- Works anywhere, anytime
- can be charged from mains.
- needs winding quite quickly.
In a case of 'high tech meets low tech', Motorola has teamed up with Freeplay Energy Group to produce the FreeCharge, a wind-up mobile phone charger. Armed with this device, you can recharge your mobile phone anywhere at any time, without needing mains electricity or a car power socket.
The term 'wind-up' isn't strictly accurate. The mechanism used isn't clockwork -- rather, the handle winds a generator, which charges an internal Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) battery. This can then be used to charge your mobile's own battery, or to provide power for a call directly. It's also possible to charge the FreeCharge's battery using the mains adapter for your mobile phone if you don't have the energy or inclination to wind the handle. Motorola claims that 45 seconds' winding will produce 4-6 minutes of talk time and 'several hours' of standby time.
The FreeCharge connects to your mobile using a phone-specific module that plugs into the end of the unit. At launch, only modules for Motorola phones are available, but Nokia modules are being developed and are expected to be ready in September. Further modules in development will handle other makes of phone, and perhaps other device types. Each phone module has a socket corresponding to the one used on the phone, so that the mains adapter can be connected to charge the FreeCharge's battery. There's also an on/off button on the module that lights up if there's charge in the FreeCharge.
Motorola states that the battery inside the FreeCharge has a similar capacity to 'the one inside your phone', but it's actually a 1,000mAh unit. To fully charge the battery from flat would take 35 minutes of winding -- something you're unlikely to do in one go. However, you can divide this task into manageable chunks without losing a significant amount of energy.
A green LED by the handle lights up when you're winding fast enough to produce charge. This is very useful, since you have to wind faster than you'd imagine -- we reckon around 100rpm. The FreeCharge's generator makes quite a noise when you're winding, so take care if you use it in a public place.
As well as the mobile charger modules, you're given a torch module for the FreeCharge. Unfortunately it's a bit disappointing, considering that FreePlay has produced wind-up torches before. It uses a single incandescent bulb without a reflector, and hence the light output is somewhat low. A better and more efficient alternative would have been to base the module on white LEDs, which would have been at least as bright, and more energy efficient.
The FreeCharge weighs 350g and measures 14.5 by 6.0 by 5.2cm with the handle folded in -- probably much larger than your mobile. However, you're only likely to carry the FreeCharge when you're expecting to be away from a power source for some time.
We expect adapter modules for all sorts of handheld electronic devices to appear before long, so if you're an habitual gadget user it may be worth investing in a FreeCharge now. At £59.99 (inc. VAT) it's hardly an impulse buy, but the price could fall if sales go well.
Laudable as the environmental benefits of using person-power to charge a mobile phone are, the long wind time needed for a full charge means that most people will use this device in an emergency, rather than every time the phone runs out of charge.
|Dimensions (W x H x D)||145x52x60 mm|
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