iPhone 6 With Solar Charging: What’s the Reality?

At some point it will happen but 2014 isn’t the right year for integrating solar power into consumer phones, tablets and notebooks, especially for Apple.

I read a report about solar power integration on  the next iPhone this morning and while I find it stimulating to think about this, it’s probably not going to happen in 2014 because solar technology advances aren’t keeping up with the rising demands for power in mobile phones; much of which comes from the requirement for backlighting on ever-increasing screen sizes. Placin any sort of solar panel on or behind a screen of any size simply won’t generate enough power even to run a backlight. Think about it. How often do you require the backlight? Always. When can you charge via solar energy? In the daylight. I doubt that you could generate more power than that which would be lost through trying to store that energy in the battery. At best you could probably power a static e-ink screen and I doubt that Apple is going that route with the iPhone 6.

I recently started testing a solar solution for an 8-inch screen. The panel surface area is three times that of the tablet and it uses reasonably current solar technology. In order for the solution to have any application it needs to be placed in direct sunlight without any window between it and the sun. You might get 20Wh out of it during an 8-hour charging session. 20Wh is the same as about three full charges, including charging losses, of an iPhone 5S.

  • Expensive. Both the solar panel and the complex, and lossy, charging circuitry
  • Phones live in Pockets, not on Window ledges
  • Phones don’t like temperature extremes
  • This specialist Samsung E1107 solar phone gives us hints about what’s possible.

It’s a nice topic to think about and for investors (the source article is aimed at investors) it’s something to think about for the long-term but it needs 5-10 years before it becomes a usable reality in consumer phones. In that time it’s more likely that better battery technology has been found.

Source: Seeking Alpha (with registration-wall)