Apple is expected to pull out all of the stops when the iPhone 7 is released, and a recently emerging rumor certainly suggests that this will be the case. News emanating from close to the Apple supply chain indicates that the Apple iPhone 7 could be the world’s first solar-powered handheld device. Certainly we haven’t seen a mobile device on the mass market purport to run off solar power. But is this really a feasible possibility, or one that is a complete non-starter?
Firstly, the notion of solar power has emanated in a report from the DayHerald. The article in question suggests that the iPhone 7 will not require a charger, as it will run entirely from the power of the sun. This would naturally be a massive departure from any previous device in the iPhone series, or really any other smartphone. But Apple has always been a corporation that likes to innovate; this was indeed central to the ethos of the consumer electronics giant since its very earliest days.
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Apple applies for solar power patent
According to these early reports on the topic of solar power, Apple has already applied for a patent in order to add solar power provisions to produce releases in the future. Firstly, although this may very well be the case, it is important to note that Apple applies for an inordinate amount of patents related to a vast variety of different technologies. Even if Apple has applied for a solar powered patent, one certainly shouldn’t view this as an indication that the technology will appear in its mobile range in the foreseeable future. Many patented technologies that have already been confirmed as part of the Apple portfolio certainly haven’t been included in any of its devices at the time of writing.
This notion has certainly been echoed by some of the early reportage related to the iPhone 7 and its supposedly solar power-related ability. NetworkWorld suggested that the technical difficulties that would be associated with including solar powered technology in the iPhone 7 ensures that this is still far from a reality. This certainly seems a more sober and realistic assessment than suggesting that it will definitely feature in an Apple smartphone before the year is out!
However, there have also been suggestions that Apple is working on this seriously with an eye to including it in the iPhone 7. Apple has experienced significant issues relating to battery life, and if it could produce a smartphone that runs off solar power this would seem to solve the issue completely. Apple has fallen behind Samsung in the battery life department in recent years, and Apple has experienced technical issues with the iPhone series with regard to including more effective power saving functionality and / or a larger battery for some time.
Solar power to be huge challenge for Apple
But one shouldn’t underestimate the technical undertaking that would be involved in including solar power technology in any smartphone. This is something that has not really even been floated in the past, and which would be incredibly difficult to deliver in a uniform fashion across multiple geographic locations with completely differing climates.
In common with many other corporations, Apple loves to deliver a uniform consumer experience across as many regions as possible – such an approach has been fundamental to the success and mentality of McDonald’s – and this would be extremely difficult with something such as solar power. The last thing Apple would desire is the embarrassment of an iPhone 7 not being able to power up correctly due to insufficient sunlight, for example; one can already imagine the negative headlines that such a disaster would generate.
In addition, regardless of the logistical issues, one must understand that the Apple iPhone 7 is due for release in less than two months! While Apple has kept characteristically quiet about the release of the iPhone 7, it is certainly expected before the end of the year, and based on the typical release schedule we should see its release before the end of September. Indeed, leaks related to the UK carrier Vodafone have already indicated that this is the case in the next iPhone generation.
So considering that there is around six weeks left to the date indicated in the Vodafone leaks, including such an incredibly revolutionary technology in such a paltry timeframe seems to be completely impossible. Apple has clearly applied for these patents with the future in mind, but it seems extraordinarily unlikely that it will be able to produce an acceptable level of solar powered technology in the few weeks remaining before the iPhone 7 goes into full production.
Record iPhone 7 units complicate the issue
If this wasn’t a difficult enough logistical issue in itself, it is also worth bearing in mind that Apple has already planned to produce a record number of iPhone units before the end of 2015. The iPhone has become a perfect storm for Apple, combining a luxury element that appeals to high-end consumers with a true mass-market appeal. The iPhone is still seen as the pinnacle of smartphone design, yet it is shifting massive numbers of units on a seemingly planet-wide basis.
What seems far more reasonable is the suggestion that Apple will continue to work on solar power internally, as it readies itself for a far more realistic iPhone release before the end of the year. There has been considerable debate about how the next generation iPhone will be branded, and if Apple is genuinely serious about including solar powered technology into its smartphone range in the foreseeable future, it would be logical for the consumer electronics giant to brand the iPhone as the iPhone 6s in 2015, and hold back the iPhone 7 for next year.
We could then see an iPhone 7 that runs at least partially off solar power in the next 12 months, as Apple attempts to address the battery-related problems that have plagued the corporation in recent years. But don’t expect solar power to suddenly emerge into the iPhone range this year; this seems a bridge too far even for the consumer electronics behemoth that is Apple.