Charging a Smart Device with WaterLily: Direct Charging VS. Two Stage Charging

May 31, 2019

This post is about charging smart devices such as phones and tablets with Waterlily. Even beyond your data service range, your phone is a handy (and potentially life saving) tool to have when you’re in the bush. Did you know your phone’s GPS will work anywhere on the globe? No data required!  

Your phone is an incredible tool for navigation if you have pre-downloaded maps and a GPS app. T.A. Loeffler, one of our first customers, relied on Canada Topo Maps for navigation on a 3400 km canoe expedition to the arctic ocean.  And lets be honest, who can resist taking a few pictures and videos along the way to remember the adventure?

So when your phone battery runs low, can you plug it right into your Waterlily USB?  YES, YOU CAN!  Your next question may be “how long it will take to charge my phone?” The answer is...it depends!  

Factors affecting Charge Rate:

  • The speed of the river
  • How the turbine is set up
  • The type of phone
  • The power state of the phone (turn it off!)
  • The charge cable

Just like a portable solar panel works best with clear skies at noon with perfect alignment to the sun, Waterlily works best in a swiftly flowing river when set up according to the guidelines here.

We’ve tried charging several kinds of phones and most can be charged directly with Waterlily. The video below shows how Waterlily USB can add 15% to a smartphone battery in 27 minutes.

Things to keep in mind

Because smart phones can be picky over what kind of charger they are connected to, you may not get all the power the turbine is producing. Have you ever plugged your phone into a different charger (a car charger, for example) and noticed it charges slowly or not at all? To ensure the fastest charge rate, it is advisable to bring along a battery bank and use two stage charging.  A battery bank that accepts 2A charging is your best bet since that will capture what the Waterlily is capable of producing.  

If you are charging your phone, either directly via the Waterlily or with a battery bank, it will go faster if the phone is powered off. When outside your service range, switch to airplane mode since your phone will burn a lot of energy searching for service.

The charge cable can make a big difference too.  Some aftermarket charge cables only have power conductors, and the data conductors are left out to cut costs. When your phone can’t communicate to the charger it will default to slow charging (2.5W max) so steer clear of cheap cables often found in dollar stores.

Here are some other considerations for direct charging versus two stage charging.

My device is expensive!

You may not want to leave your $1000 phone down by the river unattended, and we don’t blame you! If you’re not that far into the bush, a passerby could steal it, or worse, a raccoon might hack your Instagram.  +1 for two stage charging.

My devices are not Waterproof!

Concerned about your phone or battery getting wet? We have you covered with our Dry Bag with USB pass through. It’s perfect for kayakers and canoeists charging on the go.

I need my phone with me for tunes, nav, camera, etc.

Chances are, you want access to your phone so you can plan your route, take pictures, listen to some music. Two stage charging allows you to keep your phone on you at all times.

Larger capacity of battery banks

If you’re setting up to charge overnight, in most rivers the Waterlily will have your phone charged long before you wake up, so the turbine may be spinning away doing nothing for hours.  A battery bank will have a lot more capacity than your phone, so you may as well harvest longer and put the extra energy into a high capacity battery bank.  

In summary, you can charge your phone directly with Waterlily USB, but it’s worth considering two stage charging using a good quality battery bank with a capacity for 5000mAh / 18Wh or more.  Wondering what kinds to buy? GoalZero, Omnicharge, Anker, Fospower are brands we have found to be reliable that live up to their advertised specs.

Copyright Seaformatics Systems Inc. 2021