It's simple physics: More cell phones and smartphones with more ways to communicate and manage information use more juice and need to be recharged more often. The very tool most responsible for our productivity on the go can't stray too far from a wall socket. Not to worry--there are several cheap and convenient ways to keep the conversation going even when your battery icon empties in a plane, train, automobile or out on the trail. All are tiny, portable and dirt-cheap.
The newest of the bunch, "24/7" Power Pack from Medis Technologies, is just now reaching retail outlets. The pager-size device plugs into your phone's recharge port and is a fuel cell using a chemical reaction to generate electricity--similar to the technology that pushes the space shuttle. Just one squeeze of the disposable $20 pack releases enough power to provide up to 30 hours of talk time.
The $8 Cellboost, meanwhile, is an add-on to the bottom of your phone using down-to-earth alkaline power. Cellboost comes in a variety of shapes designed to snuggle up to cell phones, smartphones, iPods, Sony PSPs or Nintendo DS devices. After an hour of use, you toss the matchbox-size battery pack and reach for another.
An environmentally cuddlier variation on that theme is the Instant Power Charger, a matchbox-size power cell that mixes zinc with air to deliver up to three full charges for hours of power. Instant Power addresses the challenge of hooking into different devices with something called a SmartCord. For a what-the-heck $15, you get two PowerCartridges--up to six recharges--and a SmartCord.
But for the ultimate in longevity, environmentally sensitive backpackers or anyone wandering off the beaten path can't do better than the Side-winder Charger from Ist Designs. The $20 Side-winder, which looks like a pencil sharpener about half the size of the smallest cell phone, rewards you with six minutes of gab time for every two minutes you crank its tiny handle. It will keep recharging for as long as you keep cranking--a great way to build up those all-important pointer finger and thumb muscles.
The charger that came with your phone or handheld will always be a cheaper way to recharge on a daily basis. But these solutions are small and inexpensive enough to squirrel away in several places--purse, briefcase, suitcase, glove compartment or backpack. Then you'll be able to keep going the next time you, say, forget your cell phone charger at home or want to talk your way up Mt. McKinley.