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Chinese-made solar-powered cellphone to go on sale next month
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16:14, May 21, 2009

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The world's first "price-friendly" solar-powered cell phone will go on sale in some countries in Central America, the Caribbean and the South Pacific next month, with an estimated price of just 40 USD. Furthermore, this cell phone will be entirely "Chinese-made"; the manufacturer stated during an interview that it is "custom-made" for users in regions where there is a lack of electricity but plenty of sunlight, and they had independently undertaken the entire research, development manufacturing process.

Solar-powered cell phones have huge market potential.

In many countries in Central America and the South Pacific region electricity is a luxury, and people even have to pay cell phone dealers to charge their phones. However, in these countries there is plenty of sunlight. Therefore, the mobile operator Digicel Group decided that it would customize the world's first "price-friendly" solar powered cell phone, and sell it in Papa New Guinea, Tonga, Vanuatu, Haiti, Samoa and other regions from this June while offering related network coverage.

"In our lives, power cuts seldom occur though they are an inconvenience. However, in places where we develop business, no electricity is a problem that has to be faced every day," said Tom Bryant, Procurement and Distribution Director of Digicel Group. Headquartered in Jamaica, the group is the largest mobile operator in the Caribbean, with 6.54 million subscribed users. The cell phone, "custom-made" for regions where there is a lack of electricity but plenty of sunlight, has a small solar panel mounted on the back. Placing the cell phone under strong sunlight for 1 hour will support fifteen minutes of talk time; about 8 hours exposure to strong sunlight is required to fully charge the cell phone.

Experts estimate that the cell phone will enjoy a market of 700,000 users in these regions. Globally, among the 1.6 billion people who have no access to electricity, 680 million can afford this cell phone. The market potential of this type of cell phone is therefore huge.

The cell phone was designed and developed by a Chinese company.

It poses a technical challenge to manufacture a small, cheap solar-powered cell phone that can be charged within a reasonable amount of time. According to information, mobile operator Digicel Group ordered "extensive customization" of the product, with its design, research and development, as well as manufacture all undertaken by a Chinese manufacturer.

There is little difference in the appearance of this black cell phone and an ordinary cell phone. The only distinction is on the back, where there is a rectangle built-in solar panel. An official with the manufacturer's brand department said the solar panel was designed based on a Dutch company's technology. Placed under the sun, it will transform solar energy into electricity. Once fully charged, this solar-powered mobile phone can be used for two to three days.

It can be sold in China if there is a market

The manufacturer said that this solar-powered cell phone is positioned as "price-friendly" due to its low costs, mainly meeting the basic functions of making phone calls and sending text messages. Its retail price overseas is expected to be only around 40 USD.

Many manufacturers are now expressing strong interest in researching and developing solar-powered cell phones. South Korean manufacturers Samsung and LG recently launched their solar-powered cell phones. Just like the product launched by the Chinese maker, these two models of cell phones are designed with a solar panel placed on the back, but they are relatively "high-end." Samsung's cell phone has functions such as an FM radio, color screen, chord music ringtones and a compass. If charged for one hour, it can be used for 18 minutes. LG's cell phone can support three minutes of video conversation after being charged for 10 minutes.

There are also many places in China that enjoy sufficient sunlight but lack electricity supply. Are there any plans for domestic mass production of this type of Chinese-made environmentally-friendly cell phone? In response, the manufacturer said that if there is market demand and it can find cooperating operators, it will consider selling the product in the domestic market.

By People's Daily Online

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