Solar power has always been an interest of mine, so when I first heard about a modern processor powered by a solar cell I became cautiously optimistic about its potential. While it is not at all surprising, a recently concluded study by Nokia found that despite advances like this it will still be quite a while before a solar powered phone is practical.
Although the final verdict is disappointing, the study did yield some interesting results. By customizing a basic phone with a solar panel and deploying testers various places around the world, Nokia found out that using a mobile phone with only solar power was in fact “possible but challenging.” This was mostly because while a properly positioned device could harvest enough energy to run all day and make some calls, this was only possible in the best of conditions.
In this study, those perfect conditions were found in Kenya, where the devices would most reliable produce power. This was of course mostly due to the direct sunlight, but also because the tester there was stationary most of the time. In contrast, a tester at the Arctic Circle found very little power despite having long hours of sunlight because of shadows and the low angle of the sun.
Basically, Nokia found out that with current solar panel technology and device power consumption, a solar powered feature phone is practically impossible, much less a smartphone. Conditions have to be perfect in order to have enough battery to make calls, and the device has to be in direct sunlight almost constantly just to remain in standby. Still, I think it’s awesome that Nokia is working on solar powered device, and who knows, eventually they may find a way to make it work. I mean, just consider the potential: solar powered Lumia 900, anyone?[Nokia Conversations]