Are Wind-Up Handhelds the Future?

Handheld computers are great because they free their user from being tied to a wall with wires. A handheld can be used almost anywhere. And with wireless networking on the horizon, soon it might no longer be necessary for a handheld to ever physically connect to a computer at all. But there is one area that still inevitably and frequently brings many handhelds back into contact with a wire: power. While low- and some mid-range handhelds run off AAAs, most high-end handhelds are rechargeable and need to be plugged into a wall socket fairly frequently.

While this isn't a hassle for most people, it can be a major inconvenience for travellers. And for those who go places where electrical service is spotty or non-existent, this can be a real deal-breaker.

Motorola and Freeplay Energy Group believe they have a solution. They have recently announced the Freecharge, a small power generator that produces current by the user turning a crank.

While the companies are initially targeting the Freecharge at mobile phones, there's no reason why they couldn't introduce one for handhelds. The device uses changeable plugs to connect to the mobile phone; making one to fit a handheld computer seems relatively trivial.

The Freecharge has its own battery which is charged by winding the crank. How much use time is obtained this way depends on the power requirements of the handheld. When used with a mobile phone, approximately 45 seconds of winding will allow 4 - 6 minutes of talk time and several hours of standby time.

The Freecharge can also be charged with an AC adapter, allowing it to be used as a regular backup battery.

It fits in the palm of the hand and weighs 11.5 ounces. It even has a built-in flashlight.

The FreeCharge is expected to be available in March 2002 for $65.

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This is a good idea, but you will get some strange looks

I.M. Anonymous @ 1/13/2002 11:47:38 AM #
If your battery runs low in the middle of an important business meeting, I can just imagine the looks you will get when you start to "Crank" you palm like an old "Model T".

Sure, Bill, let me get those numbers for you "Rrrrrarrr....Rrrrrarrr....Rrrrarrrr" Ok, here they come now..."


RE: This is a good idea, but you will get some strange looks
I.M. Anonymous @ 1/13/2002 11:53:53 AM #
The alternative:

"Bill, let me get those numbers for you. Oops, I'm out of power. I guess I'll have to make some up. Wait, don't leave! I'm a good guesser! Come back!!"

RE: This is a good idea, but you will get some strange looks
I.M. Anonymous @ 1/13/2002 12:00:27 PM #
Would you both rather have your power drain and not be able to recharge until you go to your cradle...?

RE: This is a good idea, but you will get some strange looks
I.M. Anonymous @ 1/13/2002 3:18:41 PM #
I believe the R&D teams will not come out with something that makes it too toy-like for a start.

Energy has also been a source of problem for many electronic products, this is a very useful one that will come in very handy.

RE: This is a good idea, but you will get some strange looks
I.M. Anonymous @ 1/13/2002 9:25:15 PM #
ROTFL @ Doug

Good One!! :)

RE: This is a good idea, but you will get some strange looks
I.M. Anonymous @ 1/14/2002 2:05:55 PM #
PPC users will get big and strong muscles! :-)

RE: This is a good idea, but you will get some strange looks
I.M. Anonymous @ 1/14/2002 4:41:40 PM #
LOL! Thanks, Doug. I needed a good laugh!

How about an internal rotor like a fine Swiss watch?

I.M. Anonymous @ 1/13/2002 11:54:03 AM #
It will wind with the movement of your body and charge the battery.

RE: How about an internal rotor like a fine Swiss watch?
I.M. Anonymous @ 1/13/2002 12:35:19 PM #
A very fine idea, not 'cause I live in Switzerland, just a very good idea!! :-)
No seriously it is a very good thought! Like an automatic or kinetic watch that keeps the energy through body movement up high. In fact, a darn good idea!
But could anything that small give that much power for a Palm?

BTW, wasn't there a news flash some weeks ago, about the US army trying something out with energy being produced through a boot while walking...? All you need then is a cable...;-)

Cornelis Steinitz
Basel, Switzerland

LOL... Are you kidding me ... LOL

I.M. Anonymous @ 1/13/2002 4:29:36 PM #
Come on... I read the article... a 45 second winde will give +/- 6 min of talk time. How can you possibly think this could be ported to the "high end" Palm/Pocket PCs... I have a PocketPC 2002 after many boring years w/ Palm. The new devices are excellent on battery usage. My Casio E-200, can get 2 hours and still have 60% left usage of battery. If I need to use it all day, I already have many "realistic" optoins.. AA battery extenders, spare battery, you name it. Get real people.. this is America.. not South friken Afreica in a bush land somewhere

No Vision
I.M. Anonymous @ 1/13/2002 5:11:37 PM #
If you switched to a PPC and like it, its obvious that your never more than 5 feet from a plug. If that's your life, fine. But there are lots of people who don't live that way right here in this country. And I don't know what you are complaining about. You already gave up a small handheld for a brick. What's a bit more to carry around?

