Over the last few years, Apple has been constantly experimenting with solar cell technology that can be integrated into its iPhones. The company has filed a new patent application for a method of using solar cells as ambient light sensors for an iPad, iPhone, or other display-equipped device, according to PatentlyApple.
By integrating the ambient light sensor into the display, Apple would be able to reduce bezel sizes around the display, allowing for more display of real estate on the device's surface. This idea is in contrast to the design seen in current iPhones, where several components are embedded in the bezel above the display. By moving one of those components, Apple can significantly reduce the height of the top bezel.
The patent goes on to detail the solar cell's ability to sense the amount of incoming light and in response make adjustments to the display brightness. And when it isn't being used to adjust the display, the cell could provide trickle charges into the iPhone's battery.
An electronic device is provided with a display and a solar cell ambient light sensor that receives light through a portion of the display. The solar cell ambient light sensor may include one or more thin-film photovoltaic cells. A voltage that accumulates within the thin-film photovoltaic cell in response to ambient light is sampled and converted into ambient light data. The device includes control circuitry that modifies the intensity of display light generated by the display based on the ambient light data from the photovoltaic cell. The solar cell ambient light sensor is attached to a transparent cover layer, a color filter layer, or any other layer of the display. When the accumulated voltage is not being sampled for ambient light measurements, the voltage may be used to provide charge to a battery in the device.
It is worth noting that the patent application was filed in December 2012. However it was just published today.
Owing to the fact that the technology is still being researched, we don't expect to see solar technology implemented in iPhones anytime soon. However, since Apple has been consistent with its efforts towards integrating the technology into its iPhones, we definitely expect to see solar-powered iPhones in the coming years.