Apple biting solar bullet again?

The sun - can't power planes yet but maybe your iPhone?

Apple has filed a patent to include solar panels in LCD screens, enabling them to harness the awesome heliotropic power of the sun.

OK, so solar power on portable devices may not be new (think school and calculators) but battery life is not being extended fast enough to keep up with current demands from mobile manufacturers.

GPS, 10 megapixel cameras, super-3G and all the other bells and whistles mobile phones simply must have nowadays do actually need more power, you know.

So Apple has filed a patent to place a solar panel under the LCD screen, which can harness the light flowing through it, providing backup power to the device.

Clear power advantage

The advantage here would be keeping the design similar to current devices, as the only physical challenge would be keeping the LCD depth down, something every display manufacturer is working on anyway.

However, LCDs don’t traditionally let a lot of light through, and also often need it to reflect back to boost the brightness of the screen.

Although technology (such as that by Motorola) seems to be coming to help make displays more transparent, obviously there would have to be a trade-off in terms of screen quality.

OLEDs, on the other hand, are very likely to appear in transparent form soon, such is the nature of their construction, so coupling these technologies together might help Apple et al change the face of mobile phone power.

Oh, and there’s the slight issue of solar panels still being a bit rubbish, but we’ll just ignore that debate…

Gareth Beavis
Formerly Global Editor in Chief

Gareth has been part of the consumer technology world in a career spanning three decades. He started life as a staff writer on the fledgling TechRadar, and has grown with the site (primarily as phones, tablets and wearables editor) until becoming Global Editor in Chief in 2018. Gareth has written over 4,000 articles for TechRadar, has contributed expert insight to a number of other publications, chaired panels on zeitgeist technologies, presented at the Gadget Show Live as well as representing the brand on TV and radio for multiple channels including Sky, BBC, ITV and Al-Jazeera. Passionate about fitness, he can bore anyone rigid about stress management, sleep tracking, heart rate variance as well as bemoaning something about the latest iPhone, Galaxy or OLED TV.