Let's be honest, we'd scorch the Earth to eke just one more hour of power from our superphones. Fortunately, as residents of the western world we've got plenty of juice to power all of our gadgets. Still, we can definitely see the attraction of a solar-powered cellphone meant for the peoples of developing nations living off the grid. Throw in a flashlight and you've just changed somebody's life. That's what we've got in the ZTE S316, a dead simple candybar with color display and torch. Also announced is the S101 charger with its own built-in flashlight that can be used to charge select, non-solar devices and costs just $12 to $13, maybe less on volume. The third solar device comes from China's OKWAP and is built by Inventec. The $40 GS109 (pictured above) feature phone is destined, believe it or not, to be an object of ultimate desire when slung from the neck on a lanyard as proof of ones prosperity. Spec-wise, this dual-SIM solar-powered phone packs a video camera, color display, microSD slot, MP3 player, and even Bluetooth 2.1 -- a lot of features for a solar phone.
Linking the three devices is Intivations SunBoost solar conversion technology allowing the devices to charge in conditions less than ideal. The ZTE S316, for example, draws a max of about 113mA when on a call, while the solar cell pumps out about 50mA to 60mA of juice depending upon the natural lighting conditions (it even charges when cloudy). That's about two minutes of natural light exposure required for every minute of talk time to keep the device going. The solar cell on the GS109, meanwhile, produces about 70mA in direct sunlight to keep the device humming. Remember, the idea isn't to charge a phone from 0% to full but to keep a device continually charged at about 70% to 80%. Intivation is so confident in its tech that it claims to provide "a far better charging experience than anything else on the market today." Both the S316 and S101 charger will be available in April while the relatively swank GS109 will hit next month. See them all in the gallery below.
Solar phones hands-on