The patent suggests that Apple is planning to build solar cells underneath the touchscreen on smartphones in future. The panel would recharge during the day and you wouldn't need to plug your phone into the socket any more. Good for the planet, convenient for us. And while unlikely to appear as early as 2016's iPhone 7, this could easily be ready for the big reveal when the iPhone 8 takes its bow in 2018.
Finally, energy-harvesting technology exists right now that can recapture energy emitted from your phone in the form of radio waves (the wasted ones, not the ones essential to communication) and then feed it back into the battery. This isn't a long-term solution: some energy will inevitably be lost through emitted waves alone, and you've got all the power being used running the internal components and lighting up the screen, among other issues. But it means your battery runs down slower - 25 to 30 percent, the makers say.
These three in their present form - niche, semi-experimental, relatively costly, non-integrated, offering significant but not experience-changing increases to battery life and just generally a bit of a faff - are not enormously appealing to the average smartphone owner. But if we jump ahead 10 years, maybe less, imagine an iPhone with all three (and similar related tech) built discreetly into the case: harvesting energy from your bodily movements, from ambient light, and from the phone's own emitted radio waves. To the extent that battery life ceases to be a concern - to the extent, perhaps, where mobile batteries become self-sustaining. What a thought.
iPhone 8 and beyond: Durable design
iPhones are that lethal combination of expensive and fragile that results in so much consumer heartache. The result is that each iPhone owner has to make their own deal with the devil: either wrapping it in a robust case, thereby masking the handsome design that they paid all that money for in the first place, or risk pavement damage every time they take the thing out of a pocket.
This may not be the case in the future.
iPhone screens are already far tougher than your average piece of glass (they're made of a proprietary material called Gorilla Glass), but they do sometimes crack or even shatter when dropped. Sapphire screens would be more resistant still, and Apple is already using sapphire in the display of the Apple Watch: it's possible that the company is now ready to import this material into its smartphone line-up.
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