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Solar Powered iPhone Case Launched Amid Overheating Reports

The Surge sounds like a good idea but there have been concerns about overheating iPods and iPhones over recent months

US start-up Novothink has launched a case for iPods and iPhones with a built in solar panel – and the bonus of a built in thermal sensor to avoid the risk of overheating which has afflicted some Apple devices in the last months.

Launched this week, the Surge, as the device is known, is a plastic back cover for iPods and iPhones that adds about 10mm to the thickness of the phone, and has a built-in solar panel. Two hours of charging gives about half an hour of talk time, says Novothink.

Several solar-powered iPhone chargers have been launched (including the Solio, Arcadia and the SOLiCharger) but this is the first to get Apple approval – and the first to launch with a nod to the iPhone’s current overheating issues.

According to Novothink, the device will automatically detect when the Apple devices need to be charged and will top up batteries when required. If the device is fully charged, Novothink claims the Surge will transfer its charge to its own internal battery (120 percent as big as the iPhone’s own) and charge the iPhone or iPod as necessary.

“Founded by both technology industry veterans and environmental enthusiasts, Novothink began with a clean and simple vision to bring solar technology together with portable electronic devices,” the company states on its website.

But while a solar powered iPhone charger appears to be a neat idea, users may be concerned about heat. Recently Apple devices have been reported to be overheating, and use of a solar charger must involve putting the device in warm sunlight.

Last week Government officials in France met with Apple representatives after recent reports of iPhones and iPod Touches overheating and screens shattering. The European Commission said in a press conference earlier this month that it had contacted Apple about the iPhone and iPod Touch problems reported by some consumers in Europe.

Also in August an iPod Touch belonging to an 11 year old girl from Liverpool apparently “exploded”. The girl’s father Ken Stanborough, 47, said that he dropped the device which then made a “hissing noise” and eventually exploded “there was a pop, a big puff of smoke and it went 10ft in the air” he reportedly told the newspaper.

In the US, a reporter from Seattle’s KIRO TV station reported how the station used the Freedom of Information Act to get the Consumer Product Safety Commission to turn over 800-pages which referred to issues of iPods overheating.

For its part, Novothink claims that it has considered the potential overheating issues connected with its devices – and may even have helped the issue.

“Our smart solar charger has also a built-in thermal sensor, which will stop charging to prevent your iPhone and your charger from overheating,” the company said. “Of course, use your common sense and don’t leave your iPod touch on a dashboard in extremely hot weather as this could damage your iPhone and even the charger, although our charger withstands higher temperatures than the iPhone.”

Solar power has also emerged for cheaper phones intended for areas of the world where power is not always available.

Novothink has not released details of when the Surge might be available in the UK, but the iPod version is expected to be released this month in the US for around $70 (£43).

The picture shows the back of the Surge, with its solar panel. .