The iPhone 6 will feature sapphire glass that has solar power capabilities, the latest rumors regarding the forthcoming Apple smartphone suggest. Although the rumors remain unconfirmed by Apple, patents filed late last year by the company corroborate these reports about the highly anticipated phone’s new charging option.

Patents Confirm Touch Screen Solar Panel Technology

On October 31, 2013, Apple was granted a patent for solar power technology that would not require an external converter to power an Apple product. This marks a significant advancement for the firm, which previously secured patents for touch screen solar technology that used a “boost converter” to convert energy collected from solar cells to power the device’s battery. According to iClarified, the new patent suggests there is plausible evidence that this new solar touch technology will be unveiled with the launch of the iPhone 6 sometime late this year.

Sapphire Glass and Solar Power

Apple recently opened a sapphire materials facility in Arizona and begun advertising positions at the facility. According to BGR, this points to sapphire glass being a bigger component of new Apple products. Apple currently only employs sapphire glass as a cover on the iPhone 5s camera and Touch ID button.

BGR further reports that communication between Apple and the U.S. Foreign Trade Zone indicates that the company wants to meet an “aggressive” production rate for the sapphire glass, lending weight to the rumors that it is intended for use in the new iPhone 6. “This high-tech manufacturing process will create a critical new sub-component of Apple Products. … Apple will be using cutting edge, new technology to enhance and improve the consumer products, making them best in class per product type,” the company wrote in the communiqué.

The Arizona facility will not only be producing sapphire glass, but will be scribing it as well, a process where super-thin films of solar cells are scribed onto the glass. According to iClarified, this is compelling evidence to suggest that Apple’s newest innovation will be included in the iPhone 6.

Why Apple Needs a Breakthrough

Apple needs the iPhone 6 to have serious wow factor, as it has fierce competition in the smartphone arena. Something like solar power capacity would push the company back into ground-breaking territory and give the iPhone another chance at market supremacy, a position currently held by fierce rival Samsung.

Whether or not the rumors surrounding the new solar cell technology and the iPhone 6 prove to be correct, Apple will be looking to use the technology in some form soon. The fact that Samsung has just poached Apple’s leading power design engineer—credited with inventing the solar cell technology Apple patented—will make Apple all the more eager to be the first to debut a solar-compatible device. The test of whether Apple can integrate solar technologies successfully into a product like the iPhone will come down to cost: If they can do it and still keep the phone affordable for a mass consumer market, they might be onto a winner.

Do you think solar technology in smartphones is the next big thing?

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


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