MyFC Jaq fuel-cell charger jacks up your phone in style (hands-on)

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BARCELONA -- You're waiting for that vital call and your phone's battery is blinking red. Which will give out first? Your last hope is to dive in your bag and pull out your portable charger -- and with the colourful MyFC Jaq fuel-cell charger you can bring your phone back to life in style, safe in the knowledge you're doing your bit for the environment.

A fuel cell is a device that mixes salt and water to release hydrogen and generate electricity. The only by-products are heat and water vapour. Formed in 2005 as an offshoot of Sweden's Royal Institute of Technology, MyFC has its eyes on creating consumer-friendly fuel-cell products. The Jaq is the third device from the company.

The Jaq involves two parts: a rubberised sleeve with a Micro-USB cable socket to connect into your phone, and a cartridge containing salt and water that slips into the sleeve. Once the cartridge is slipped into the sleeve, it locks in place and the chemical reaction begins, pumping juice into your phone.

Each slimline cartridge is essentially a 2,400mAh battery. That's roughly the size of a larger smartphone battery, meaning most phones will get something like one and a half full charges from each cartridge.

Plug in your phone and the Jaq begins charging, with no need to have topped it up from the mains first. Sarah Tew/CNET

I was interested in MyFC having recently reviewed the Upp Fuel Cell Charger . While I was intrigued by the potential of fuel-cell technology, the Upp left me with a lot of reservations: it was too big, too expensive and the refilling process too complicated. But the Jaq answers every one of those problems.

First off, size. The Jaq is stunningly small. It's roughly the size of a phone -- heck, in the future it could potentially be fitted into a phone -- so it slips easily in a pocket or clutch. It's also lovely to look at, the grippy rubberised pouch and the slimline both designed with sleek curves and finished in bright glossy colours.

The stylish and slim MyFC Jaq is roughly the size of a phone and slips easily into a jacket or clutch. Sarah Tew/CNET

Next up is the price. Although it's yet to be confirmed, a MyFC spokeswoman told me the pouch unit should cost around $99 -- that's roughly £65 or AU$130 -- and a cartridge somewhere in the region of $2 -- that's roughly £1.50 or AU$2.50. The idea is that you'd buy cartridges in multipacks, perhaps nine for $10.

Obviously that's more expensive than simply plugging your phone into the wall socket, which provides an endless supply of electricity that's (sort of) free. But it's way, way cheaper than, for example, the Upp, and it's on a par with buying AA batteries to run a portable charger.

Speaking of portable chargers, like the Mophie JuicePack, the Jaq also frees you from having to remember to charge your spare charger in advance, as it generates its own power. You just plug the two parts together and start charging your phone, with no wall socket required at any point.

And finally, recycling. One of the problems with the Upp is that although the cartridges can be refilled, they have to be returned to Upp at great expense and hassle. By contrast, the Jaq cartridges are disposable. They only contain salt, water and plastic and so they're safe to be chucked in the bin -- or even better, thrown in the plastic recycling, which is much more environmentally friendly.

Environmental concerns are a major driving force behind the development of fuel cells, and the gorgeous curves of the MyFC Jaq combine aesthetic appeal and a vaguely palatable price to give you a glimpse of the potential future of power.

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MyFC Jaq

Part Number: CNETMyFC Jaq

Visit manufacturer site for details.