The last week or so has seen a flurry of announcements from mobile phone companies about upcoming releases of phones powered directly by solar energy.
While solar powered mobile phone chargers have been around for some time, the new generation of phones incorporate solar panels on mobile phone bodies.
LG will soon introduce a new mobile phone with a solar panel built into the back cover. According to LG, the cover could potentially be applied to any existing LG phone.
Samsung’s Blue Earth is the first solar powered full-touch screen phone. Blue Earth is made from recycled plastic water bottles and is free from harmful substances such as Brominated Flame Retardants, Beryllium and Phthalate which have often been a part of phones in years gone by. The Blue Earth’s "Eco mode" also allows for maximum energy efficiency.
Chinese manufacturer ZTE also unveiled a solar powered mobile phone, the Coral-200-Solar. The phone is designed for emerging markets where electricity may not be readily available. Unlike the Samsung and LG models, the Coral-200-Solar isn’t about bling, but more about function in order to make it affordable in developing countries.The Coral-200-Solar will be available from June for under USD 40 dollars.
ZTE is probably not well known in Australia under that brand name, but their phones are re-branded by carriers including Telstra. While not the most elegantly designed phones, their rugged 3G handsets have found a niche in the Australian market in rural areas due to their superior reception, hence the nickname of the "farmer’s phone".
Other major mobile manufacturers such as Nokia have been quiet on the solar power front and Motorola is yet to release a solar powered phone, but the company did patent an LCD screen/ solar cell hybrid system back in 2007 that could be could be fitted on to any mobile phone or PDA device to power an internal battery. Given the popularity of solar power for powering all sorts of devices, it’s quite possible that Motorola may release their own version of a solar powered phone soon.