Image via Good Clean Tech
Hot on the heels of the iPhone 4 announcement comes news that perhaps iPhone 5 and the next iteration of the iPad could have a very cool new feature - a solar cell integrated into the touchscreen. Word has it that Apple has filed for a patent for "media players with integrated touch sensor solar panel surfaces."Good Clean Tech dug up the news from Patently Apple, which tells us that the patent was filed in late 2008. The patent diagrams illustrate an internal double-sided solar panel. So with the new glass casing, it's be easy to incorporate a solar cell without damaging it through daily wear. Patently Apple has a great breakdown of the patent and its features.
Of course, solar cells on devices like these have some big drawbacks. First, it'd have to be a super efficient solar cell to be able to make it worth the while to include it and see any sort of charging help; plus, no one who spends several hundred dollars on a device is going to leave it in direct sunlight. But a super efficient solar cell means a big price increase.
Apple already turned down OLED screens for the new iPad because of both the too-high price increase it would have on the device as well as issues with being able to manufacture enough screens. Would a high-end solar cell (Apple would settle for nothing less) justify the price?
Considering the iPhone already has an issue with battery power and - despite the fact that the iPhone 4 comes with a larger battery - the new features, including "facetime" or video calls is going to be a huge drain. So perhaps Apple would consider adding a solar cell in for added trickle charging when users are on the go. Plus, off-grid charging for mobile devices is a multi-billion dollar industry, and growing. Apple may want a slice of that pie....eventually.
Who knows. But what we do know is Apple has a patent out. Neato!! For now, content yourself with some great iPhone skins for solar charging.