It has been said that more of the world’s population has access to a cellphone than to a sanitary toilet. But of the planet’s estimated 5 billion cellphone users, a privileged minority have smartphones; a paltry few, iPhones. If you spend hours thumbing through pages of apps, scoffing at less-than-perfect software upgrades and grousing about screen resolution and pixel density, it’s easy to forget that the very concept of a mobile phone is a miracle. It’s a device that shrinks your day to day world into a single point, making you simultaneously accessible to and able to access nearly everyone you know, instantly and everywhere.
A new research prototype phone from the company is able to power itself on nothing more than ambient radiowaves – the weak TV, radio and mobile phone signals that permanently surround us. The power harvested is small but it is almost enough to power a mobile in standby mode indefinitely without ever needing to plug it into the mains, according to Markku Rouvala, one of the researchers who developed the device at the Nokia Research Centre in Cambridge, UK.