Mobile

Motorola cranks out new power play

The cell phone maker, searching for high-tech ways to extend battery life, will soon offer a method that smacks of kids' toys and Model T cars: windup.

Cell phone maker Motorola, searching for high-tech ways to extend battery life, will soon offer a method that smacks of kids' toys and Model T cars: windup.

As previously reported, Freecharge, the new power source for wireless phones created by Motorola and Freeplay Energy Group, incorporates a generator, which will allow phone users to extend their talk time by up to five minutes for every 45 seconds to one minute of cranking.

Cranking the generator produces electricity, which can be used to charge the phone's battery or can be stored in a battery inside Freecharge itself, which can also be used to power the phone. Freecharge connects to a cell phone via a plug-in adapter and wire. The device also includes a small flashlight.

Longer battery life has been the Holy Grail of consumer electronics devices from cell phones to notebook computers. Though many approaches have been tried--including larger external batteries and solar panels--little practical progress has come of those efforts because of the costs involved and the unwieldiness of products. Research into alternatives such as fuel cells, which use chemical reactions to create electricity, continues at companies including Motorola and Toshiba.

The Freecharge weighs 11.5 ounces and will cost about $65 when it ships in March, the companies said, amending an earlier prediction that it would ship by the end of 2001. A variety of models will be made available to fit most popular cellular phones.

While Motorola brings its cellular phone expertise to the table, Freeplay offers a wide range of devices, including radios and flashlights that are powered using solar energy or windup technology.