Big products make big news. Big products that are constantly being made smaller (a well-established trend evident at recent tradeshows) make even bigger news. Ironically, this growing appreciation of miniaturization does not acknowledge the fact that—big or small—none of these products could exist without a small part that supplies the most crucial element in the operation of these products. That element is POWER! Its supplier is the battery. At CES '07 the battery manufacturers were there, largely unnoticed, making significant, if not high-profile news. Along with the usual parade of the latest "more powerful, longer-lasting" versions of their signature portable power plants, this group of exhibitors managed to come up with a couple of new concepts and a notable array of really "cool" stuff. One of the new categories within the battery marketplace is the cellphone charging devices that are powered by AA or AAA batteries. These are great impulse purchases for the traveler who forgot or lost their dedicated chargers.
The MFUEL Take Charge is a 120-watt, universal charger that can be used in the home or when vacationing on a plane, boat, or in the car to charge a variety of electronic devices. The Take Charge can charge a range of cellphones, PDAs, MP3 players, and even digital cameras. Simply connect the Take Charge—which runs off of regular batteries—into the device for emergency portable power.
The Turbo Charge is a great emergency power source for cellphones. Consumers simply place a AA battery in the Turbo Charge and plug it into a cellphone for battery power. While it's not designed to replace the standard charger, most cellphone users are faced with no options if their cellphone's battery dies and they don't have access to the phone's dedicated charger—but with products like the Turbo Charge, the day (and the phone call) can be saved.
The company also makes the iCharge, a portable, AA battery power device for the Apple iPod—great for use on airplanes and other long trips. Currently a range of iPod models are compatible with the iCharge, which comes in all black or all white to match the user's iPod.
The Energizer Bunny was going at full tilt, stuffing its new e2 Lithium "world's longest-lasting AA and AAA battery" into a variety of cool gadgets. Most notable is the Energi To Go instant cellphone charger. The Bunny recommends using the new e2 in this pocket-sized, elongated, slightly flattened egg-shaped unit measuring 3-3/8 inches long, and because he is a nice guy he includes a pair of AAs in the blister pack along with a couple of adapter plugs on a very short 3- to 4-inch cord (presently for most Samsung, Sprint, Nokia, etc. phones and mini-USB devices). It takes about 30 seconds to warm up, then fills in neatly for an AC wall outlet or car's cigarette lighter socket when you don't happen to have either one of those two essentials packed in your gadget bag.
Then there was the new Dock & Go charger with two portable charging pods, each designed for four AA or AAA Ni-MH batteries; Easy Charger for four cells with fold-out plug and three different-colored faceplates to match the home décor; and the Family Charger for various combinations of AA, AAA, C, D, and 9-volt cells. Throw in the e2 Lithium Headlight (miner's head, not auto head); Hard Case Tactical 2 AA light; the resurrection of Max AAAA (yep, that's right, four); and the e2 Titanium AA and AAA lithiums for high-tech music devices and electronic games, and—after simultaneously having managed to claim the title of Official Battery of 2007 New Year's Fitness Resolutions—we think the Bunny deserves a long vacation.
Taking up the challenge, Duracell immediately dispatched a SWAT team in the dead of night to the North Pole (North Pole, Alaska, that is) where they planted the orange and black flag securing their position as Official Battery of the North Pole. Santa and his elves, as well as recipients of their largesse, may be happy to get hold of either Duracell's Power Gauge Charger with "dynamic" LED indicating the charge status of each of the four AA or AAA Ni-MHs or USB devices such as iPods, MP3 players, digital cameras, and/or the Mini Charger, which plugs directly into the wall outlet for two batteries, which are included.
Panasonic expanded its U.S. battery offerings with the new Infinium Ni-MH rechargeables. The Infinium batteries will be hitting store shelves this spring, and can be charged up to 1,000 times. Developed in response to consumer demands for greater stability and reliability, Panasonic's AA and AAA Infinium batteries can be used right out of the package, no precharging needed. Panasonic also introduced a new charging system for these batteries that is not only smaller and lightweight; but it comes with a childproof cover.
Panasonic also weighed in with its aptly named Digital Power AA alkalines, citing surveys claiming 75% market share for alkaline cells among all batteries sold last year. The new Digital Power AA batteries offer consumers enhanced performance and reliability when used with moderate- to high-drain devices.
With a view toward making rechargeable batteries more attractive and user-friendly to the U.S. market, Rayovac has developed its Hybrid battery, featuring a "breakthrough" but as-yet-unnamed technology geared to solve the two most vexing problems for would-be consumers (according to one survey that also claims rechargeable units make up less than five percent of all U.S. battery sales). No. 1, the Hybrids come fully charged right out of the box, allowing impatient users to put them to work immediately after opening; and No. 2, while admitting that the Hybrids do self-discharge like the competition, Rayovac tells us they do so at a much slower rate, holding a charge for up to a full year after a session in the charger, which, they point out, can be accomplished in "all Ni-MH chargers and are suitable for use in any device."
Varta has also answered the pleas for instant gratification with its Ready2Use AA and AAA duo, bursting out of the blister pack precharged fully for instant duty in digital cameras or MP3 players. Varta also claims they still can retain 80% of their power after one year of storage. Both sizes are available in packs of two or four units.
DigiPower offers a range of batteries, battery packs, and auxiliary chargers for digital cameras, camcorders, and other electronic devices. For the consumer who inadvertently loses the battery that came with their digital camera or camcorder, you can be the hero that saves the day, by stocking the variety of power options that DigiPower offers.
DigiPower also makes Power Grips for the Canon Rebel and Rebel XT, and the Nikon D50 and D70 digital SLRs, for photographers who want to be able to shoot for long stretches without having to swap out batteries for charging.
Lenmar has found another way to relieve the distress of photographers and other electronophiles who don't like being tied to the socket in the wall or the family four-wheeler. They're calling it the Bat Pak, but it's not intended for the Caped Crusader and Robin. Rather, it's for those users who like smaller, slimmer devices with the additional advantages of a more extended continuous, instant, portable power supply.