Over 2 years we covered a Samsung feature phone called the E1107 Guru. It was an incredibly low end device that didn’t even connect to the internet, but what made is special was that it had a solar panel on the back of the unit. Supposedly you got 5 minutes of talk time for every 60 minutes the phone was in direct sunlight, but it should be noted that we didn’t independently verify that claim. So what’s happened with solar cells and mobile devices over the past 24 months? Sadly, nothing. Yesterday Nokia published the results of a research study they did on solar powered mobile phones, and the world’s largest handset maker came to the conclusion that:
“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. 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.”
In other words, no, Nokia isn’t going to introduce a solar powered phone any time soon, and why would they? Sure they’ve got high market share figures in the types of countries where the availability of power is questionable, but selling in those markets typically means that you’re not making a lot of money per unit sold. Instead you have to make that up in volume. With every other handset vendor moving their portfolio towards the higher end of the spectrum to try and actually make some money, will Nokia under Stephen Elop follow suit?
Watch this space!