around the same amount that Richard Solo said. The company recommends that you use the backup battery any time you wish to top off your iPhone, since the battery shuts off automatically when the iPhone is full.
Of course, when the battery is connected to the iPhone, it extends the length of the iPhone by a few inches. This can be a little cumbersome, especially if you have to slip the iPhone in and out of a case.
A nice bonus for those seeking an update from the original Backup Battery is the addition of a flashlight. At the bottom of the battery are a toggle switch and a very bright LED light. Though it isn't necessary, we liked having it just for the extra functionality.
Overall, there isn't a lot of improvement over the original Smart Backup Battery. All you really get is the extra flashlight at the bottom for around $5 more. For a real improvement, you'll have to wait for our review of the Richard Solo 1800, coming up soon.