Apple files patent application for solar-powered portable devices

“Employees at computer, phone and software company Apple have filed a patent to place solar cells on portable devices, Trade the News reported Monday,” Miriam Marcus reports for Forbes.

“Outfitted with such technology, Apple’s devices, like the iPhone, could have photovoltaic cells stacked underneath LCD touch screens, thus maximizing the area available for harnessing the sun,” Marcus reports.

“The filing said that information regarding the performance of a device’s solar cells could be displayed on the main screen next to info for battery power, text message alerts and time of day. Or this information could also appear on top of the solar cells themselves, which are likely to display some version of the Apple logo,” Marcus reports.

“In any case, Apple’s new technology could herald the next generation of wireless mobility. Without the need to electrically charge devices–either via outlets or USB cables–users could at last start to break free from on-the-grid power connections,” Marcus reports.

Full article here.

Arnold Kim reports for Mac Rumors, “The most interesting technique described by Apple, however, is the integration of the solar panels behind the actual LCD screen of a portable device. The solar panel would absorb ambient light that passes through the LCD screen of the device. This could eliminate any additional footprint typically required by the solar panels. If successfully implemented, Apple’s iPhone, iPod and laptops, could require no outward changes in design to add solar power.”

Full article here.

United States Patent Application #20080094025, published April 24, 2008, filed October 20, 2006, “Solar cells on portable devices,” is here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Leo S.” for the heads up.]


  1. Cool.
    But I don’t think this will necessarily mean the end of power from USB. Instead, I think it will just be a great way to extend battery life. Especially as 3G chipsets and other things of that nature come along to zap more power.
    Perhaps this is coming sooner rather than later????

  2. This is the future of things, slowly starting to make an entrance into the mainstream. Photovoltaics will be in many devices in the not-too-distant future, as well as on more buildings, in vehicles, and powering utility devices.

  3. They already had that in china.

    It was on an ad, theres this chinese guy with a ipod-nano thin phone, that had a large display(not multitouch of course), had a very washed out LCD colour phone.

    Quite cheap, but the language came only in Chinese… dang, i should have bought one… oh well

  4. Up here in Minnesota we don’t go outside for 6 months a year because it’s too cold.

    I thought real Apple users didn’t go outside… ever. ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”smile” style=”border:0;” />

    Maybe the cells will work while users peck away inside coffee shop windows or something.

  5. @ Anders

    This is a rumor, I don’t bother until they announce it. IF and when they do, they may have licensed one of those technologies.

    Or, being in the Apple spirit, engineered an even better screen that they could patent and actually ship it sometime soon.

    Either way, it would be cool. I have one of those windup radios with solar cells on top. Works quite well.

  6. I don’t think that such small footprint as the iPhones screen will provide enough power to break free from the power outlets or USB connectors. It is going to help the battery to last longer, but no to recharge complete over sun light. Other issue is that we do not use our iPods or iPhones enough time under the sun light for that. How much time does any one of us uses the phone exposing it directly to the sun light? This solar cells are good because we can make batteries last longer, but they are not a outlet substitute.

  7. i know i love the fact that my watch (citizen eco) has run for years off a similar idea, but unless they have some incredible panels in the lab what many have pointed out is true, this only extends battery life.

    having said that, when i can run my iPhone for 1-3 hours longer because of the light it got while walking to class, i will be impressed as hell.

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