One year ago on the 24th of February, Japanese manufacturer Kyocera issued a press release informing the industry that it will showcase a prototype smartphone with solar charging capabilities at Mobile World Congress 2015. Fast forward to the present day and you'll find that Kyocera together with Sunpartner Technologies took the veil off a new prototype solar-powered handset with improved recharging capabilities, featuring a new and more powerful Wysips Crystal.
Much like the unit revealed last year, the new prototype takes the form of a rugged smartphone with water and drop-proof capabilities, so although it's only a prototype, the smartphone has been designed from the ground up as a companion device for outdoor activities. The handset sports a 5-inch Full HD (1920 x 1080) display, and appears to be running a forked version of Android OS. Unfortunately, not much has been revealed in regards to what other hardware components make the prototype tick, but after all, the main focus is the unit's solar-recharging capabilities.
Speaking of which, one of the main improvements brought forth by the new prototype is a redesigned Wysips Crystal, which basically makes it all happen. The Wysips Crystal is an ultra-thin (â‰¤ 0.58 mm), transparent photovoltaic component fitted under the touchscreen, and reportedly it is the only existing solar component that combines optics and photovoltaics. Its purpose is to convert sunlight into electricity, which is then stored and used to keep the smartphone's components going in times of need, when a source of electricity isn't available or during electrical blackouts. Sunpartner's new Wysips Crystal offers 50% higher performance compared to the unit showcased last year, and can provide up to 1 minute of smartphone talk time for only 3 minutes of exposure to sunlight. This is a significant upgrade over last year's prototype, which was rated at 2 minutes of talk time for 10 minutes of sunlight exposure.
It's also worth noting that, aside from the aforementioned hardware upgrades, the new Kyocera prototype is also accompanied by a new application designed to provide users with information concerning charging conditions. This way, users can check the efficiency of the Wysips Crystal at any given time, or see whether or not it's charging.
Unfortunately, Kyocera revealed no details as to when, or if the prototype will make it into full production, so evidently there's no word on market availability or pricing either. Whatever the case may be, Kyocera's and Sunpartner's efforts to harvest solar energy for smartphone users are commendable and refreshing, especially since smartphone battery life is an ongoing issue in many cases.