Cellphones. We all (well, most of us) have one, and we all charge them frequently. In fact, modern smartphones are so power-greedy many of us charge them every night. All this sucks up domestic (and sometimes, if we’re being cheeky, office) power.
But my calculator doesn’t need external power — it’s solar. Why can’t my cellphone be?
Nobody knows as well as Nokia. The Finnish phone giant has just completed an extensive trial of solar-powered phones to see whether the technology could be brought to consumers. The verdict? Probably not — at least, not yet.
Nokia put together a prototype solar-powered phone, with a panel integrated into the back of the case. It gave the phone to testers all over the world to see how successfully the phone functioned in different environments.
The result? Don’t expect a solar-powered iPhone any time soon. As Nokia explains,
When carefully positioned, the prototype phones were able, at best, to harvest enough energy to keep the phone on standby mode but with a very restricted amount of talk time. This means there’s still some way to go before a workable and care-free solution is achieved.
Smaller non-smartphones use the least power, but their small size means they can also generate less.
The most substantial challenge is the limited size of a phone’s back cover, which restricts the extent to which the battery can be charged. What’s more, to ensure mobility, it is essential that the phone’s weather protection doesn’t cover the solar charging panel.
Of course, a phone which didn’t need to be charged quite as often because of a built-in solar panel would be almost as useful as a phone which didn’t need to be charged at all. But from the sounds of Nokia’s fairly downbeat assessment, we’re not going to be relying on the sun for our smartphones any time soon. For now, those of us determined to go solar will have to make do with a bulky solar-charging iPhone case.
Rav is a London-based freelance journalist passionate about climate change, development and technology. He has written for the Daily Express, Excite.co.uk and the Fly. He blogs at ravcasleygera.wordpress.com.