We’ve all been there, lined up at the charging station at the airport, coffee shop, work or the bus station, waiting our turn to juice up our cell phones, tablets and laptops, hoping nobody swipes our devices or mistakes them for their own while we wait for the batteries to charge.
If you remember back to high school, you never needed to put a battery in a calculator, they were always solar powered, so how come nobody’s created a solar-charged cell phone yet?
Well, Apple might be on the verge of doing just that. According to PatentlyApple, the tech giant recently filed a patent for slim solar power technology described in the patent as a “Power management system to supply power to components without using converter circuit between solar panel and power management system.” In layman’s terms, that means that it’s a more efficient solar power system than anything currently embedded in any electronic devices today, which means it might actually have the juice to run twenty minute games of Angry Birds, play a couple of albums and get you through an hour of goofing around on Facebook while you wait for your plane, train or coffee to be ready.
The patent points to an external charging device that would allow you to charge your laptops, phones and tablets using a portable solar panel. The future may yet hold cell phones with solar panels embedded right into the casing, but we’re probably not going to see anything like that until we see the invention of self-cooling, heat-resistant iPhones that can be left in the sun for hours on end without suffering any damage.
A lot of interesting new possibilities present themselves with the advent of heavy-duty, on-the-go solar power for phones and other devices. To consider a few:
- Solar-Centric Apps and Software
Any new external device that you can plug into a device presents possibilities for new apps, games and software that make use of said device. Solar panels can be used not only to collect sunlight, but to detect it. It’s not hard to imagine an app that tells you when you’ve been out in the sun a little too long and might want to put on some sunscreen, or a game that uses sunlight as an in-game mechanic, perhaps lighting up dark corridors with real-life sunlight.
- Easier Travel
It’s easy to imagine why the Millennials will be excited about solar powered devices. Young people are always plugged into their devices, but with their traveling, room mating lifestyles, needing a place to plug in is a nuisance that only slows you down and keeps you plugged into the wall at the coffee shop long after you’ve finished your latte. Without the need to plug in, it’s easier to pick up and go wherever you are.
- Solar Breakthroughs
Suppose Apple’s interest in low-cost, portable solar energy isn’t just a gimmick for phones and laptops, but a major breakthrough that opens the door for solar energy as a practical reality. Right now, you can’t really invest in solar energy unless you’re making a good six figures a year, but suppose a few of these panels bolted together provide enough energy to power your lights, your refrigerator or your microwave. If other tech developers pick up where Apple leaves off, we could be looking at a big step towards ending our reliance on fossil-fuel energy for the home.
“Our reliance on traditional energy sources is crippling,” said Android expert Jason Hope, “portable solar energy is a strong step in the right direction.”
Solar is something of a dream, a hope for the future, but has never truly been realistic as an energy source for the average person. With fairly basic systems costing upwards of $90,000 to install, it makes more sense for most people to stick with the local electric company and pay their bills each month rather than put a few years’ salary into an investment that won’t pay off for decades. Apple’s new solar chargers for wireless devices might not be a revolution, but they get us a little closer to where we need to be.
- License: Image author owned
About Author: Amy Taylor is a technology and business writer. Amy began her career as a small business owner in Phoenix, Arizona. She has taken that knowledge and experience and brought that to her unique writing capabilities. She really enjoys new business related issues that are tied directly to technology.