Wysips Crystal Lets Smartphones Charge Via Light, Coming This Year

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The last time we met with Wysips back in 2011, we were blown away by the company's photovoltaic film prototype. The idea: let phones sip power from the sun or any ambient light source via the screen. This week at CES 2013, the company showed us an iPhone retro-fitted with its Wysips Crystal component to demonstrate how much closer it is to rocking the wireless world.

Wysips Crystal offers the promise of infinite standby time, plus wireless charging for emergency calls, QR scanning and payment transactions. Not keen on using your smartphone as a wallet because you don't want it to run out of juice? Crystal could solve that problem.The French-based Wysips has been concentrating on making its film more transparent over the last year and a half, attempting to find the right balance between power efficiency and display quality. The retro-fitted iPhone 3GS we fiddled with had 85 percent transparency, but Wysips is aiming for as high as 95 percent.

In our hands-on demo with Matthieu de Broca, U.S. and Canada sales and marketing director, we noticed only a small difference in brightness and clarity between the area of the iPhone's screen with Crystal technology versus the narrow sliver without the tech. While the film's surface was slightly gritty, the pinch to zoom gesture worked smoothly.

Wysips Crystal isn't meant to replace more robust wireless charging technologies like Qi and the Alliance For Wireless Power's spec. It's designed to let smartphone owners simply last a little bit longer before having to find an outlet. The company claims that after an hour of solar exposure you'll get an additional 10 minutes of talk time or 20 minutes of music listening.

Obviously, indoor light will yield less impressive results, but de Broca says Wysips is steadily improving power conversion behind the scenes. The company has already achieved 2.5 milliwatts per square centimeter and plans to double that by the middle of 2013. Wysips continues to make its technology thinner, too, moving from 500 to 300 microns.

The No. 1 question we had for de Broca is when Wysips Crystal will make its way to smarphones. He told us to stay tuned for some announcement at Mobile World Congress in February and that we'll see the technology make its way to handsets sometime later this year. Just bought a phone? Wysips is also working with case makers to integrate photovoltaic tech, and the company plans to expand its Crystal component to all sorts of other devices, from smart watches to wireless tags.