India has the fastest growing market of mobile phones, with the second largest number of subscribers in the world. There are more mobile phones in India than toilets, and phones have reached the poorest sections of the society. The low call rate charges and the cheap price of phones has made it affordable to even people earning less than $2/day (incidentally majority of India around 80% have their incomes capped at that level). However the basic problem of electricity to charge the mobile phones, remains a major hurdle for a vast majority of the population. Even in villages and cities where the power grid is available, power cuts ranging to 20 hours a day is not uncommon. Therefore charging of phones is a big issue.
However solar power which is terrific at providing electricity to off grid communities can solve the above problem as well. Solar powered mobile phones are being introduced by some of the local Indian vendors. These vendors are very good at selling phones with features adapted to the needs of the local population. There are many cheap mobile phones in the Indian Market, with affordable call rates, but the major problem of electricity in rural areas, has disrupted their usage, due to non-availability of any option left for phone charging.
Some of the big Telecom companies that have taken the plunge into Solar Mobile Phone Market are:
Samsung – has come out with its solar mobile phone – Blue Earth, which is a touch phone with a full solar panel on its back, generating enough power to charge the phone. It is not very bulky & is made from recycled plastic bottles.
ZTE – the Chinese mobile manufacturer recently launched the Coral-200, a solar-powered phone. It will just cost 40$. The solar phone provides about 15 minutes of talk time for every hour of sunlight. It comes with a very slim design.The solar-powered battery generates 3 minutes of talk time for every 10 minutes of sunlight. It is built right into the back cover. If there is enough sunlight, the battery will be able to power the phone for longer periods of time, reducing the dependance on the traditional charger.
Micromax – announced the launch of its solar powered mobile phone in the Indian market, X259 & X258. The X259 is a cheap $50 mobile phone, which can get charged by using solar energy. It has a 1000 mAh battery which ensures a good battery backup as well. It also has plenty of other useful features like a twin SIM, bluetooth etc. The X258 also comes with an inbuilt solar panel that can be used to recharge the device without any charger. It has a 2.4 inch wide colour display along with an alpha numeric keypad. It comes with multiple features like – a memory card (micro SD card) to help users store their favorite music, movies and more; a 1.3 megapixel camera; and integrated Bluetooth.
LG – POP from LG comes with embedded solar cells. It is a slick phone, with a battery cover that is a solar cell, letting users charge up the battery with sunlight. It provides 2.25 minutes of talk time or 180 minutes of standby for every 10 minutes of sunlight.
Sharp – along with Japanese network KDDI, has also launched a solar-powered waterproof mobile phone. The phone, gives one minute of talk time for every ten minutes of sun. The phone is designed to capture 80% of its charge from solar power alone.
You can also read about the leading Mobile Phone Companies in India.
Nokia – which is the pioneer, in the telecom industry & revolutionized the mobile phone market in India is not planning to introduce a solar powered phone any time soon. It conducted various tests ranging from Kenya to deep within the Arctic Circle. These experiments were done to find out the viability of such kind of phones, but concluded negatively on these grounds:
- device was hard to keep in direct sunlight
- limited talk time
- challenge to make the phone’s weather protection in such a way, so that it does not cover the solar charging panel
- constantly needs light to stay charged, hence cannot be carried around, in a pocket or a purse
- occasional calls only.
With a pioneer company like Nokia, not taking the dive in this area, what do you think will be the future of Solar powered mobile phones in India?
Will Solar-Powered Mobile Phones Help Grow India Mobile Phone Market? originally appeared in Green Chip Stocks. Green Chip Review is a free 2x-per-week newsletter, is the first advisory to focus exclusively on investments in alternative and renewable energies.
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