Future iPhones and iPads may sport solar power options

Future iOS devices such as the iPhone and iPad may offer solar power alternatives in addition to current methods of powering the devices. Apple has been granted a patent (number 9,231,435) by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office for “methods and apparatuses for operating devices with solar power.”

Handheld computing devices typically use standard battery chemistries including ni-cad, lithium-ion, and nickel-metal hydride. In order to recharge these batteries, operators may use standard recharging options such as, for example, conventional AC (alternating current) outlets. However, mobile users who are in remote locations oftentimes do not have access to conventional AC outlets. As a result, Apple notes in the patent, sometimes they have no way of recharging the batteries of their gadgets.

Recently, solar power has been used to power up a handheld device. As demands for the power of the handheld computing devices increase, it becomes more important to provide stable power to the devices. Apple says that, however, given the characteristics of the solar cells that provide solar power, it’s relatively difficult to track the solar power drawn from the solar cells to maintain relatively stable solar power output. The company is working on solutions to the problem.

Here’s Apple’s summary of the invention: “In one aspect of the invention, a solar power tracking apparatus includes, but is not limited to, a voltage converter and a controller coupled to the voltage converter. The voltage converter includes an input capable of being coupled to a solar power source and an output capable of being coupled to an electronic load, such as, for example, a portable electronic device. 

“The voltage converter is configured to monitor or detect an amount of power drawn by the electronic load at the output of the voltage converter. In response to the monitored power drawn, the controller is configured to control the voltage converter to reduce amount of power to be drawn subsequently if the monitored amount of power exceeds a predetermined threshold. As a result, the output voltage from the solar power source is maintained within a predetermined range. Other methods and apparatuses are also described.”