Solar Powered Phone Features Forever Standby Time

Imagine you’re driving through a remote and barren desert when your car runs out of gas.  Your first instinct is to reach for your mobile phone and call for help, but you’re the kind of feckless idiot who drives out to the middle of nowhere without gassing up first, so of course you haven’t bothered to charge your phone either.


If you’ve got a regular cell phone, you have a choice: Either hitch a ride with the next creepy drifter who cruises by, or sit in your car until the highway patrol finds your mummified corpse.  But if you’re packing the solar powered S116 from Chinese electronics manufacturer Hi-Tech Wealth, you can just set that baby outside for a few minutes, and before you know it you’re phoning your aging mom to drive out and pick you up.


The S116 is the first commercially available cell phone that recharges its batteries using only light.  It features a solar panel on the top of its clamshell which can provide 40 minutes of talk time after about an hour in the sun, with a full charge taking about 12 hours.  In the absence of sunlight, the handset can also be recharged using less powerful light sources, including candles.


Zhang Zhengyu, chairman of Hi-Tech Wealth, is quoted by Xinhua News Agency as saying that the battery also lasts about 2.5 times longer than standard batteries.


The phone was first showcased at the electronics trade show CeBIT in Germany back in March, and is now available through retailers, although currently it can only be purchased in China.


Using solar power to charge a cell phone isn’t new–Nokia had a light-rechargeable battery way back at the dawn of the mobile age in 1997–but it’s the first time that solar power has been incorporated directly into a commercially available handset. 


The S116 comes with a relatively hefty price tag of around $510, and doesn’t have a lot of features beyond a puny 1.3 megapixel still camera, but there are plenty of reasons to buy one anyway.  With manufacturers currently shipping more than a billion handsets each year (upgrade! upgrade!), a widespread shift into renewable charging mechanisms would not only save electricity, but would free up landfill and dresser drawer space otherwise occupied by obsolete phone chargers.


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