Mumbai: Which of us would not want to install the Szlab solar charge app -- that claims “Go green! Charge your phone with the power of the sun! Start this application, put your phone in a well-lit place and watch your battery charge using the solar panel” -- to recharge our phone’s dying battery on the go?
But before we fall for this gimmick and into the category of a “mentally challenged troll”, as the creators of the app put it, you may do well to remember that nothing short of magic (till scientists find a way) would convert a liquid crystal display or LCD screen into a solar panel.
LCD is not a light transducer. In other words, it does not convert electrons into photons and therefore cannot be run “in reverse” to generate electricity. The semiconductor in a solar cell is specifically fabricated to do this job. Solar panels use light energy or photons from the sun to generate electricity through the photovoltaic effect, which is the creation of voltage or electric current in a material upon exposure to light.
A solar cell, also called a photovoltaic cell, is an electrical device that converts light energy directly into electricity by the photovoltaic effect. The creators of the Szlab app have a note at the bottom of the app (which, we as we all know, is seldom read) that reads thus: “Note: Of course this application is not charging your phone. You didn’t think so, did you?! The only reason for this app is to collect the mentally challenged trolls--who never read the description this far--complaining about every app. Or you can fool your friends with this nice ‘charging feature’ if you like.”
If solar charger apps were just meant to poke fun, it would have served as a healthy prank for the gullible and online challenged. But these apps, which claim to convert the phone’s screen into solar panels, are not being used just to poke fun. Malicious applications, such as Battery Long (Android.Ackposts1), that appear to help with the battery life, simply steal information from the compromised device, according to a new report by security firm Symantec Corp.
There are some applications that will offer status updates on battery life and notify you when your battery is getting low. Still others help make your battery last longer by turning off features that are not necessary. The effectiveness of these types of applications varies from the useful to the negligible, so a little research is required, according to the Symantec report released in October.
“Breaking through the boundaries of credibility are a bunch of applications that will supposedly turn your phone screen into a solar charger. Even though this is completely false, there are a number of ‘legitimate’ applications out there making this claim. Many operate by using the cameras to measure the ambient light levels to move an onscreen dial, indicating the ‘charge rate’ for increased accuracy. These are joke applications at best, in some cases even including small print on the application description page denying it has the ability to actually charge the phone,” the analysts said in the report.
There is good reason to avoid such applications altogether, said the report, citing the example of Android.Sumzand2, an application which claims to be able to convert the screen on your device into a solar panel and use it to charge the battery, if exposed to sunlight.
However, there are some unstated capabilities within this application that you need to watch out for—Android.Sumzand also happens to steal contact data from your phone, the analysts added.
“Until real solar panels are actually installed on phones, it’s best to just continue charging your phone the old-fashioned way: plugging it in to a wall socket or USB port. Besides that, be careful what you download and install from application marketplaces. If an application requests permissions that seem out of the ordinary for what it is supposed to do, then don’t install it,” the analysts cautioned.