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In many of the locations we work, there is limited to no power - or at least a reliable source of power.  In these situations, here are a few recommendations:

NOTE: these are just some that we have seen used before, always look for local solutions first as they will be the cheapest and ultimately best options.

Solar Solutions:

  • There are a number of solar panel providers that have small solutions for cell phones
    • D-Light- in addition to larger manufactures and DIYers had solar power cell phone chargers. 
    • Nuru- has solar powered lights that can also charge mobile phones.
    • SunTransfer lamps - seem to work better as they have much more powerful batters (sealed lead).  Can sometimes be found locally
    • Sun King - great low cost option that are both lamps and chargers
      • **Recommended** The Sun King Pro (currently in deployment in Mozambique with success). 
    • mPowerPad - multi-function power charger with built-in reading light and radio.
    • BBox - Solar powered kits that range from "charge lots of usb things" to basic DC power, all the way up to powering laptops and beyond
      • BB5 (portable for phones/tablets) and BB17 (portable but heavy and large) for laptops
      • SunPowerAfrica - Reseller in Lusaka
    • Lumos: A solar powered backpack that has USB outlets to charge your electronic devices
  • Alternatives to solar panels:
    • BioLite - that chargers your phone and boils a pot of water a the same time.  (NOTE: this was NOT designed for the developing world)
    • Bicycle powered generator.  Remember those old school bike lights that turned on when you pedaled your bike?  Well, now it can power a light AND charge your cell phone at the same time.  Scour the internet, as last time I checked Nokia, Nike, and a slew of Do It Yourself-ers all had websites with products and designs

Local Charging Stations:

  • With the growing use of cell phones, it is more and more common for villages to find their own ways to charge cell phones, and turn it into a business.  Many shops will have a battery or solar charger that they will offer to charge cell phones for a nominal fee.  NOTE: beware that some of these shop owners like to take factory batteries out of phones and replace them with imitations, or mess with the software on the phone while its charging.


Tips for increasing Battery Life:

  • Keep WiFi, Bluetooth, and GPS switched OFF when not in use.
  • Reduce Screen Brightness and Screen Timeout.
  • Switch to using only 2G networks, especially if the primary use of phone is to run CommCare (which works fine with just 2G).
  • See which applications are using up a lot of battery charge. Go to Settings -> Battery. Generally, 3G, WiFi, Screen Brightness, GPS, and Bluetooth consume most power.
  • Setup a black image as phone background. To take a black picture, cover camera with your hand and click a photo. Then use it as wallpaper.
  • In general, feature phones have much better battery life than Android smartphones
  • Turn the phone off at night- especially if it is only being used for work, be sure to keep the phone off when not in use
  • Keep your screen off when not in use- most of a smart phone's battery will be used for the screen. By having your screen time out quickly or making the screen "sleep" when not in use you can conserve charge.
  • Put your phone into "airplane mode"- if you are in an area with limited reception your phone will expend a lot of energy trying to find signal. Putting your phone into airplane mode will help with this.
  • Try installing a battery monitoring app- on android, some of these will show the percentage charge in the status bar which makes it easy for the user to see how much charge is remaining.
  • Here are some more hints:
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