In phones, the features are everything. We’re pretty fortunate when it comes to how many features we have in our phones these days, but some features are always going to be more important than others. For smartphones, one of the most important features that we are constantly trying to improve today is battery life.
We’ve come a long way since smartphones were first introduced, with power saving modes, more efficient charging methods, and bigger, better batteries. This technology can only go so far, though, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a smartphone that lasts more than one to two days under normal usage. Since a smartphone is nothing more than a glorified paperweight when it is without power, battery life is one of the most important, if not the most important, feature of the phone that needs to be focused on right now.
During Mobile World Congress we learned that mobile manufacturer Kyocera, a company that is more well-known for their rugged, outdoorsy smartphones, has created a new smartphone that is “fully solar powered”. Although smartphones that can run partially off of solar power have been introduced in the past, the phones required special solar panels on the backs of the device to harness the energy. They also were unable to depend on solar power entirely, giving the user 20 minutes to a couple of hours of extra limited use.
Kyocera’s design, on the other hand, has no visible solar panels. The new smartphone gets the solar power through its touch screen, which includes a display layer called “Wysips”. A chip in the display is connected to crystals, which in turn creates power from solar energy and is then stored in the battery of the device.
Additionally, according to Sunpartner (company that is the creator of Wysips), the additional layer on the display will not affect the responsiveness of the touchscreen. Wysips is also said to be quite easy to embed into a touchscreen display since the layer is only 0.1mm thick.
What makes this whole idea so revolutionary is the fact that the ability to use solar power rests unnoticed within the display, which means that the overall design of the rest of the phone remains unaffected. Previously, using solar panels on the back of a smartphone might have been considered unsightly, or would have had an impact on other important features of a smartphone that manufacturers were unwilling to compromise on.
My hope at this point is that this type of technology will start to become a standard in smartphones across the board. Even if it isn’t able to make most smartphones entirely dependent on solar power, anything to help preserve battery life and make a phone last just a little bit longer without a charger is a good thing.
Then again, we’re still working on getting more smartphones to incorporate wireless charging, so it might be awhile (if ever) before we see more smartphones using this type of technology. I would actually prioritize this over wireless charging, because unless you live somewhere that is rainy or dark, this feature could be extremely useful (and resourceful).
As an added bonus, this might be freaking awesome for smartwatches.