Mobile gear gets a charge on the run

Murphy’s Law loves mobile devices: Just when you need it most, your digital gear runs out of juice. But two companies here at PC Expo/TechXNY have announced products for the energy-starved portable-gadget crowd.

For those powerless moments, Seidio Inc. is showing the US$64 Emergency Power Kit. Juice, priced at US$100, is the entry from IGo Corp. Both come with adapter cords for plugging your device into a car lighter socket, a standard AC wall outlet, and an airliner’s in-flight power plug.

Seidio’s kit will charge your PDA and cell phone when no wall socket is to be found. IGo’s product requires a power source but can recharge your laptop (which Seidio can’t) while also powering up your PDA or cell phone.

Both items compete with a charger from Electric Fuel Ltd., announced last year. To a lesser extent they are rivals with FreeCharge, a portable, human-operated, wind-up power source for mobile phones sold by Motorola Inc. and Freeplay Energy Group.

The Seidio product requires just a standard 9-volt battery, typically priced under US$3. That packs enough punch to recharge a typical cell phone or Pocket PC one time. The cost is cheap compared with that of Electric Fuel’s Instant Power, whose zinc-air cartridge will run you US$10 for three recharges. (Instant Power also requires an adapter cord.) Seidio has a stronger appeal primarily because 9-volt batteries are much easier to find than zinc-air cartridges, which are sold only at select electronics stores.

The Seidio Emergency Power Kit comes in a zipper pouch that neatly accommodates the adapters for wall outlets, autos, and planes. It includes cables for recharging your cell phone or PDA using your notebook’s USB connection; the cord conveniently doubles as a syncing cable for your PDA as well.

Emergency Power Kits are scheduled to become available Friday on Seidio’s Web site. Kits are compatible with most Pocket PC models, rechargeable Palm-based devices, and top cell phone models.

IGo’s Juice also comes in a carrying case. Inside are the necessary connectors to power up your notebook through a wall outlet, car lighter or airplane jack. You will have to buy extra cords for about US$10 each if you want to recharge your PDA and cell phone.

Juice eliminates your need to carry your notebook power cords. And, like the Seidio product, Juice conveniently allows you to charge handheld devices by plugging them into a notebook’s USB port.

IGo’s Juice will be commercially available at the end of July, a company representative says.

Where both products fall short, however, is in mobile backup and emergency power for devices other than cell phones, notebooks, and PDAs. In this area Electric Fuel has you covered, since it makes backup power products for camcorders and digital cameras.