Apple’s solar strategy

It’s possible that Apple’s future just got sunnier.

Employees at computer, phone and software company Apple  have filed a patent to place solar cells on portable devices, Trade the News reported Monday.

Outfitted with such technology, Apple devices, like the iPhone, could have photovoltaic cells stacked underneath LCD touch screens, thus maximizing the area available for harnessing the sun.

The filing said that information regarding the performance of a device’s solar cells could be displayed on the main screen next to info for battery power, text message alerts and time of day. Or this information could also appear on top of the solar cells themselves, which are likely to display some version of the Apple logo.

In any case, Apple’s new technology could herald the next generation of wireless mobility. Without the need to electrically charge devices–either via outlets or USB cables–users could at last start to break free from on-the-grid power connections.

Apple is certainly not the one in this field field. Mobile product manufacturers have looked at solar energy for some time, as consumers demand more battery power from portable devices.

One related product is the 6.4-ounce Solio Mg, $200, from Better Energy Systems. Its three magnesium blades fan out to reveal solar panels, which can store enough power to charge most phones and PDAs twice; an hour of clear sun will give most cell phones 25 minutes of talk time or an iPod an hour of playing time. It takes ten hours of direct sun to fully juice the device. (See Off The Grid But In The Game)

Also, the world’s first solar bag–the Voltaic Systems’ Generator laptop bag–is covered in solar cells and can charge a laptop. It generates up to 14.7 watts after a day of direct sunlight, can carry a 17-inch Apple Powerbook and comes with adapters that allow other electronics, such as cell phones, to be charged.

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