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updated 2/6/2012 12:21:56 PM ET 2012-02-06T17:21:56

As phones get smarter, battery life tends to get shorter, which has bred a whole industry of battery packs, solar chargers and other power gizmos. (There's even one powered by  waste heat  from your camp stove.)

Another option is the  K-Tor Pocket Socket  — a hand-cranked generator with a simple, elegant design. It pushes out 120 volts at about 10 watts, which is plenty for an iPad and more than enough for any cellphone. For it to work, you’ll have to turn the crank at least twice per second, but that isn't terribly fast. And good news, southpaws: It can be operated equally well left- or right-handed.

It provides a standard wall-outlet-style connection, so any device plugs into it. You could keep cranking to charge a gadget more, but it won't go any faster than plugging into a regular wall outlet. At $50, it's a good insurance policy to keep your gadgets running.

Each weekday on TechNewsDaily, That's Useful! finds practical new gadgets, computing hardware, apps and appliances that make sense and simply make life better.

© 2012 TechNewsDaily

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