Apple Eying Solar for iPods, iPhones & Laptops?

A few startups are just beginning to sell solar-powered backup chargers for our gadgets and cell phones, but none of the big consumer electronics makers has yet embraced embedded solar power as a viable option for mainstream devices. Well, according to a patent application picked up by MacRumors (hat tip Engadget), Apple could be the one leading the way to a sunny future of solar-powered gadgets. Yeah, the same Apple that has consistently received poor marks from environmentalists for not being green enough.

The patent application says Apple is looking at ways to embed solar panels behind the LCD screens of mobile gadgets like iPods, iPhones and laptops. That type of design is likely years in the making and is waiting on the cost of next-generation solar panels to drop dramatically. But we can’t deny there’s real appeal.

Embedding solar in gadgets could be valuable because, as devices get more complex and power-hungry, solar could provide a way to extend the device’s battery life. Our current battery technology is certainly not keeping pace with gadgets’ growing power demands.

There’s also the space constraints. While our gadgets are getting more power hungry, they’re also getting smaller, which is why Apple could be thinking of doubling up on the screen and solar panel space. There’s just no room for them anywhere else. Utilizing the space behind the screen means the company wouldn’t have to make major design changes to its current successful products.

Also not to be overlooked is that embedded solar would help disconnect our gadgets from the not-so-green power grid. That can cut down on carbon emissions and also enable the gadget-owner to save a bit on the electricity bill. Apple might not demonstrate its commitment to fighting global warming just yet, but we’re sure the company would be more than happy with the green PR generated by a “solar iPod”.

No doubt they’d also be pleased with the markup they could add to such a product. Hey, we’d pay the premium for an off-the-shelf solar option any day.

(Image is our idea of fun with photoshop. Definitely not an Apple product.)

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