Sidewinder Portable Cell Phone Charger
A wind-up generator that can always
provide unlimited emergency cell phone power
If you've ever played with an old fashioned wall phone
with a windup handle ring generator, you'll recognize the
same concept in this modern device.
Unlike a spare battery, the Sidewinder Portable Cell
Phone Charger never runs out of power and never needs to be
replaced. While turning the handle is not much fun, the
Sidewinder is an ideal emergency standby power source,
especially for survivalists wanting to have the lowest tech
solution to powering their (ummm...) high tech cell phone!
What you Get
The moderately priced
Sidewinder comes complete with a full kit of goodies. You
get the charging unit itself, and a connector cable to plug the
charger into a Nokia type phone. Another four adapter tips
are also supplied to enable it to plug into other phone models
Everything comes in a
convenient zip up carrying pouch, making it easy for you
to keep the various connectors together without fear of losing
them. There is a carry loop on the pouch so it could be
slotted onto your belt or the strap of your bag.
The charger itself measures
about 2¼" x 1¼" x 1¾". The generating handle folds closed
snuggly against the side of the unit when not in use.
The unit is very light.
It weighs 2½ oz by itself, or about 5 oz when in its pouch and
with all cables and adapter plugs.
Simple instructions are
printed on the display card on which the unit is mounted.
It has a one year warranty.
How it Works and What it Does
Turning the crank handle at
a speed of about two revolutions per second generates power that
is used to recharge your cell-phone battery.
You don't need to turn at
exactly two revolutions per second. Somewhat faster or
slower is perfectly fine - the unit is voltage regulated to keep the voltage reasonably stable even if the generator
At 1.5 revs per second, the
unit was giving out about 5V of power, and at 2 revs per second,
it was giving out close to its full rated 6.2V. Turning
the handle faster did not create any appreciable increase in
voltage. Most regular chargers tend to provide between
4.5V-6V, so this output voltage is completely satisfactory.
The output voltage was also
safely steady and did not have any dangerous transients or
'noise' apparent. Some other similar units have less
control circuitry inside and can potentially damage or even
destroy your cell phone.
The unit delivers up to 330
mA when being cranked at two turns per second. Not all of
this current flows into your battery though, and current output is closely
proportional to cranking speed.
Most regular chargers are
rated at between 450-800 mA, so the Sidewinder would seem to be
capable of delivering at least half the rate of charge of a
The manufacturer says that
two minutes of charging will provide 'up to' 6 minutes of talk
time and 'up to' 30 minutes of standby time. It has been
difficult to exactly confirm these numbers - my sense is that
there is a slight amount of randomness as to exactly when a
phone battery dies, and when you're measuring only 5 minutes or
so, a 5 minute random factor makes it hard to distinguish
between valid test results
and random variation. And it seems inconsistent to expect
only five times longer standby time than talk time; most phones
these days offer a much greater multiple of standby time
compared to talk time.
However, it is correct to
say that if you charge your phone for a few minutes, you can
then talk on it for a few more minutes, or have it on standby
for an even longer period.
It is also possible to both
charge your phone and talk on it at the same time.
However, because charging is a two handed operation - one to
hold the charger and the other to turn the handle, you would
need to have a hands-free headset to use with your phone if you
wanted to charge while talking.
If you're charging and
talking, the rate of charging is greater than the rate of power
consumption used by the phone call, so you'll never run out of talk
time as long as you keep turning the handle, and indeed, you're
slowly adding extra power into the battery at the same time.
Although you'll never run out of power, you
might get a sore arm after an hour (or even much less!) of turning!
Sidewinder has, however,
even thought of that eventuality. You can turn the
charging handle in either direction, so you could swap it from
left to right hand and back again during the course of your
hypothetical lengthy phone call.
This unit also includes a
miniature flashlight capability. There is a white
(slightly blue/purple tinged) LED on the top of the unit, and
when you turn the charging handle, the generated power can
either be used to recharge your phone or to turn on the light.
As a nice extra feature, a built in capacitor stores some charge
so the light will continue to glow for a couple of minutes after
a 30 second charge. The light is not very strong, and steadily
fades when you stop charging, but is perfectly adequate for
tasks such as finding your keys and fitting them into a door lock.
