Sunday 17 February 2019

Samsung Blue Earth S7550 (2009)

Announced February 2009

Ten years ago, phone manufacturers were experimenting with more environmentally-friendly designs. While much of this revolved around packaging and recycled plastics, there was also a move to look at adding solar panels to phones so that they could be charged from the sun.

Samsung Blue Earth
You might at this point realise that modern phones don’t have solar panels, and that this concept was not successful. And you would be right, but it’s an interesting side-note in the history of phone design.

The Samsung Blue Earth was first announced at MWC in February 2009 along with some solar devices from other manufacturers. The Blue Earth was one of the stars of the show though, with a touchscreen display and an attractive design to go with it. But it wasn’t until October that they actually revealed the specifications of the phone which started shipping the same month.

Despite the touchscreen, this was a feature phone rather than a smartphone. It came with a number of “eco-friendly” apps such as a pedometer which worked out how much CO2 you were saving by walking. The specs overall were competitive for the time and the overall response was pretty positive.

So why didn’t it catch on? At about €300 the device was fairly expensive, and then there was the panel itself. Yes, it certainly charged the phone but only relatively slowly. Even by Samsung’s own figures, you’d have to leave your expensive device sitting around in sunlight for an hour to get ten minute’s talktime.

The fundamental problem was the size of the panel that could fit on the phone – to be really useful, it would need to be much bigger than the phone itself. And of course there was no need for TARDIS-like trickery, you could simply attach a bigger panel by plugging one in. Even 10 years ago, you could get a decently-sized solar panel with USB outputs for £50 or so.

Today battery life is probably even more of a problem than ten years ago, but there’s an even simpler solution than wandering around the place with solar panels sticking out of you and that’s to carry a power bank with a large battery. And if you have solar panels on your house, you can even charge it with renewable energy too. Although it you really want one, you can currently buy a solar-powered iPhone of questionable taste.

Image credit: Samsung

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