The push for a greener world didn't end with the likes of Frank Lloyd Wright. Whether it be solar panels bolted on the top of a building, a strong push for recycling, or positioning a skyscraper in such a way that it's naturally heated/cooled and there is little need for artificial lighting, companies around the world have all tried their hand at going green.
Of those companies, Sprint has always been a big proponent of saving the planet. Within every cell phone box, you will find a recycling bag for your old cell phone. They have also started packaging phones in biodegradable and more eco-friendly packaging. As of today, Sprint is taking another step towards the greener land by offering a solar panel charging solution integrated into a battery cover (sold separately, of course) for the newly announced Replenish.
The Replenish isn't the first phone to sport a super-nerdy solar panel on the battery door. You may recall (around the time I started here a PhoneDog) that in May of 2010 that Sagem had a Puma Phone passed through the FCC. It also had a solar panel on the back.
Now don't get all excited and go thinking that you will never have to plug your phone in to charge again. We all should know that solar power isn't exactly the most effective way to power things. Sure, it leaves essentially no ecological footprint and utilizes energy that typically just goes to waste, but the rate at which it captures and stores that energy is painfully slow. The only consumer-friendly devices (that I know of) that run purely off of solar power are simple calculators, which take next to nothing to power.
So what's the point of the solar panel?
Trickle charging. The rate at which you will see it charge will be nothing in comparison to plugging your phone into a 0.5-1 ampere charger, but it can greatly increase the stamina of the phone. Simply flip it over in sunlight – and presumably artificial light – for some trickle charging while you work, play, etc. Rather than your phone's battery draining, as it normally would, the solar panel will be slowly charging the battery to help you get through the day.
We've seen all sorts of convenient ways to charge your phone, or several ways to increase the battery's daily stamina. But I don't think a wireless charger sitting in the console of a car or tweaking and modding your phone seven ways 'till Sunday are quite as clever as a solar panel.
I'm not fully sold though, as I would have to toy with it and put it through my rigorous week of hell before being fully convinced. But I'm definitely intrigued by it. Seeing it on a phone like the Replenish isn't exactly the most exciting thing to come as of late, but it'd be nice to see it on something the ThunderBolt or future high-end devices, which generally have trouble making it through the day.
When phones are being shipped with two batteries and a spare battery charger in the box, something needs to be done. What do you think? Would you like a solar panel integrated into your battery door? Do you think as the mobile world progresses and battery technology remains at a standstill that we will begin to see more clever, integrated methods of increasing battery life?