Smartphones are so monstrously powerful these days that it's like carrying around a powerful computer in your pocket. When you start work on your desktop PC, Mac or laptop, however, all that portable power is put to sleep, resigned to being no more than a glorified answering service waiting for a call. Product designer Bill May believes that your smartphone should be made to do more for the often huge cost of the monthly charges. He's created a simple USB charging cable called the Limb.al that's stiff enough to support the weight of an iPhone or Android smartphone, but can also be bent to mount your mobile device right next to your laptop display or computer monitor. You can then keep your main screen free of virtual clutter and display your feeds and widgets on your smartphone instead.
The Limb.al has a standard USB connector at one end and either a micro-USB or 30-pin Apple connector at the other. In between is a cable that's flexible enough to be bent into different positions but firm enough to hold the attached device where it's placed. The designer reckons that once the mobile device is secured in its connector, it should stay put no matter what angle it's placed at. He says that even smartphones attached via micro-USB should remain in place, as it would require a removal force greater than gravity to pull it free.
Of course, there will probably be those who will try and be clever and shake the phone free, but you'll always find such party-poopers in a crowd. For those wearing sensible trousers, May says that users of micro-USB connections might need to exercise more placement care than is necessary for those with 30-pin iOS devices.
If your computer monitor has USB ports, the Limb.al can hang your smartphone from the side while charging its batteries. Similar results can be achieved with USB ports to the side of a laptop but if, like me, you're tied to the ports on your desktop PC or Mac, or the rear ports of a laptop, then you might have to be inventive.
Once in place, your smartphone screen can become an extension to your existing display real estate. It could act as a stand-alone video chat device, or somewhere to display social networking or news feed updates without polluting precious space on your main display. Why have widgets cluttering up your display desktop when you can literally put them to one side? Or you could just display photos of your loved ones.
The Limb.al doesn't need to remain tied to the office or home workstation either. You can also plug it into a USB power adapter for your car, and use your smartphone's GPS apps to get around without having to shell out hard-earned cash for a dedicated navigator from the likes of Tom Tom or Garmin.
As those of us here at Gizmag are well aware, the pioneering self-make spirit is very much alive and well, and there will always be someone ready to knock out a home-grown version not a million miles away from an actual Limb.al, and they might even be able to do it cheaper. For the considerable chunk of consumers who just want to reach out and buy something tried and tested and professionally-manufactured, however, this simple USB charging cable for iOS or Android mobile devices will doubtless tick all the right boxes ... when it becomes available, that is.
The Limb.al has already surpassed its target on the Kickstarter crowd-funding portal with a few days to spare, and the designer is tentatively projecting an initial shipping window for September 2012. The pitch price to backers for a single Limb.al is US$25.
"Having been fully funded I am now engaged in the very time sensitive matter of starting up tooling, reviewing samples and arranging fulfillment to deliver the final goods to the generous Kickstarter community," May told us. "After the campaign closes I will have an order page on the Limb.al website, when that happens there won't be a large change in cost, except for shipping being added on as a separate charge."
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