Keeping your phone battery topped up while on the go has been a perennial pain in the backside for users since the dawn of the smartphone. Those in sunny climes may someday have a solution thanks to a newly-unearthed patent for a solar-powered smartphone from Xiaomi.
The World Intellectual Property Office patent, first spotted by LetsGoDigital, contains diagrams of a fairly standard, bezel-less phone from both the front and side angles, but on the rear we can clearly see a sheet of photovoltaic solar panels like the kind you’d find on top of an eco-aware house or office building, only much smaller in size.
Judging by the patent images, Xiaomi’s hypothetical, environmentally-friendly phone wouldn’t be much thicker than your average smartphone. The camera module sticks out beyond the rear panel, while the solar sheet sits flush, or perhaps even below the rear glass. Some of Xiaomi’s recent phones like the Mi 9 and Mi 8 Pro utilized see through rear glass, so this could accommodate the solar panel.
While there isn’t any additional detail to go on from the WIPO patent, the solar panel seems to be pretty clearly intended as a means to recharge the phone’s regular battery. Flipping your phone over towards sunlight for a quick boost would certainly be a more elegant alternative to lugging around a chunky portable charger or hunting for an unoccupied, painfully slow wireless charger in McDonald’s.
While Xiaomi’s design would be the most high profile case to date, isn’t the first time we’ve seen solar energy integrated into phones. Samsung’s Guru E1107 Crest Solar used a similar design (albeit for a much less power-hungry phone) and LG toyed with the technology with a solar case for the GD510 back in 2010.
Of course, this is just a patent and should be treated as such. There’s no guarantee we’ll ever actually see a solar-powered phone from the Chinese brand. Though, considering Xiaomi is reportedly invested in new charging tech like reverse wireless charging, it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch.
With advancements in solar and smartphone technology, would a Xiaomi solar phone shine brightly or be left in the shadows? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!