Opening the Solio is a simple process: All you need to do is swivel the panels outward so that they resemble a windmill. We found the mechanism a little loose, however, and the panels didn't snap securely into place. On the side of the rear-most panel are ports for the wall charger and for the cord that connects to your phone. You get adapters for most Motorola, Nokia, and Samsung phones, in addition to adapters for the Palm Treo and the Apple iPod. Sony Ericssons aren't supported yet, nor are the newer Motorola phones that use a USB charger. The only other external feature is a small power button that conveniently flashes to show the charging strength.
Unlike other chargers reviewed here, the Solio has an internal battery that can be charged via a conventional wall charger or directly from the sun. Charging from the wall is a straightforward process, and you should get a full charge in about 6 hours. But considering this is a solar charger, we preferred to use the sun as our power source. Solio's makers promise you'll be able to fully charge the device with 8 to 10 hours of direct sunlight. Keep in mind, though, that a cloudy day will make charging more difficult, and users in far northern or southern latitudes during winter will have more trouble.
According to Solio's specifications, 60 minutes of sun will power your phone for about 10 minutes of talk time and four days of standby time. We fared somewhat better when we tested the Solio with our Motorola V600. We plugged in the phone and aimed the charger at the sun. In a design flaw, the Solio does not balance by itself on its side, but you do get a suction cup for attaching it to a window. After exposing it to the sun for about 45 minutes, we got enough juice on the phone to make a 20-minute call--impressive. It's worth mentioning that if the Solio's battery is completely dead when placed in the sun, it won't begin charging your phone for about 5 minutes. Also, Solio's makers aren't kidding when they say it needs to be placed in direct sunlight.