iPhone 5.7 (T3 magazine concept teaser 001)

It would seem that much of the tech world is expecting Apple to give its iPhone line a significant refresh this year. The company is believed to be working on not one, but two new models with larger displays, and of course there will be the usual performance bumps.

But if you ask Matt Margolis of Seeking Alpha, the iPhone 6 may feature much more than just a larger display. The analyst thinks the handset could utilize a sapphire display with an embedded solar power panel, and he makes a pretty interesting case for the theory…

In a lengthy post, which is definitely worth a read, Margolis lays out extensive evidence for why he thinks Apple’s next smartphone could be solar-powered. He points to some recently filed patents, job hirings and a variety of other curious actions from the company.

Apparently Apple has filed a numerous patents on solar charging capabilities for computer and mobile devices in the past few years. One patent in particular describes a method for charging a laptop, smartphone or tablet battery through the use of embedded solar cells.

Solar farmSolar farm for Apple’s North Carolina data center

Margolis also reminds us of an Apple job listing from last fall regarding a Thin Films Engineer with solar experience for its mobile devices team. He suggests that the position, which has since been filled, was to create and perfect thin-film (solar cell) charging for iOS devices.

Finally, there’s that new Arizona sapphire glass plant and rumors that Apple was behind a recent $68 million order with German company Manz AG for solar cell coating equipment. Is it possible that Apple is coating its new sapphire displays with thin-film solar cells? Maybe.

All of this is of course speculation, and there are a number of reasons why a solar-powered iPhone—which for many is a device that stays pocketed—wouldn’t work. But the paper trail is certainly interesting, and it makes you wonder what Apple could have up its sleeve.

Thoughts?

  • Rowan09

    That would be interesting but a kinetic charging system should also be included.

    • Nate McKelvie

      I’m still with you on the kinetic charger, especially since i live in San Francisco where the sunshine can be a rare commodity lol

  • GorGorWoeWoe

    There ain’t much sun in the toilet.

    • iBanks

      Why would your phone be in the toilet?

    • felixtaf

      Unless you are ‘living’ in a toilet… But no one lives there! lol…

  • tocsin

    Surely the continous charge/discharge of the battery would shorten its life span.

    • Carlos Gomes

      Isn’t a modern battery life span measured by complete charging cycles?

      • Nate McKelvie

        Mostly yes, charging your phone when it’s half full actually LENGTHENS the life of the battery. Letting it drain completely and having a full charging cycle can cut your battery life almost in half, but even half charges will eventually lower battery capacity. But sadly not many people actually understand this and still fully drain their batteries before charging like they were supposed to do with OLDER battery types

    • arrontaylor

      That’s what I’ve been thinking too… I’m not really sure how they would overcome that, but then again this is Apple we’re talking about

    • Rowan09

      I’m sure you would be able to turn it off unless needed.

  • Willie

    I’m sure a banner will pop-up stating that it’s an unauthorized charger

    • Nate McKelvie

      Hahahaha this is hilarious! I can see it now “this is an unauthorized sun source!”

  • Pato111

    Hope apple implements this on the next revolutionary hardware:)

  • Svs

    I doubt this will be implemented in the next iphone maybe several gens later who knows

  • FrankensteinBlack

    This tech is for iPhone 7 which will mark the return of the glass backing on iPhones. Only this time there will be imbedded solar sells on the back (not front display).

    I bet this is what Steve had in mind all along when he went glass back but the solar tech just wasn’t there yet. iP5 (and 6) in essence are stop gaps for the ultimate goal of double glass with solar charging.

    Also of note is how many iPhone 4/4s still look so much better than newer 5’s even after years of use because the glass back wares better and doesn’t have all of the scratches showing that the 5 does.

    Steve added glass to the back of the 4’s for a reason beyond simple ascetics.
    Just sayin…

    • Kurt

      Glass back is best, next is plastic, last is metal. Metal feels nice (except when it’s cold) but far too easy to scratch.

  • Adam Bowman

    You know, Apple has a patent for clear solar panels that could be used on BOTH sides of a device. I’d love to see them putting innovation like this into action. I would love to also see, if possible, kinetic charging tech working its way into our devices.

    Or how about even having a mode that would allow us to convert our color screens to “Paperlight” mode (which hardly depletes battery life) when our batteries are low?

    I don’t just want a larger, longer lasting battery, I want innovative (and maybe even environmentally friendly ways) to prolong battery life.

    • Kurt

      That’s been around for about ten years. I used to have stock in a company that can put solar cells in windows and desks, etc. they aren’t exactly clear so no good for the front of a device. And I will never put my iPhone in the sun.

      • Rowan09

        The thing with solar panels is that any UV light source can activate them. The sun is by far the best but a flashlight can do the trick as well.

      • Kurt

        If ambient light can help I’m all for it.

      • Maxim∑

        maybe Apple will recycle energy used from the phones backlight

  • Ted Forbes

    Look the phone does not have to be powered by solar alone, this would make no sense, But if Apple install this capability along with its wall charge batteries would make a lot of sense. The battery would charge automatically whenever and wherever there sufficient or good enough solar environment.

    Calculators have been using solar environment for a long time now. It is about time Apple or someone advance this technology. I am tired of the inconsistency in battery life charge.

    These big tech companies are piling up tens of billions of dollars, it is about time they give back and suffering us no more.

  • neez

    I think this would work better on the iWatch don’t you think? IF the rumors are real, then this would be the perfect solution regarding battery limitations on a smartwatch. So, IF Apple is testing prototypes of smartwatches those evidences of solar-power researches, job hirings, patents, etc., would make much more sense. IMO

  • Gregg

    If anyone has ever left their phone in the sunlight for a few minutes they’d know that the only thing this will cause is problems.

    • Koen V

      If anyone thinks your iPhone has to be actually lying in the naked sun to be solar power charged , you need to go back to school.

      • Gregg

        Well it’s kinda like warnings, no-one listens to them. Drinking & driving, tanning for too long, smoking too much, exercising too little – even if there are warnings plastered all over the phone there will be people who leave it in direct sunlight to charge it. And yes, if they leave it in direct sunlight they should actually go straight back to pre-school. Still, current solar cases need about 12 hours in direct sunlight to fully charge an iPhone, so I’m interested to see how this will work without needing direct sunlight.

  • LuisNJ

    solar charging capabilities would be useful on the iWatch

  • Jeffrey Feuerstein

    i think that the iphone 6 will most likely not be solar powered but i do think that the 6s or maybe the 7 will be solar powered (most likely the 6s)

    • obsidious1

      I believe that it might just be an accessory and the ability for there devices to be charged with solar power easily