Those of us around the TUAW newsroom are always looking for alternative power sources for our gadgets because we are so dependent on them. Whether it's because of a transformer failure down the street, a widespread outage due to a hurricane, or just because we're nowhere hear a power plug, the TUAW team loves to write about these little generators. There are solar iPhone cases and twig-fueled cookstoves that put out enough juice to keep you going, and now there's the Eton BoostTurbine 2000 (US$59.99).
As much as I like the name of this unit, I think the folks at Photojojo have a better name for it -- The Crankerator. That's what powers this sturdy aluminum box; an external hand crank that pops out and lets you (or your kids) charge an internal 2000 mAh battery pack.
You can build up some amazing arm muscles while charging the BoostTurbine; a minute of cranking will provide about 30 seconds of power for your phone. Unless you're really bored or extremely desperate, you probably won't use the crank to charge the BoostTurbine up to full capacity. The idea is that before you board Oceanic Flight 815, you'll plug the BoostTurbine into a computer or some other USB power source using the included USB to micro-USB cable and charge it up.
Update: Eton has updated information, noting that a minute of cranking is actually good for about four minutes of call time on your favorite iPhone, not 30 seconds as described in the previous paragraph.
Then, after you've exhausted all of the power and you really want to watch Fringe reruns on your iPad instead of the prattle of your fellow survivors, you can while away the hours turning the crank to charge the battery.
There are four blue LEDs on one end to signify how much charge the battery pack has; pushing down on an inset button for about two seconds activates the LEDs, as does turning the crank.
How much power will your favorite device get from the ol' Crankerator? That 2000 mAh is enough to charge up an iPhone 5 (1440 mAh battery). The current rating of the device is only 1 amp, so there's no way that you'll be able to fast-charge your iPad (although it should trickle-charge).
The BoostTurbine weighs just 7 ounces so it's not going to weigh down your backpack, and as I mentioned earlier it is a solid piece of aluminum. My only concern is that the crank handle -- the most critical piece when you're in the field -- is made out of plastic. If it breaks, you can always use your Cast Away skills to fashion a new handle out of tree branches and seashells.
That crank isn't really that hard to turn once you get it started, but you'll find that keeping the speed up for a few minutes is a challenge. It would be interesting to adapt one of these to a bicycle or water wheel to make power generation a breeze.
In case you don't need that full 2000 mAh capacity, there's a 1000 mAh version of the BoostTurbine available directly from Eton for $49.99.