Nokia: Solar Mobile Phones Not Prime Time Ready

Solar chargers for mobile phones are a dime a dozen. Well, they’re not that cheap – but they are plentiful. What really we haven’t seen are decent phones that run directly off solar energy. No charger middleman, no connection to a secondary device, just an all-in-one, fully integrated, photovoltaically juiced wireless telecommunications module.

Kudos, then, to the folks at Nokia for giving it a shot with a phone it called Lokki. Mind you, by all appearances this was more a quest to satisfy their own curiosity rather than develop an actual product. They tricked out a Nokia C1-02 with a solar panel in the back and scattered the phones to a handful of folks around the world to give ’em a whirl. The result: The solar phone isn’t ready for prime time. It isn’t that you can’t run a phone on solar power produced on the phone itself; you just can’t do it for very long unless you’re obsessed with keeping it exposed to sunlight. And the sun never sets. And there are no clouds. Ever.

Nokia solar phone, Lokki

image via Nokia

“When carefully positioned, the prototype phones were able, at best, to harvest enough energy to keep the phone on standby mode but with a very restricted amount of talk time,” Nokia reported on its “Conversations” blog. “This means there’s still some way to go before a workable and care-free solution is achieved. The most substantial challenge is the limited size of a phone’s back cover, which restricts the extent to which the battery can be charged. What’s more, to ensure mobility, it is essential that the phone’s weather protection doesn’t cover the solar charging panel.”

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.