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Solar-Powered Phones: The Next Razr for Motorola?

Posted by: Olga Kharif on May 22, 2007

Recently, Motorola unveiled a new line-up of phones, including a next-generation Razr with a larger outside screen, a steel frame and some new capabilities. These changes are supposed to encourage consumers to pay several hundred dollars for the device. Frankly, I am not buying. But I would gladly pay Motorola a lot more for a phone that can self-charge, no doubt about it.

Motorola just received a patent for a technology that will allow cell phones to recharge via solar cells embedded into a phone’s Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) screen. When used in phones’ external screens, or as part of their touch screens, this technology can, potentially, eliminate the need for pesky chargers. Considering that a car charger costs around $30, and I constantly lose it, I would be willing to pay a lot more for a solar-powered phone. I think a lot of people would; perhaps such a phone could be the next big product for Motorola — the next Razr.

Of course, people would need to change the way they carry their phones for this to work. Today, I just drop the phone into my purse. To charge up my solar-powered phone, I’d probably need to carry it in my hand, or in my bag’s special external, clear pocket. Still, I’d be willing to change my ways just to get rid of all the wires.

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Reader Comments


May 25, 2007 10:20 AM

This sounds like a gimmick to me. Making a whole series of assumptions, it looks like a day of optimal conditions (ie. unobstructed direct sunlight, with the cell phone positioned at the best capture angle), a 1 inch by 1 inch screen, at 18% efficiency, would generate about 0.5 Wh per day, which is just 10-15% of a cell phone battery's charge of 3-5 Wh. Again, that is under ideal conditions. Not to say that companies don't successfully sell worthless features that do little if anything for consumers, but I suggest you don't throw away your charger just yet.


May 25, 2007 05:09 PM

Won't any type of light work? Don't we call it "solar" out of habit, now?


May 27, 2007 01:08 PM

She clearly knows nothing about currents, voltage, or anything that would make her qualified to discuss any more than the rumor mill and its guts. To the writer...I will bet you buy a iPHONE.

Christian Jung

May 28, 2007 02:48 AM

The razr of all phones! It is one of few ones that can be charged by USB cable... a simple feature that Nokia still keeps back - maybe to sell more chargers?

Christopher Bourroughs

October 16, 2007 09:15 AM

Though the Motorola patent is an impressive improvement to the eco-friendliness of American mobile technology isn't it so that the solar power is only a backup to the traditionally charged battery? There is a company called Hi-Tech Wealth Company in China that will release the HTW S116 Solar Mobile Phone, the battery life of which is roughly 2.5 times its counterparts and can be charged completely by the sun.

Also, @ Christian Jung - Proprietary sales is the most likely reason for why previous phones can't be charged through USB. Money makes the world go round.


October 22, 2008 04:01 PM

Does anyone know if solar cells can be charged by light in a classroom? How do calculators work indoors?


March 21, 2009 07:28 PM

I personally would like to know when this phone will be ready to purchase. I think it's a great idea, no more chords or wires yeah... The cost is high I have checked it out the Hi-Tech HTW S116 is priced around $510. but I do believe it will be worth it to just set my phone on the seat of my car to charge, although it may pose a problem if I have to drive at night and it goes dead on the highway, but I'm sure there's a way to charge it by light or something so you know the old saying "Where there's a will there's a way"


July 1, 2009 07:21 PM

i wont buy that cell Hi-Tech HTW for $100 I bet you it wont charge on a light and plus if it does its going to talk for ever plus in some high ways there is no lights I rather charge my phone before i get out the house and i will charge it in the car or at work.............

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BusinessWeek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, Douglas MacMillan, and Spencer Ante dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. One of the first mainstream media tech blogs, Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.



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