Apple 'Evaluating' Solar Cell Vendors for Future Products?

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DigiTimes reports that Apple and Samsung are both "evaluating" the use of solar cells in future consumer products, with the process having advanced as far as discussions with several Taiwanese solar firms about the technology. Any such products are said to be some time off, however, with projects still in the research stage as vendors work toward increasing efficiency of energy conversion.
Samsung and Apple have been evaluating the possible niche market for solar-powered consumer products and considering the inclusion of Taiwan-based solar firms in their respective supply chains. However, according to Taiwan-based solar firms, these niche markets will need a longer time to develop.
Apple has expressed interest in solar power for a number of years, with a patent application published in 2008 discussing the possibility of placing solar cells underneath a mobile device's screen. A more recent one discussed building solar cells into the external surface of an iPod-like device and integrating a power management system to balance battery and solar power generation to compensate for changes in light input due to environmental factors or certain panels being obscured by the user's hand.




2008 Apple patent application drawing showing iPod with integrated solar cells
Even more recently, The Wall Street Journal reported that Apple is working on "a new way of charging" for next year's iPhone. Speculation has naturally centered on some form of wireless induction charging given that technology is already mature enough to have made it into the consumer market, but at the very least Apple seems to be seriously considering alternatives to traditional power production mechanisms for its future devices.

Article Link: Apple 'Evaluating' Solar Cell Vendors for Future Products?
 

miles01110

macrumors Core
Jul 24, 2006
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Looks like another patent filed just for the fun of it. Handheld devices (that constantly reside in pockets and purses) have little utility for a solar panel. Leaving it out in the sun negates any charging provided by the solar cell by killing the battery.
 

meatling

macrumors newbie
Feb 17, 2011
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We can send men to space, harness the power of the atom, map the genome...... But use the sun for power cheaply. No way we can figure that one out......
 

FriarNurgle

macrumors regular
Jan 2, 2011
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I have a couple very very old solar calculators that still work. Be nice to add some solar juicing capabilities to our current tech.
 

pewra

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Jun 26, 2011
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I have a couple very very old solar calculators that still work. Be nice to add some solar juicing capabilities to our current tech.
That's a processor with just enough power to process simple sums, and a screen that draws less than a millionth of a watt.


Even assuming 100% efficiency, there is no where near enough surface area on any Apple device to power it. Not even to charge it over a long period.

Face it, last time did you use an Apple device in direct sun for more than a minute?
 

HangmanSwingset

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Feb 28, 2011
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Now that I think of it, it could be viable with the hybrid screen, since that draws MUCH less power, and is easily viewable in the sun. Pretty much it would be topping off the battery as you read outside.
 

pewra

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Jun 26, 2011
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Now that I think of it, it could be viable with the hybrid screen, since that draws MUCH less power, and is easily viewable in the sun. Pretty much it would be topping off the battery as you read outside.
No. Even the radio, when idle, would draw more than any solar panel that would fit on your pocket.
 

miles01110

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Jul 24, 2006
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Now that I think of it, it could be viable with the hybrid screen, since that draws MUCH less power, and is easily viewable in the sun. Pretty much it would be topping off the battery as you read outside.
Maybe if Steve decides that the laws of physics no longer apply to Apple it will be viable. It's not altogether out of the question that that will happen, either.
 

FriarNurgle

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Jan 2, 2011
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Even assuming 100% efficiency, there is no where near enough surface area on any Apple device to power it. Not even to charge it over a long period.

Face it, last time did you use an Apple device in direct sun for more than a minute?
Of course it won't fully power the current tech we use today, but it should be able to supply a slight trickle charge. Plus if someone like Apple start purchasing solar cells, they are sure to increase in efficiency and decrease in costs. It's a win win.
 

vartanarsen

macrumors 6502a
Jul 2, 2010
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The entire back panel of the iP4 is 1 solid piece of glass. Just swap the entire glass panel for a solar panel..done.

Would be nice.

To the poster about leaving th ephones in your pockets, and the sun damaging the battery, my experience has shown that many people do not leave their phones in their pockets...only when they are on the go. Whenever they sit down at their cube, office, home, restaurant, etc., the iPhone almost ALWAYS comes out...and guess what...its almost always placed face-down )to protect the screen).....that enable the entire back panel to grab solar energy.....Office light will not damage the battery.



