Keep shining for Solar-powered mobile phones

25 02 2009

If you read my blog on mobile phone innovation for the elderly – then you’ll know that one of my pet hates is rummaging for my phone in my bag. My second mobile phone hang-up is running out of battery power. You know it’s fully charged, but you forget to double check. Dropping off the kids at school you need to use your mobile phone and guess what, no power…. Arrrghhhh. Does this only ever happen to me?

It seems my prayers have been answered. A plethora of solar powered mobile phones will be hitting the market later this year. Being blessed to live in a place that boasts 300 days of sun, I’m in luck.

Here’s a quick overview of the early to market contenders that were unveiled at the Mobile World Congress:-
Hat’s off to ZTE, China, together with Digicel Group and Intivation who have launched the Coral-200-Solar, the world’s first low-cost solar-powered mobile phone aimed at the world’s poor (or financially challenged).. The Coral-200-Solar, manufactured by ZTE, uses proprietary technology from Dutch-based innovator Intivation. Since early 2008, Digicel has been providing its’ customers with low-cost or free portable solar charges in many markets. The concept of linking charger devices and a phone is sure to be a winner.

Here’s one new innovation that will certainly make a difference to people’s lives in locations where (a) price matters (b) electricity connections may be difficult. As ZTE state in their news release “there are an estimated two billion people in the world who have limited or no access to electricity”. Analysts have estimated that 5B people could have a phone service if they could afford a phone, service and be able to charge it. The population of many emerging markets in which Digicel provides cellular services will benefit greatly by access to a mobile handset that can be powered by the sun, or by electric power when it is available.”

Likewise, I tip my hat to the South Korean manufacturer, Samsung who have also launched an eco-friendly full-touch screen solar powered mobile phone – Blue Earth. – available in the UK during the second half of 2009.

The latest in a series of eco-friendly products, Blue Earth comes with a unique user interface which is designed to draw attention to preserving our environment. Simple to set screen brightness, backlight duration and Bluetooth to an energy-efficient mode, this new user interface allows the user to be energy-efficient with just one click of ‘Eco mode’. Through the ‘eco walk’ function the user can count their steps with an in-built pedometer, calculating how much CO2 emissions have been reduced by walking as opposed to motor transport. – Sounds more fun than the gym.

Blue Earth is made from recycled plastic called PCM, which is extracted from water bottles, helping to reduce fuel consumption and carbon emissions in the manufacturing process. The device, including charger, is free from harmful substances such as Brominated Flame Retardants, Beryllium and Phthalate.

Not to be outdone, LG will also launch another eco-friendly solar-powered mobile phone at the end of 2009. Proto-type mobiles were available for viewing at the Mobile World Congress but no product name, as yet.

By simply pointing the phone’s solar panel at natural light, the panel will convert solar energy into electricity without needing to be plugged in. For a ten minute exposure to the sun, this will give the phone enough power for a three-minute call – ok for a quick emergency call but not to call your clients. If left in natural light for long periods, the solar panel creates enough standby power to power the phone without any charging devices. Great news, should work for me in my sunny kitchen!

LG’s green initiative has not stopped at phones. The company’s LG HFB-500 Bluetooth solar car kit, first introduced at this January’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, gives customers hands-free mobile use in a fully rechargeable solar unit. A definite must have to avoid those fines.

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