Solar Powered iPhone Charger & Battery Backup

My Power Pack for iPhone 4/4S (AM-403) arrived recently. The AM-403 is a solar powered backup battery / charger for iPhone and it’s pretty great I’ve been testing it for over a week now and it’s time for the review!

Quick Review

Here are the highlights incase you don’t have time to get into the details below:

  1. The Power Pack takes about 4-5 hours to charge with a USB cable and 12-20 hours by sunlight.
  2. Completely dead iPhone was charged to 67% in about 1 hour
  3. Experienced dropped calls when using the iPhone in the charger – using headphones or speakerphone solved this issue
  4. Testing a solar powered device in Minnesota, in December is damn-near impossible
  5. If you read this, you’ll wonder why the hell I still live in Minnesota

If you have a couple minutes, the full review of the charger starts below:

What’s Included?

The Power Pack for iPhone 4/4S (AM-403) came with a few parts – A USB cable to charge via computer, a clear cover for the front of your iPhone, printed instructions and of course, the actual Battery Pack/Charging device.

Charge the Charger

The instructions recommend using the USB cable to charge first time. then you can charge by USB or sunlight. it also said you can expect 4-5 hours to charge via USB and 12-20 hours when charging by sunlight.

The Power Pack was about 50% charged when I got it in the mail. I plugged the USB into the charger and into my Macbook to get things going. After a couple hours, the Power Pack was 100% charged.

Testing Begins!

FYI: Intentionally draining your iPhone battery is incredibly frustrating… and slow!

Pro Tip: if you want to burn the iPhone battery, play a very long video over and over. I watched a recent keynote address a few times. okay, I didn’t actually watch. I just had it running while I was building an Apple Forum!

Eventually the battery died… With the iPhone battery dead and the Power Pack fully charged, it’s time to begin testing.

At 12:45pm, I placed my completely dead iPhone into the Power Pack. The iPhone began charging immediately A minute later, the iPhone tuned on and I got a few notifications I missed while the iPhone was dead.

Now that the iPhone had a bit of power, I closed all open apps, but left the Wifi and everything else on – just like I would use the phone any day of the week. I sent a few text messages and checked email… everything was working as normal – while it was charging.

It seems the max charge is 67%, but the Power Pack still had more juice. For whatever reason, it wouldn’t deliver more power to the iPhone.

To see how much more power the charger had, I left the iPhone in the case and started watching a video. The iPhone battery held at 67% for the next 20 minutes. then it started to drain at the normal rate.

The Case

Opening the Power Pack was easy – the top portion pops right off. The iPhone slid into the Power Pack, and it was very snug fit. So tight, it was a little challenging to remove the iPhone from the case.

The battery pack and case is thick. I don’t use a case on my iPhone so this felt like the phone doubled in size. Also, it’s so large on the sides of the iPhone the volume & external buttons are hard to press.

The case looks good. Even though it’s big, it’s still well designed and feels very sturdy. all of the edges and groves are smooth and nicely assembled.

After a week of using the Power Pack, I found the solar panel scratches easily. Not major gouges, but teeny, tiny scratches in the surface. They’re noticeable if you move the case around in your hand, you can see them. this is just like the back of the iPhone 4 – it also scratches in the exact same way.

Making Calls With the Power Pack On

I made a few phone calls with the iPhone in Power Pack. I was worried people wouldn’t be able to hear me because the case covers the mic. Good news, the sound was not an issue at all. Even speakerphone was loud and clear for me and the person I called.

Unfortunately, I noticed reception was not good. each call I made was eventually dropped. I tried holding the iPhone different ways, but that didn’t help. However, when I used the headphones and was not touching the iPhone (it was sitting on the table), reception was perfect. Also, reception was not an issue when using speakerphone and NOT holding the iPhone.

If you want to make a call while the iPhone is in the charger, use speakerphone or headphones.

Also, the case covers the plug on the bottom of the iPhone. you won’t be able to plug the iPhone into a computer while it’s in the Power Pack.

Charging in the Sun

Before we get into this, you have to understand a couple things. First, I live in Minnesota. Second, Minnesota doesn’t get much sunshine – especially in mid-December. Here’s an idea of the sunlight we got this week (from

This image doesn’t describe the actual weather. Even though 3 of the 4 days showed sun, Minnesota only averages 9 hours of sun light per day. that sounds like a lot, but it isn’t. The average sun rise is 7:30am and sunset is 4:30pm. Yeah, I know…

So, finding a place in the house where there is direct sunlight, in December, in Minnesota, is a huge challenge.

I mention my depressing climate situation because it’s the worst possible time and location to test a solar powered… anything. if I lived closer to the Equator, the test results would be very different.

To get as much sun as possible, I placed the charger in a window for a week. just like this:

7 days in the window might have earned 5 hours of direct sunlight (and that’s a generous estimate.) The charger manual estimates 12-20 hours to fully charge by sunlight.

You can press a button on the back of the device to show how much power it has. now, it’s only showing 1 bar out of 4. After a week in the window, the backup battery is only 25% charged.

Obviously, my location is not ideal for charging via solar power.

The good news is, this solar powered charger doesn’t need many hours in the sun to reach 25%. if my iPhone is dead, and I’m desperately in need to use it, an extra 25%. that would be enough to make a few calls, check the web, email etc.

For example, if you take your iPhone camping (check out these apps), plugging in the battery pack would give you enough power to make an emergency call and pinpoint your location and find directions on Google Maps… Assuming you’ve got a cell signal, which is a whole different issue.

Great For Travel

I don’t travel much, but the A-Solar Power Pack is definitely coming on my next trip. in fact, I’ll be using it on my next road trip. Every few months I drive about 2 and a half hours to La Crosse, Wisconsin… stay there for a few hours and drive right back.

5 hours in the car alone.

I have Google Maps open and tracking my location the entire drive – just to make sure I’m going the right way. Plus, I make calls, email and surf the web while at my destination. as you can imagine, this eats up the battery and doesn’t leave much power for the drive home.

Now, I’ll charge the battery pack by USB the night before my drive. that way if the iPhone battery dies before the drive home, I can plug it into the charger and charge the iPhone with Google Maps open.

Sure, I could use a car charger for iPhone. I don’t because I want something that will charge the iPhone anywhere, anytime. The A-Solar Power Pack is a more versatile solution.

More Information

You can get more information on the iPhone 4 Power Pack from A-Solar at their website: I tested the AM-403 which works with iPhone 4 & 4S

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Category: iPhone