This could work.
 

tigres

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Aug 31, 2007
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These have got to be the most ridiculous patents or wishes.
Who does/will walk around with their iDevice pointing at the sun to juice up?
Besides, there are many places on this planet that see "mostly cloudy" in their forecast more often than sun.
 

miles01110

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Jul 24, 2006
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The Ivory Tower (I'm not coming down)
These have got to be the most ridiculous patents or wishes.
Who does/will walk around with their iDevice pointing at the sun to juice up?
Besides, there are many places on this planet that see "mostly cloudy" in their forecast more often than sun.
Don't underestimate the power of the RDF. In 5 years we'll be hearing, "what, you mean you don't hold your phone up with one arm while you walk? Hah... ANDROID."
 

seinman

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Jun 15, 2011
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To the people saying "LOL it uses too much power!" stop and think for a minute. Solar panels wouldn't have to supply ALL of the power the phone needs. It would still have a battery. It's just a bonus. Say your battery normally lasts for 5 hours of talk time... well maybe having the solar panels on the phone increases that to 6. You still have the battery, you still charge it every night, but between charges it lasts a little longer. Sounds like a good thing to me.
 

840quadra

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Feb 1, 2005
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Intriguing idea, however I don't know that it would charge much if I used a device that had this feature. My devices tend to be in a pocket, or other protected location when not in use.

I don't often have my iDevices exposed to light, and when I do, it is in my hand to interact with it, or on a stand so i can view video content. Neither situation would provide much light for charging purposes.
 

wizard

macrumors 68040
May 29, 2003
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I think many mis the point here.

Even a modest amount of solar power can positively impact battery life. It has to work well with a particular battery chemistry but even a fraction of a watt would help many platforms.

Devices that reside in the pocket most of the time might not benefit however there is huge potential on the iPad. Look at that black bezel and imagine a ring of conventional solar cells around the screen. Or better yet imagine the glass screen is now a transparent solar cell, with all that area it can offer a significant battery supplement.

Solar doesn't have to provide 100% of the power to run the device. It simply needs to supplement the battery when running and charge the battery when not. Don't forget too that on the iPad most of the power goes to the backlight. If that goes off your solar panel is now providing for a much larger proportion of the required power. We are talking about significantly expanded run times for almost zero weight penalty.
 

Steve's Barber

macrumors 6502a
Jul 5, 2011
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It's a legal gimmick. Apple and Samsung are just chasing patents for future lawsuits.

And they should be pursuing wind power anyway. Just put a big-assed fan where your mouth is. My wife could power half of Brooklyn.
 

wizard

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May 29, 2003
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Exactly!

To the people saying "LOL it uses too much power!" stop and think for a minute. Solar panels wouldn't have to supply ALL of the power the phone needs. It would still have a battery. It's just a bonus. Say your battery normally lasts for 5 hours of talk time... well maybe having the solar panels on the phone increases that to 6. You still have the battery, you still charge it every night, but between charges it lasts a little longer. Sounds like a good thing to me.
Yes a very good thing for some devices. My iPhone is in my pocket most of the time. On the other hand my iPad never is. If Apple is looking at transparent solar cells for the front glass they may be able to supply significant power to the battery. Even if that isn't the case a few milliamps here and there do add up over time and would extend run time.

The other thing to realize here is that most of the chips in Apples current iOS devices are on a 40 or so nanometer node or larger. Foundries are seeing massive power drops at the smaller nodes. It would not be out of place to imagine even a small solar array having a positive impact on future battery lifetimes.
 

shartypants

macrumors 6502a
Jul 27, 2010
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Sounds cool. Even if it wasn't able to fully charge, if it just extended the battery it would be cool.
 

cvaldes

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Dec 14, 2006
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That's a processor with just enough power to process simple sums, and a screen that draws less than a millionth of a watt.


Even assuming 100% efficiency, there is no where near enough surface area on any Apple device to power it. Not even to charge it over a long period.

Face it, last time did you use an Apple device in direct sun for more than a minute?
You've made your point.

However, concerning the latter topic, there are probably hundreds of thousands of people who exercise outdoors (jog, etc.) every day with their iPods (or iPhones) strapped to them.
 

grfxboy

macrumors newbie
Apr 10, 2008
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If you use your iPhone in direct sunlight, it turns off because of overheating... how will you be able to solar charge your device without damaging it? :confused:
 

cvaldes

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Dec 14, 2006
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somewhere else
These have got to be the most ridiculous patents or wishes.
Who does/will walk around with their iDevice pointing at the sun to juice up?
Besides, there are many places on this planet that see "mostly cloudy" in their forecast more often than sun.
Doesn't have to be the sun. Seems like there are a lot of rather thick people here who don't understand this. Odd, there have been solar-powered calculators for over three decades. I don't go outside to use mine in direct sunlight.

Most iPhone users I know leave their device on their desk at work.

A lot of people use iPods while exercising. I assume you do not exercise since you failed to recognize this.