Xiaomi is gaining a reputation for making some fantastically innovative smartphone concepts and patents. From its three-part folding phone to its front camera bump to its under-display selfie camera, it’s clear there’s plenty of imagination to go around its Beijing HQ.
What's next? How about a solar-powered phone? As discovered by LetsGoDigital (via TechRadar), Xiaomi patented a smartphone with a photovoltaic cell on the back in July 2018. The panel covers most of the of the phone's back surface, excluding the very bottom, and the top section where the camera (a two lens array) is located according to the illustrations you can see below.
The panel would be fairly thin, or be at least flush with the rest of the phone's back, since it doesn't add any additional height according to the illustrations. It also looks like it will be slightly curved based on the shape of the rest of the back.
This wouldn’t be the first phone with a solar panel. Samsung released the Crest Solar/Solar Guru in 2009 in a few markets, a budget feature phone with a solar cell on the back. At the other end of the price spectrum, the Russian smartphone customizer Caviar also sells a solar powered iPhone X, although this costs over four times as much as the already costly original handset.
The illustrations also show that there’s no notch or punch-hole depicted on the screen of the phone, and no markings on the top edge to indicate a pop-up module.
This might be purely a shortcut so the illustrator could focus on the more interesting part of the phone, or could hint at Xiaomi’s under-display camera tech, and that it intends for it to be used on many of its future devices. You can also spot what looks like a USB-C port on the bottom edge of the phone.
Smartphone patents should be considered carefully. While these are definitely real documents, just because a company has reserved an idea that doesn’t mean it plans to use it.