Wind-up phone charger lands in UK

'Hello! I'm on the generator!' Could this be the new refrain of commuters as they wind up their mobile phone batteries on their way to work?

If you've ever had your mobile's battery go flat miles away from the nearest mains socket, your problem is solved. Launched on Wednesday, the Motorola FreeCharge is a wind-up mobile phone charger. The FreeCharge is a joint development between Motorola and Freeplay Energy Group, the developers of the wind-up radio, and allows you to charge your mobile anywhere, at any time -- providing you're prepared to put in the effort.

Click here to see a photo of the FreeCharge.

Although it was initially announced some time ago, the FreeCharge has only now become available in volume. At present, only Motorola phones are supported, but adapters for Nokia mobiles are expected by September. Adapters for other brands of phone, and possibly other devices, are also being developed and will be released over time.

At the same time, Freeplay has launched its first multi-band wind-up radio, the Summit. It features FM, AM, SW and LW reception, digital tuning and a 30-station memory. Like previous Freeplay radios, created by inventor Trevor Baylis, it has a solar panel in addition to the winding mechanism, and can be plugged into a mains adapter. Unlike previous models, Summit is no larger than equivalent battery-powered radios. ZDNet UK will review both the FreeCharge and the Summit shortly.

Both new products use Freeplay's latest power technology, which unlike the first generation of wind-up radios does not rely on clockwork. Instead, the devices use a directly wound generator and an internal rechargeable battery to store the energy. Baylis' original wind-up power source used a spring to wind a generator to produce electricity. The inclusion of a battery is what makes it possible to charge from the mains.

Freeplay intends to develop what it calls "self-sufficient energy" for other devices. Rory Stear, chairman and chief executive of Freeplay Energy Group, said at the launch that the company intended to put its technology into as many electronic devices as possible. Apart from the obvious application of the FreeCharge to devices like PDAs, Freeplay is working on more powerful generators for more demanding applications such as laptops. A foot-powered generator is one such innovation in the pipeline, which will use two of the generators used in the FreeCharge. Other possible areas for development are wind-powered generators.

The FreeCharge is expected to retail at £59.99, and will be available from Mobile Phone stores and Motorola's Web site. The Summit will sell for £85.99, and should be available in many high-street stores.

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