Review: Waka Waka Power [Solar Lantern and USB Charger]

Waka Waka Power: Solar Lantern And Mobile ChargerWaka Waka. It means “shining bright” in Swahili. Originally a Kickstarter project, they are now in full production and you can buy either model from Amazon, which is where I purchased my review sample from. For every unit sold, the company donates $10 to charity.

As someone who buys large amounts of gadgets, gizmos, doo-dads and whatchya-call-its, I’ll admit that I normally don’t feel much excitement to have something arriving in the mail soon. But as soon as I ordered this, I started obsessively checking the tracking to see when it was going to be here. There’s just something appealing to me about a self-contained charging and lighting solution.

Product Description

This is essentially a solar powered lamp with built in USB mobile charger. This not only improves on the original (which was just a lamp) in functionality, but the Waka Waka Power increases the battery capacity considerably. Even if you never use the charger, this new model is worth it just for the extra run time on the LED lamp.

Official Specs (from getwakawaka.com)

Product    WakaWaka Power
Dimension 121 x 17 x 78 mm
Weight app. 200 grams
Light output  7 lux ambient / 30 lux taslight
LED 0.5W Seoul Semicon, 120 lumen/watt
Indicators 4 battery indicator LED’s – 1 solar charge LED – 1 USB charge indicator LED
Battery 2200 mAh LiPo
Solar cell 22% efficiency Sunpower cell
Power management    patented Intivation SNBST3 chip
Housing recycleable ABS, ruggadized, flexible positioning: table top, on a bottle, from the ceiling 
Quality UNFCCC compliant, CE (UL pending)
Manual full color, FSC paper
Warranty 1 year

Overall Design

As an award winning designer myself, it’s fair to say that I’m a big fan of good design. Most companies treat the design phase of a project like an obstacle; something to be overcome. Like, hurry up and design the thing so we can start building it. So, it is very gratifying to see a design this good-one that pays so much attention to detail.

Most of the good design revolves around the placement of the flip cover. It not only allows the lamp to placed in a number of convenient positions, it does the same for the solar charger, making it easy to get the perfect placement for aiming it at the sun. It’s truly genius. And the detents which hold the flip cover in place where you want it have an almost perfect level of resistance. Any easier and it wouldn’t hold, any harder and it would be a hassle to adjust it.
Another good design feature is that the flip cover protects the two charging ports from getting wet or debris in it. Evidence of good design is everywhere, from the ruggedized case to the less tangible aspects of the unit, like the efficient circuitry and choice of solar panel and LEDs.

Charging the Waka Waka

Waka Waka Power: Solar Lantern And Mobile Charger, Being Charged Via Micro USB Port
Charging the Waka Waka from my laptop

The unit can be charged in one of two ways: Either with the built-in solar panel, or with a Micro USB connector located on the side of the unit. While charging from the USB, the 4 green power indicators will light up to show you the charge progress. When it is done charging from the USB, all 4 green lights will be lit.

While charging from the solar panel, the little red LED on the other side of the case will flash to indicate that there is enough light to charge the unit. I have read that the solar charge indicator blinks faster to tell you that it has more light, but that doesn’t seem to be the case based on my testing. It seems to be that a slow blink means the unit has enough light to charge and is charging, and a fast blink means the unit is fully charged. In my tests, I could get it to fast blink with any amount of light once it was fully charged.

NOTE: To use either USB port, the unit needs to be folded open. This feature prevents dirt and debris from getting in the ports when not in use.

Charging Mobile Devices

Waka Waka Power: Solar Lantern And Mobile Charger, Charging An HTC One Smartphone
Charging an HTC One Smartphone

The mobile device charger works like any other standard USB charger using a standard size USB connector. I have read where the unit can utilize its solar charger at the same time it is charging a mobile device, but this does not seem to be the case.

To activate the mobile charger, simply mash the oversized power button once, and the unit will give power to the USB connector, and your device will start charging. Since the Waka Waka Power has a 2200 mAH Lithium battery, it should have enough capacity to give most mobile devices like phones a full charge, and ti should give larger devices like tablets most of a charge.

Using The Lantern

The solar lantern part of the Waka Waka sports two eyeball-looking SSC emitters of an unknown model. There are no reflectors as such, which means the lantern is only well suited for close range illumination, which is what you want for a lantern.

Pressing the power button twice turns both LEDs on in the highest output mode. Subsequent presses on the button lower the output by 25% until the light turns off. Turning the lamp on high puts it into a special turbo mode, giving 200% output for 30 seconds, before switching into high mode at 100%, where it will remain.

Pressing the power button and holding it for two seconds activates the SOS mode, where the unit will flash SOS in Morse code.

Waka Waka Power: Solar Lantern And Mobile Charger, Lantern On Low
Low
Waka Waka Power: Solar Lantern And Mobile Charger, Lantern On Medium 1
Medium 1
Waka Waka Power: Solar Lantern And Mobile Charger, Lantern On Medium 2
Medium 2
Waka Waka Power: Solar Lantern And Mobile Charger, Lantern On High
High

Lantern Run Time Tests

The regulation on the lantern appears to be flat, meaning it keeps its full brightness until it shuts off. It would be nice to see it enter “vampire” mode when it loses its regulation like some flashlights.

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4 comments

  1. I got one too and read in the FAQ that while it will charge to 100% in sunlight, only three led lights might be lit because there is an overcharge protection built in that automatically stops charging when the battery is full and starts discharging the battery. So the battery is always around 98% instead of a full 100% and the 4 LEDs will only only light up at 100%. The three lit LEDs means 75% or more and even at 99% you will only get 3 lit LEDs on the charging indicator.

  2. Hmm it shows 4 LEDs lit when I charge it to full from the USB port on my desktop. Does it have a different charge circuit for the solar and for USB? Either way it's a decently serious design flaw that when in an emergency I will never know if it's charged all the way or not, when I am charging from the solar panel.

  3. Hi Mark, I like the detailed review approach you have compared to some other sites one comes across. I've yet to try a wakawaka myself but hope to do so soon. Fyi the Bushell Solarwrap Mini is only 3oz with similar battery capacity; would be interested to see what you think of it if you ever get one. Richard

    1. Thanks! Hmmm I've seen the Bushnell. I may just buy one to review 🙂

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