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Solar Panels Could Resurrect the Passe Flip Phone

The Chinese telecom giant’s award-winning “Double” cell phone design updates the traditional flip phone for a solar-powered future.

Are flip phones passé in a post-iPhone world? Chinese telecom company ZTE doesn’t think so: their concept for the “Double” phone, which sports solar panels on both sides of its attractive clamshell body, just won a prestigious 2010 Red Dot Design Concept award.

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solar-panel-phone

The insight is simple: If cell phone batteries suck, why not put the flip-phone’s extra real estate — especially the part that’s waving around untouched in midair when you hold it — to use powering the device itself? And so what if your hand is covering up half the available solar cells when you’re dialing or talking — it’s still better than nothing. The tradeoff is that when the phone is sitting around in standby, you can angle it so that the photovoltaic shell draws in the most life-giving rays possible.

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ZTE's Double phone

Even better, the Double’s full-flex hinge lets you place the phone’s 3.2-inch LCD screen in an optimal position for hands-free reading or video-viewing. It’s manufactured from recyclable materials and even has a touchscreen interface, so you won’t feel left out in a crowd full of glass slabs.

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The only thing that stinks about the Double concept, in fact, is that it’s just a concept — who knows if or when ZTE will actually put it into production? Let’s hope the Red Dot award lights a fire under their engineers’ butts, because I want one of these on Verizon more than I want another half-baked pseudo-iPhone.

[Read more at Red Dot]

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About the author

John Pavlus is a writer and filmmaker focusing on science, tech, and design topics. His writing has appeared in Wired, New York, Scientific American, Technology Review, BBC Future, and other outlets

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