The light only works when
the cable is not plugged in to the unit. It can either
charge your phone or illuminate the darkness, but can not do
Using the Sidewinder
Using the Sidewinder is
remarkably easy. Plug the connecting cable into the
Sidewinder (only one end fits into the socket so you can't get
this wrong) and then plug the other end into the appropriate
adapter and into your phone.
Next, start turning the
handle. I count to myself 'One (turn) and a (turn), two
(turn) and a (turn), etc as a way of estimating two turns per
The handle is moderately
easy to spin around when the unit is not connected to a phone.
When it starts to actually charge a dead battery, you
immediately notice an appreciable increase in stiffness, and it
takes more energy to turn the handle. But this is, of
course, entirely as you'd expect - the generator is converting
your effort turning the handle into electricity for your phone.
If you've ever wondered how much 'power' it takes to make a cell
phone work, now you know.
If your phone battery
totally died on you, charge up your phone for a couple of
minutes before trying to make a call. And if you're not in
an area with excellent signal strength, you might want to wait
another minute or so before you place your call - your phone
uses up more power because it has to send out a stronger signal
when the coverage is poor.
The Sidewinder makes a
certain amount of noise as you turn it. You couldn't hope
to discreetly use it in a meeting, but on the street or in your
private office/car, the noise wouldn't matter at all, and would
not interfere with a phone conversation.
The five different adapters
supplied with the unit work with most phones from
If you have a different type
of phone - for example, a Siemens, then extra adapters can be
I tested it with four phones
- a Nokia 3650, a Siemens S46, a Motorola V66 and a SonyEricsson
Sidewinder or Cellboost or
Clipper Emergency Recharger?
(See also my review of the
Cellboost emergency battery and the
Emergency Cell Phone Battery Recharger)
These three devices use very
different strategies to get emergency power to your dead cell
The Cellboost battery is a
one time use disposable external battery that transfers its
power to your phone. Once you've used up the power in
the Cellboost, you throw it away and buy another one.
Even if you don't use the Cellboost, their battery life
expires after about three years.
The Clipper Gear unit uses
replaceable and low cost standard AAA batteries. A set
of AAA batteries gives about two full battery charges to
your cell phone.
The Sidewinder, on the other
hand, lasts almost forever, and can provide power without
The Cellboost and Clipper
Gear units are
simple and easy to use, but the Sidewinder is definitely more bother to
All three units are small,
with the Cellboost being the smallest and the Sidewinder the
Cellboosts can only work with
one type of cell phone; Sidewinders and Clipper Gear units can work with just about
any type of phone. If you're traveling with friends or
family, you might need three or four different types of Cellboosts, but only one Sidewinder
or Clipper Recharger.
If you change phones, you
might need to throw away your existing Cellboosts and buy
new ones (to fit the different plug) but the Sidewinder and
Clipper Gear units will
probably work with the new phone just as well as with the
Cellboosts are about $6 each,
Clipper Gear units are $10 plus batteries, Sidewinders are $25.
Sidewinders also feature a
miniature light, Cellboosts and Clipper Gear units don't.
Which is best for you?
That is your choice! These are the differences, you decide
which solution best fits your lifestyle and needs.
The Sidewinder charger lists
Pro Travel Gear
- the new
website for the Plane Quiet manufacturer - will give Travel
Insider readers their usual 5% discount if you use the discount
coupon code travelinsider
when purchasing through them.
The Sidewinder charger is
the ultimate in reliable emergency power supplies for cell
phones. It never gets used up and (within reason) never
wears out or stops working (although your arm will get tired
fairly quickly). However, the Sidewinder is bulkier than,
and not nearly as convenient
to use as, a Cellboost or Clipper Gear battery.
There are other similar
products also in the marketplace, but they generally lack the
bi-directional charging and the long lasting light features of
the Sidewinder. The Sidewinder seems to be the best
featured of the various crank handle units, and at a good price.
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23 Apr 2004, last update
28 Nov 2012
You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.