December 19, 2009

LG, Samsung develop solar-powered cell phones

IDG News Service - LG Electronics and Samsung Electronics will unveil next week prototype handsets that are recharged by solar panels built into the case.

Samsung's phone, called Blue Earth, is a touch-screen model with rounded corners designed to look like a "well-rounded pebble," Samsung said.

Continuing the environmental theme, the phone is made from recycled plastic and doesn't include harmful substances such as brominated flame retardants, beryllium and phthalates.

The solar cells on the phone occupy most of the rear of the phone's case.

LG didn't release much information about its prototype phone, but images from the company show what appears to be a version of its KF750 Secret handset with, like the Samsung phone, solar cells covering the rear of the phone's case.

In both phones, which were announced almost simultaneously by the companies in South Korea today, the solar panel doesn't provide enough power to run the phone directly and is used to recharge a conventional battery inside the device.

So will the new phones mean an end to chargers?

Almost certainly the answer is: not initially. Samsung confirmed that its Blue Earth phone comes with a charger, but added that it's an energy-efficient one that draws just 30 milliwatts in standby mode.

LG says it hopes to commercialize solar-charged phones when it has a model that provides three minutes of talk time after charging for 10 minutes.

In the dark confines of a pocket or bag the phones won't be able to charge, so users will have to ensure they are regularly out in the light. Also, since the solar panels occupy the rear of the devices, they'll have to be kept face-down for maximum efficiency, which might lead to scratching and scuffing of the display itself.

Still, development of the handsets shows that companies are thinking about making Earth-friendly products or are at least thinking about the environmentally conscious consumer and the growing market for "green" products.

Both companies offered no timing for when the prototypes might become commercial models or pricing details.

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