How often are you reaching for a plug, a power cord, or some sort of lifeline to power up your electronic devices, namely your smartphone?

If you are like me, and stay connected to some power source whenever possible, to avoid the discouraging discharge and let down of an exhausted battery, digital photosynthesis may be the right option.

I had the chance to try out the Panasonic Solar Charger, and attempt to step off the grid and into using renewable energy to power my iPhone.

My first impression was pretty bleak. Not for the fact that it was just a solar panel, but because you are essentially charging two AA Ni-MH batteries. Other similarly priced solar chargers use either a more efficient Li-Po battery or in the case of the Gomadic SunVolt, charge directly from the sun with “wall outlet like speeds”.

The Panasonic Solar Charger does get the job done, and work as it says. It also incorporates a LED emergency light. For about 15 hours of direct sunlight charging, you can almost 90 minutes of USB output for charging smartphones, cameras, etc. The plus is that the AA batteries can be removed and placed in other devices that need some power.

This is a good accessory, in the scope that it performs as presented, but given the price point competition will be fierce and this technology will be advancing quickly. Definitely think of bringing one of these along for your summer camping, boating, and other off-the-grid outdoors activities.

Check out the Panasonic Solar Charger product page and Mashable’s roundup of 8 Solar-Powered Smartphone Chargers.

Be sure to leave a comment if you’ve tried other solar chargers for you smartphone.