RE: LOL... Are you kidding me ... LOL
He||Raiser @ 1/13/2002 6:30:25 PM #
Hmm... 60% after two hours? So your PPC only gets 5 hours of use? Sound's like you're pretty well tied to that wall socket.

This could be a genuinely good Springboard module!
I.M. Anonymous @ 1/13/2002 9:27:25 PM #
This would be one that makes sense. At least more sense than a massager.

The world doesn't centre around you man...
I.M. Anonymous @ 1/14/2002 12:03:16 AM #
This is NOT America you self-centered septic. Open an atlas... take a good hard look. There are places that exist beyond the 51 states (or however many freakin states you have).

This is world, baby!
I.M. Anonymous @ 1/14/2002 2:22:19 AM #
Good one! :-D

RE: LOL... Are you kidding me ... LOL
Hotoru @ 1/14/2002 11:22:45 AM #
I find it kinda funny how we have some Pocket PC "converts" wo still spend time on the PALMinfocenter website. Maybe that PPC leaves a bit to be desired?

RE: LOL... Are you kidding me ... LOL
I.M. Anonymous @ 1/14/2002 2:18:45 PM #
1. Chargable adapter plugs - same revice recharges both battery of Palm and Phone.
2. This is a real problem for folks who travel with any PDA, not just Palms.
3. Kindly engage your brain for a moment - which uses more power, a celfon radiating at 300-500mw or a PDA? Enough cranking to yield a 5 min phone call will recharge a Palm very nicely.

RE: LOL... Are you kidding me ... LOL
I.M. Anonymous @ 1/14/2002 4:46:32 PM #
It's 51 states if you include Afghanistan. We may not keep that one though. Cheers.

RE: LOL... Are you kidding me ... LOL
I.M. Anonymous @ 1/14/2002 5:05:06 PM #
Well, to be honest - you are more than welcome to that one - there's no decent surfing there man!

nice story

SaxonMan @ 1/13/2002 9:26:30 PM #
should we really believe this?
no offense but i think they could come up with something better.


A little yet big thing

I.M. Anonymous @ 1/13/2002 9:24:49 PM #
I think this is just the type of inovation the handheld market needs now. Not the average gee wiz accesory, but something more fundamental yet crucial.

I just got back from a long stay in Europe, packing along my H330 and suit of accesories, but with fairly heavy use, drained the ion battery about halfway through the trip. It was great to be able to switch over to AAA and be good to go, but after needing AAA's for other gadgets, I almost ran out of them too. Also had a lot of experiences of getting 'bad' batteries which turn out to be almost dead when you install them.

Finding a place that has a converter for 120V and the correct connectors was a complete failure while in Europe. There were many types of outlets...

I would buy one of these things in a heartbeat. Think of all the people in the world who travel, especially internationally or all the places you could go and always have your trusty PDA fully juiced and at your beccon.

Simple beuty

RE: A little yet big thing
I.M. Anonymous @ 1/14/2002 9:53:42 PM #
I agree with you... I just think they should make one with a paddle wheel for us river hikers. or maybe a fan blade for windy days..hehehe

I have seen some solar options too that look even more appealing.

Cool idea

I don't know why this seems to be a ''crazy'' idea.

ssummer @ 1/14/2002 4:55:08 PM #
First off, people have a lot more important things to worry about than how they look "cranking" a Palm in a meeting. I'll admit, it's not really a business person's tool. But for Palm docs practicing medicine in remote locations or in emergency situations, for travelers with GPS units on their Palm, or people who simply need to use their Palm heavily for a few days straight and don't have the space or desire to carry around a charger, this has the potential to be a great accessory.

Right now the only other power "alternative" is fuel cells. If you're embarrassed by winding a PDA during a meeting then you'll probably also be embarassed by "filling up" your PDA during a meeting. Looks like you'll be stuck with Lith-ion batteries forever...

P.S. - to the idiot that thinks AA battery extenders and spare batteries are "realistic" options, step outside of your cushy suburb or big city and actually travel the U.S. you'll see how realistic these options are. All of a sudden South Africa doesn't look too bad...

What About Solar Power?

mrscarey @ 1/15/2002 8:11:45 AM #
There are already solar chargers available and you only need daylight to do this.

I think 15 mins in direct sunlight to fully charge an IPaq is quite impressive!

(I have no affilitation to this product just found it after reading this ridiculous wind-up article.)


palmist and visionary

RE: What About Solar Power?
Ed @ 1/15/2002 8:30:58 AM #
If you are interested in solar power, you should take a look at this:

News Editor

It's In The Title

PIC mobile user @ 3/20/2002 1:03:55 PM #
I understand that this gadget might interest people who live in the dark but don't we already have an alternative power source?
Solar power - and you don't look stupid using it.


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