There are many reasons why you might not flip open a phone in the most remote patches of an increasingly cellular world. But battery failure is, for better or worse, no longer an excuse.
A growing number of products, more Flintstones than Jetsons in concept, allow you to recharge a cell phone with nothing more than your own muscle power.
Already in the marketplace is Aladdinpower, a hand-held generator that looks something like a tension grip from a home gym and sells for US$59.95. Slightly more than 12cm long and 3.8cm wide, it converts squeezes into energy that can be transferred to almost any cell phone or other device with a rechargeable battery. For a cell phone, three minutes of squeezing generates about 20 minutes of talk time, said Keith Collins, Aladdinpower's president and chief executive.
The energy is delivered through a tiny regulator, which is included. Getting the juice from the regulator to the phone requires that the phone have an adapter of the sort used with a car's cigarette lighter. Collins said spelunkers were among the product's most avid users -- apparently for the included hand-powered emergency light, which may be more handy in a cave than a cell phone.
In November, Motorola is scheduled to introduce a recharger that will convert not a squeeze but a twist. The device, called FreeCharge and priced at US$49.99, will be made by Freeplay, whose hand-cranked flashlights and radios have sold more than 3 million units in the last five years.
The recharger will convert 45 seconds of winding into five to six minutes of talk time or three to four hours of standby time, said Gary Brandt, a Motorola business director overseeing the product.
The charger, slightly larger than Aladdinpower's hand unit and weighing seven ounces, will be packaged with one of three cables suited to particular models of Motorola phones. The cables will also be sold separately, and future versions will be adaptable to cell phones from other manufacturers, Brandt said.
The device will also store a charge from wall current, serving in effect as a spare battery. In contrast to Freeplay's previous products, the recharger will store and release energy chemically rather than mechanically. It will be sold in stores and online at www.motorola.com.
Both Freeplay and Aladdinpower are looking beyond the products at hand -- specifically, to products underfoot. In October, Aladdinpower will introduce a new version of an out-of-stock product, the Stepcharger -- in essence a foot pump that generates power. The 18-volt device will have a built-in regulator re-engineered to meet the increasing power demands of laptop batteries.
Three minutes of stomping will yield about 30 minutes of laptop life or an hour of cell-phone talk time, Collins said. The expected retail price is US$129.95.
More information concerning Aladdinpower's devices is available at www.aladdinpower.com. Freeplay can be contacted online at www.freeplay.net.
And lest you feel guilty about taking your 24-7 connectedness into the wilderness, think of it this way: It's not only a phone call, it's a workout.