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Solar Cell Phones Change the Way the World Communicates

Solar cell phones have the ability to completely revolutionize the way we communicate with each other. In developing countries, there are often electricity shortages and most people have to pay a relatively large sum of money to go somewhere and charge their cell phones. However, recent developments in solar technology have led to the invention of solar powered cell phones which allow the user to place a call even when the phone’s battery is completely drained, provided there is adequate sunlight available.

The majority of solar powered cell phones that have been developed still come with a traditional AC charger that can be plugged into a power outlet, but they also contain solar panels on the back of the phone to provide energy to charge the battery when no other power source is available. The first models of these phones that were produced were not extremely reliable or practical, however as the technology has continued to develop, companies have begun producing better, more reliable solar mobile phones.

Advantages of Solar Powered Phones

  • Can be used to place calls in emergency situations when no other power source is available.

  • Cell phones account for a large portion of the huge increase in electricity consumption that has occurred in the last decade. Solar mobile phones can help to slow this increase.
  • Solar mobile phones can be very useful for charging phones in developing countries and places where the electric grid is unreliable or power supply is erratic.

History of Solar Cell Phones

samsung crest solarWhile the technology has been in the works for many years, it wasn’t until 2009 that the first solar cell phones became commercially available.

Samsung Electronics, Co. was one of the first to develop and market a truly solar powered cell phone when it launched the Samsung Crest Solar E1107 in 2009. The phone was first available for purchase in India, before it was expanded to Asia, Africa, and Latin America as well. 

The biggest advantage of this product was its relatively low price, with the phone normally selling for around $55, making it much more affordable than many other traditional cell phones on the market. 

The same day that Samsung announced its solar phone, LG, another Korean telecommunications company and leading cell phone manufacturer, also unveiled their prototype of a solar powered phone. The LG phone provided about three minutes of talking time after charging in direct sunlight for only ten minutes.

A Chinese telecommunications company known as ZTE Corp. also produced a solar cell phone in 2009. This phone was purchased by many phone companies around the world and made available to people in less developed nations. In Kenya, the country’s largest cell phone provider Safaricom purchased 100,000 of these solar phones and started selling them for around $35 or the equivalent of a month’s salary in the country.

These phones were quite popular as they allowed Kenyans to charge their phones without paying to use electricity and led to an increase in cell phone usage in the country. Part of the reason for this phone’s success in Kenya lies in the fact that over 17 of the country’s 37 million inhabitants own and regularly use cell phones, despite the fact that only about one and a half million people in the country are connected to the power grid.

Solving Communication Issues in Developing Countries

Many experts have suggested that solar powered cell phones will be most successful in developing countries, where the electricity grid is not nearly as reliable. Many of these cell phones come with a very reasonable price tag which makes them more affordable for people living in less developed countries that live on very minimal wages. They will be able to charge their phones without the need to travel to a village and pay someone to use their power outlet. 

This technology has the ability to completely change the way people in these developing countries communicate with one another. These developments will further increase the global cell phone usage, and make cell phones even more accessible to poorer people all around the world. In fact, the majority of solar phones that have been developed have been marketed almost solely in places like Asia, Africa, and Latin America. 

In the past few years, the majority of the world’s leading cell phone manufacturers have developed and launched solar powered mobile phones in India. The erratic power supply in many places in India, especially in rural areas, has led to this country being one of the major testing grounds for new solar phones.

Solar Powered Smart Phones

In early 2011, a Chinese manufacturer of cell phones known as Umeox Mobile announced the world’s first solar smart phone. This phone, which the company calls the Umeox Apollo, is supported by an Android operating system and contains most all of the standard features of a traditional smart phone, including Bluetooth, a 1 gigabyte hard drive, SD card, and a three megapixel digital camera. 

sagem pumaUmeox Mobile states that the phone can be charged enough for daily usage in around two and half hours, while it will take around seventeen hours of direct sunlight to fully charge a depleted battery. Again one of the biggest advantages of this particular cell phone lies in the price: Umeox Apollo phones normally sell for around one hundred US dollars, which is still relatively cheap for an Android powered smart phone.

Sagem also has a solar smart phone, which was designed together with sportswear company Puma. The Sagem Puma M1 has a built-in solar panel on the back and is clearly marketed for athletes and hikers who don't always have access to a power outlet. Again, at just under $90, this device is very affordable and worth checking out if you love the outdoors.

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