Urbanista’s latest Bluetooth speaker, the Malibu, is equipped with solar cells that the company claims could extend its battery life indefinitely. Like Urbanista’s previous solar-powered audio gear — the Los Angeles over-ear headphones and the Phoenix earbuds — the Malibu uses Exeger’s Powerfoyle solar cell technology to keep topped up with power, drawing extra charge from both indoor and outdoor light. It’s set to cost $149 (£149 / €169) when it goes on sale in late September.
Per Wired, the basic amount of battery life you can expect from the speaker’s built-in 3,600mAh battery is around 30 hours. But out in the sun, that could extend to up to a theoretical 45 hours of playback, and even when used indoors (albeit next to a window), you could be looking at six months of usage before its battery runs dry. If exclusively used in direct sunlight and left to recharge indoors by windows, the company thinks its speaker’s battery life could stretch on indefinitely.
Like Urbanista’s previous solar-powered headphones, you’ll be able to keep track of the Malibu’s charging levels via its companion app. However, unlike its headphones, you shouldn’t expect the Malibu to actually gain charge while in use in sunny environments. “With a Bluetooth speaker, when you increase the volume, the power consumption is exponential,” Urbanista product director Mårten Sahlén tells Wired. The app also offers EQ controls to customize the speaker’s sound profile.
As a Bluetooth speaker, the Malibu’s specs are more familiar. It’s got an IP67 rating for dust and water resistance, meaning it’s completely protected against solids and a limited amount of submersion in water. There’s also the option to pair two Malibus together for stereo playback, should you have two on hand, and it’s equipped with a USB-C port for when you inevitably need to top it up the old-fashioned way. It’ll be sold in black and gray.
While Urbanista was first to market with its solar-powered headphones, it’s got more competition in the solar-powered speaker space. A couple of years ago, we reviewed ShadeCraft’s Suntable, a half-speaker, half-table that could draw power from the sun and even wirelessly charge a phone for good measure, and even as early as 2012, we were trying out a “solar-powered Bluetooth sound system” at CES.
What Urbanista has going for it is that it’s an established audio brand with several (non-solar) speakers under its belt. If it can make something that sounds even half-decent, it might be good enough for the kinds of sunny environments where a lot of waterproof Bluetooth speakers get used.