Technology may be shrinking, ditching wires and becoming more mobile by leaps and bounds, but we're still tied down by the power cable. The finite, seemingly ever-shrinking capacity of batteries (and, of course, the hunt for wall plugs) remains the great equalizer in the tech world. But new apps and gadgets are allowing users to better manage their power needs, stretch out battery lives and save a couple of bucks. At the very least, we can amuse ourselves by building chargers into cute action figures.
It's a favourite game of gadget aficionados: The "how many texts can I send/driving directions can I look up/songs can I listen to before I run out of juice?" derby. (Or, as I like to call it, iPhone Chicken.) Max out productivity while you're out and about with this handy keychain charger. The battery, which is roughly the size of a Zippo lighter and weighs just 4 oz, can restore 30% of your iPhone's power capacity. It's a perfect power solution for those who find built-in battery cases too bulky. Grab one for $35 US at photojojo.com.
Looking to save batteries from the landfill? The SecondWind charger is designed to put power back into disposable AA and AAA alkaline batteries. Pop your dry Duracells and Energizers into the charger and they'll be ready to go again in 90 minutes. (The company recommends using name-brand batteries, since better quality translates to longer battery life and more charges.) The unit will shut off power to your batteries after they've been in the unit for four hours, eliminating potential safety hazards. The SecondWind is $59.99 at secondwindcharger.com.
Android users feeling left out by the proliferation of cutesy iPhone products: Your day has come. Andru is a phone charger shaped like that cuddly green Android logo; its eyes light up blue when your phone's charging and white when your phone's on standby power. And just in case that wasn't enough, its arms are poseable. Make a friend for $24.99 US at thinkgeek.com.
A battery app can help you get the most out of your phone's charge capacity. Among the top picks for iOS devices is Battery Doctor Pro. In addition to maxing out your battery's charge capacity, it also provides info on how much time your phone will stay running at your current battery level, and shows you which apps are sapping your energy while running in the background. Pick it up for $1 at the App Store.
Of course, you should never neglect to recharge your own batteries. For many of us, that means a toasty mug filled with a delicious caffeinated beverage. Get your java jolt with this colour-changing battery mug. The heat of your drink will change the battery to "full"; as you drink, or as the mug cools, the green bars fade. For the gamers, there's also a pixellated "life" heart that fills and empties. It's $15 US at thinkgeek.com.