Vodafone Essar, the Indian subsidiary of Vodafone Group, launched a solar powered mobile phone in India on Tuesday, aiming to address problems with the unstable electricity supply in many parts of the country.
The VF 247 solar powered phone can be charged in sunlight or ambient light, or from mains electricity, according to a company spokesman. It will go on sale in India in about six weeks, priced at about 1,500 Indian rupees (US$32), he said.
The phone is likely to go on sale in a number of countries, starting with India and South Africa, other sources said. The VF 247 is made by Chinese phone and network equipment manufacturer ZTE.
Electricity supply is erratic in most Indian cities, with frequent power cuts. In semi-urban areas, access to electricity is also difficult, requiring people sometimes to walk long distances to find a power point to charge their phones, said Ruchika Batra, a spokeswoman for Samsung in India.
Her employer introduced a dual-powered phone called Solar Guru in June last year, priced at 2,799 rupees. That phone could be charged by solar power or mains electricity.
"We found that the phone was popular in the cities as well," Batra said.
Samsung has, however, stopped selling the product, as part of a routine refresh of its product line-up, and plans to introduce a new model at an unspecified date. "We still see great opportunity in a solar powered product," Batra said.
Nokia is also working on products to address the requirement of users who do not have easy access to mains electricity to charge their phones. The company unveiled a bicycle charger kit in Nairobi, Kenya, in June. It uses a small dynamo or electrical generator, powered by the rotation of the bicycle wheel, to charge a phone. Nokia said the kit would be available before year end.
A number of Indian vendors are offering other ways to work around the electricity problem in India, including extended battery life of 30 days on their phones, and dual-mode mobile phones that can use regular alkaline batteries when users run out of charge on their mobile batteries.