Do a Google search on "improve iPhone battery life" and you'll get about 7-million-plus results; it's been an ongoing search trend for the past seven years. Juicing your gadgets is a multibillion-dollar industry. Most companies, however, are focused on stored energy, rather than creating it on the move. Solar chargers are one solution, but they tend to be bulky and annoying to tote around. This might be about to change, though, with a bookmark-style solar charger that's less than half an inch thick.
IMAGE DISTRIBUTED FOR NRG - A young "Superhero" looks on as cell phones are charged on the new NRG Energy Street Charge portable power charging station at the Houston Children's Museum in on Thursday, June 18, 2015 in Houston. The unit was delivered today and charges mobile phones and is powered by solar energy. (Photo by Scott Dalton/Invision for NRG/AP Images)
A portable solar panel outside of a backpack on the grass of a park along with other technological devices
Students install photovoltaic panels on September 24, 2015 in Ungersheim, eastern France. AFP PHOTO / SEBASTIEN BOZON (Photo credit should read SEBASTIEN BOZON/AFP/Getty Images)
BELFAST, ME - AUGUST 6: An energy efficiency program in Belfast led to this 180-panel solar array atop the city's fire department roof and might yet include, pending city council consideration, a solar installation at an old landfill that, together with the fire department array, would provide 20 percent of Belfast's electricity needs. (Photo by Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
The prototype of the hybrid platfom PH4S which combines renewable energy from solar, wind, wave and tidal sources, is launched on the port of Saint Nazaire on July 17, 2015. The pilot platform includes a wind turbine, solar panels, a tidal turbine and a wave power system capturing the energy of currents and waves. AFP PHOTO / GEORGES GOBET (Photo credit should read GEORGES GOBET/AFP/Getty Images)
In this Oct. 1, 2015 photo, solar panels are displayed for sale at a market in New Delhi, India. India plans a fivefold boost in renewable energy capacity in the next five years to 175 gigawatts, including solar power, wind, biomass and small hydropower dams. (AP Photo/Saurabh Das)
Swiss-made Solar Impulse-2 takes off from Ahmadabad, India, Wednesday, March 18, 2015. The solar powered aircraft is Wednesday headed to the northern Indian city of Varanasi on the third leg of itsâ historic round-the-world trip. (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki)
In this April 20, 2015 photo, David Cunnigham shows a prototype Tesla battery system that powers his Foster City, Calif. home. Cunnigham installed the battery late last year to pair with his solar panels as part of a pilot program run by the California Public Utilities Commission to test home battery performance. Tesla is expected to unveil a stationary battery for homeowners and businesses on Thursday, April 30, 2015. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
A green solarbox stands next to a red phone box as a tour bus drives past in central London, Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014. Solarboxes are disused telephone boxes transformed into free solar powered charging points for mobile phones. The solarbox, a social enterprise project, is said by its creators to be the first of its kind. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Some of the 300,000 computer-controlled mirrors, each about 7 feet high and 10 feet wide, reflect sunlight to boilers that sit on 459-foot towers. The sun's power is used to heat water in the boilers' tubes and make steam, which in turn drives turbines to create electricity Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014 in Primm, Nev. The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, sprawling across roughly 5 square miles of federal land near the California-Nevada border, will be opened formally Thursday after years of regulatory and legal tangles. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
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Solar Paper's appeal is undeniably its style. It's skinny and discreet and, as promotional photos show, it can even be used as a bookmark. It fully charges most gadgets in around 2.5 hours via USB. It's even smart — a sensor sends it into power-saving mode whenever the sky gets cloudy, to keep trickling energy to your device without shutting off. And it weighs just 70 grams a panel. (That's about three Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.) "We thought it should be slim and light, like a paper," says South Korean designer Sen Chang. For her, this is about "green energy, free energy."
Preorder prices range from $50 to $300 (more money gets you more wattage). Buyers also have the option to attach extra solar panels to the charger via a magnetic clasp — useful for charging several objects simultaneously. Extra panels do bulk up the charger, though. Best to stick with fewer panels for city strolling and take more for longer, outdoor trips.
This is the second solar product made by Yolk, a company founded in 2014. The first, Solarade, was marketed as the world's smallest solar charger and received rave reviews in the tech press, which inspired Chang to use her newfound experience in production and sourcing materials to make an even slimmer product. Her goal: to change the perception that solar chargers work slowly. The product sparked tremendous interest; the Kickstarter goal was $50,000 and more than $1 million was received.
Portable solar chargers have been done before, but with Solar Paper, "the thinness is new," says Cherlynn Low, staff writer at Tom's Guide tech magazine. She notes that people prefer using combined power options, such as a charging phone case, as two-in-one products address both power and protection. And solar products need sunlight; a cloudy day means a slower charge.
Of course, solar power isn't the only green option available for juicing up your gadgets. There's charging your phone by fire, water and even pedal power (using the kinetic energy built up by cycling). But something about using sunlight as a source of energy feels natural, and it's getting major support from President Obama. He pledged $1 billion for use on clean energy initiatives, and is pushing for solar panels in low-income homes.
This might be the dawning of the solar generation, and we can all appreciate that heat.