That’s Why Phones Still Don’t Have Solar Panels


If you ask me, smartphones are one of the greatest things to happen to humanity. You’ve got a palm-sized computer with you at all times! …Also making them one of the most annoying things ever! You know, that computer requires power, so you constantly have to charge the thing.

So, why don’t we just make smartphones solar-powered? Seems like a great idea in the making! The limited time you can use your phone without plugging it into a socket can cause a whole slew of problems, from being unable to answer an important call to failing to find an electrical outlet when you need it most.

As for the sun, it’s always there, it’s an endless source of energy, AND people already use it to charge batteries! You can see solar panels on factories and buildings, parking meters, streetlights, swimming pools, backpacks, and even calculators! But with smartphones, it’s not as simple as it may seem.

To charge your gadget with the help of a solar panel, you’ll have to leave it in direct sunlight. You might know that modern phones are vulnerable to extreme temperatures, especially when they’re scorching.

As for an electronic device left in the sun, it’s bound to get red-hot! Smartphones start to strain as soon as the temperature reaches 95°F. They get warmer and warmer, and all the electronics they’re packed with eventually become overheated.

The result? Nonrecoverable data loss, permanent battery damage, all that hard-earned money you gave for the thing burns up along with it! That’s not even the worst of it! The heat from the sun can lead to battery leakage, which can cause a fire! Plus, smartphones are called “smart” for a reason.

If they feel that their life is in danger, they can just shut down to protect themselves from getting fried. It means that solar-powered smartphones must be structurally different, for example, made of different materials so that they can deal with sunlight and not melt from the heat.

Another problem with solar panels is deciding where to install them. I don’t know about you, but my smartphone is in a protective case at all times. I imagine yours is too. It means that it’d be too inconvenient to place a solar battery on the back of the device.

As for the opposite side, it’s covered with a screen that takes up the whole front part of the phone. Ok, then why not just put solar panels on phone cases? You could probably connect the cover to your device with a cable and charge it this way! But then again, where do you keep your smartphone throughout the day? Mine’s always in my pocket, and no sunlight gets there! Rven when I pull the phone out and hold it in my hands, its back still faces down! It means that if the device was equipped with a solar panel, it would also face the ground, not the sky! I’ve already mentioned solar-powered calculators – they’re about the same size as a smartphone, so those tiny panels should work, right? Well, consider this: calculators don’t need nearly as much power as your cell phone does.

They don’t transmit tons of data, take pictures and videos, or make calls. When using a calculator, you do it mostly in the open where the thing can feed on some sunlight, while your phone is hidden somewhere in the darkness of your pants pocket or your bag.

And one more thing: let’s compare a calculator’s tiny and simple LCD display and a smartphone’s large, bright, colorful one. The amount of energy the devices need to make their screens work is worlds apart.

By the way, the most powerful calculators don’t use solar panels! And now, how about the weather? I mean, most people don’t live somewhere where it’s sunny 24/7! The ideal conditions for charging your solar-powered phone would be a clear sky and bright sun shining directly on the panel.

But it’s often overcast, it may rain, it could be foggy, and indoor artificial light isn’t suitable for charging solar batteries. It means that your beloved gadget wouldn’t get a stable charge, which puts you right back at square one: your battery’s low at an incredibly inconvenient time! Still, lots of manufacturers are looking for ways to make solar batteries work for cell phones.

Not many people know about it or even remember them, but there used to be smartphones powered by the sun! They first appeared in 2009 because it seemed like the only way to deal with electric power outages in some regions.

At that time, if you solar-charged your phone for 1 hour, you could then use this energy to call someone and talk for about 5 to 10 minutes. Doesn’t sound like the epitome of efficiency, but you gotta hand it to them for the innovation – it was the very first phone of its kind.

Some more advanced phones equipped with solar panels came out later on. There was Samsung’s “Blue Earth” that provided users with access to the Internet, social media sites, and YouTube. These smartphones had Wi-Fi, 3G, and GPS.

But their main problem was that the solar panels didn’t actually charge the phone – they just kept the battery topped off. And even though that particular phone model didn’t need tons of energy to work, the solar battery was still pretty much useless, which is why the device ended up being quite unpopular.

In short, any company that’s tried to come up with a functioning solar-powered phone encountered the same problems. The back covers were usually too small, and the solar batteries weren’t big enough to keep phones functioning.

You already know that smartphones need loads of energy to work. And even if the whole phone was covered in solar panels, this would still fail to make your device work for as long as electrical charging does.

As for the energy received from small solar panels on the phone’s back cover, you’d only be able to keep your phone in standby mode and probably talk for a short time. And now, imagine the amount of time you spend Googling, Instagramming, and Face-timing every single day! A solar panel just wouldn’t be able to pull it off! Still, producers haven’t lost hope, and they keep upgrading solar-powered phones.

They’ve now invented a special film that changes light into electricity. This see-through film could be installed in smartphones between the display and touch screen. It would allow gadgets to charge faster and more effectively while they’re in use.

It makes a lot more sense than placing a solar panel on the back of the device when your phone has to be face down to get charged! Another bonus: while external solar panels were also more likely to get damaged, that thin film would be safely hidden inside the phone.

Light could pass through it, and it would collect energy from the sun’s ultraviolet and infrared radiation. You wouldn’t even notice that your phone is charging, AND you could carry it anywhere while it does! No more cords or “cordless” magnetic charging pads that, let’s face it, still have to be plugged in! Would you make the switch to a solar-powered cell? Let me know down in the comments! But even this wonder-film can’t solve one big problem: not enough sunlight.

That’s why experts are trying to develop transparent solar concentrators. Those are supposed to be flat and come in different sizes, from several feet to a few inches. Concentrators can capture ultraviolet and infrared light and send it to the edges where it gets converted to electricity.

Another idea is to create a separate solar sheet you could roll out and charge. Then, when the battery’s full, you could connect it to your phone to charge the device. But even if these technologies succeed, let’s not forget about human nature.

It takes people a long time to get used to something new and revolutionary. With solar-powered phones, we’d have to change our habits. No more keeping your phone in your pockets or bag, you’ll have to remember to leave it in the sun.

Not to mention the additional patience we’ll need to allow our gadgets enough time to charge! Oh, and speaking of taking a long time to get used to something — wanna see my flip-phone? If you learned something new today, then give the video a like and share it with a friend! And here are some other cool videos I think you’ll enjoy.

Just click to the left or right, and stay on the Bright Side of life!