Accessorising your smartphone
Mark Oakley looks at some of the latest accessories for smartphones
If you got a new smartphone for Christmas, you might just be on the lookout for some accessories to make the most of your new toy. And we've got some suggestions for you...
Smartphones are great at carrying audio content; not always so great at outputting your tunes. For that, you’ll need a decent speaker so that all your family and friends can listen to that playlist you lovingly created in all of its glory.
Angry Birds Mini Speakers
Following the release of the Star Wars-flavoured version of everyone’s favourite bird-booming mobile app, the eponymous hacked-off avians are everywhere at the moment. With that in mind, the Angry Birds Mini Speaker (the one pictured being of the Space variety) might just be to your liking. The speakers can be used with any mobile phone, laptop, tablet or MP3 player as they connect via a humble 3.5mm jack.
The speakers can also be untwisted to unveil the expandable bass system, providing extra bass and enhanced sound, and when closed they look, well, like an Angry Bird. Funny that. They also come with a rechargeable battery which lasts for up to eight hours, and the mini-USB connector allows for powering up again.
Jarre Aerosystem One
Those of us of a certain age will know all about Jean Michel Jarre. The French composer, performer and music producer was quite the name back in the day, although it’s safe to say that Oxygène was a long, long time ago. Any younger readers should think of him as a French Mike Oldfield. Not heard of him either? Vangelis? Kraftwerk..? No? How about ‘like Skrillex, but your dad would enjoy it’?
Anyway, such a big name in the world of synth is Jarre that he’s only gone and slapped his name on a speaker dock for the iPhone (only Apple fans are catered for here, I’m afraid). The Aerospace One is a swanky-looking speaker dock offering a futuristic (read sparkly) design and premium sound reproduction. The 2.1 design is made up of two 30W tweeters and a 60W subwoofer and it really does look the business, plus the box beam and two directional speakers promise an enveloping audio experience. These lovely looks do cost rather a lot, however, at £749. Sacre Bleu!
Edifier Sound To Go PLUS
Costing significantly less is the Sound To Go PLUS micro speaker from Edifier, something of a specialist when it comes to speaker systems. The speaker comes with two-channel stereo with two full-range 1.25” drivers on each channel (magnetically shielded), a built-in Class D amplifier and an oval passive radiator. Housing an auxiliary input, all smartphones, iPads and MP3 devices will connect, and the speaker promises exceptional audio performance above and beyond your standard mobile’s speaker. Well, we’d hope so.
Power comes courtesy of a rechargeable lithium battery and the brushed aluminium chassis looks pretty good to us for the sub-£50 price you’ll pay at the likes of Amazon.
Zooka Wireless Speaker
Celebrity endorsements will help to sell anything. Take the Zooka Wireless Speaker. Janet Jackson, no less, has recommended this Kickstarter-funded project (which exceeded its backing target of $25,000 by some distance, eventually hitting a total of $70,540) for Carbon Audio, the bright spark’s behind it.
The Bluetooth speaker slides onto the top of a laptop or tablet, pairs to a Bluetooth device from 30 feet away, and even connects to any non-Bluetooth gadget thanks to its 3.5mm input jack, packing the audio punch that your shiny new smartphone deserves. Providing HD audio with A2DP streaming, the slimline finish means it’s ridiculously portable and there are also simple volume control buttons on the top of the speaker. A built-in microphone will even allow for clear hands-free conversations around the house, allowing you to feel like a true executive type during its eight-hour battery life.
Six of the eight colour options are bright but rather nice. Then there’s also black and grey; lovely, dull, grey.
Headphones for phones
If you’d rather keep your listening likes to yourself, you’ll need a pair of headphones for your music and phones calls on the move.
Bluetooth headsets are something of a must-have nowadays and Plantronics is a specialist in the field. Its Marque 2 brand is its smallest and lightest Bluetooth headset yet, weighing a mere 7g and the device works with Apple and Android phones alike.
The headset lets youlisten to music or stream GPS directions, while dual microphones reduce extraneous noise for clear and crisp call quality. Voice activation allows you to answer or ignore calls without having to press a button and its DeepSleep power-saving mode throws out up to seven hours talk time, 11 days standby or 180 days in hibernation mode. There’s also a dual charger for simultaneous charging of your headset and phone from a computer or a car. With Android’s MyHeadset application, allowing you to find a misplaced headset fast, regardless of whether it’s on or not, this is a decent-sounding bet.
Blaupunkt DJ112 Headphones
At the time of writing, these ‘phones had a whopping £50 slashed off the asking price so they are a bit of a bargain. Working with any device with a 3.5mm headphone jack – so, any smartphone then – the headphones have a rather nice retro design in lightweight aluminium, and house 40mm diameter dynamic speakers with neodymium magnets. The offshoot of this technology is that not only do the headphones look the part, they should sound it too.
And did I mention that price?
A smartphone without power is like a broken pencil: pointless. Forgive the Blackadder reference, but keeping your mobile phone full of juice is something of a necessity. Here are some gadgets to help you do just that.
Pebble Portable Battery Pack Charger
A very functional, yet still nice-looking battery charger, the Pebble is notable for being compatible with a wide range of devices, including smartphones, digital cameras and handheld consoles. It’s also a powerful fellow, housing a capacity of up to 5000mAH (for comparison, that’s around 4 times a 3GS iPhone battery’s life).
The fact that it fits in a pocket is clearly another bonus for the ever-portable lifestyle we all live these days, and giving your devices up to 1200 hours standby, depending on the device, this promises power to the extreme.
Energizer XP4001 Universal Portable Charger
Everyone knows the Energizer brand so this already comes with that reputation in its locker. This portable charger packs less power than the Pebble at 4000mAH, but then it is cheaper too. It will charge pretty much anything as it ships with interchangeable tips for use with Apple, Nokia, Samsung and LG devices, plus the microUSB and miniUSB and standard USB connectors make for an even greater range of compatible devices.
The XP4001 will provide up to 24 hours extra talk time on smartphones and up to 120 hours more music playback for MP3 players - and that price isn’t to be sniffed at.
The great outdoors
If you’re the sporty type, or you just want your smartphone to do even more, here are a few options to make the outdoors a little more fun.
This is rather a clever device which will power up your smartphone for you while you pedal, as well as powering the lighting system on your bike. The Ecoxpower is essentially a dynamo-USB generator which also comes with a waterproof smartphone case to mount your device on the bike’s handlebars and it’s designed to work with all Apple, Blackberry, Android, Windows and microUSB mobile devices. Pedal power for your phone? Genius.
Sports Tracker Heart Rate Monitor 2
Price: 79.90 euros
If you want to know how you’re doing during your daily run, the Sports Tracker range promises to help you do just that. The Bluetooth-enabled Heart Rate Monitor 2 will connect to any smartphone and can be used with apps (for Android, iOS, Symbian and Meego platforms) which will alert you if you’re pushing yourself too hard, or not trying hard enough. Everyone could do with a bit of nagging from time to time so this looks decent on paper.
Good game, good game
What’s a smartphone without a bit of gaming? Boring, that’s what. These accessories should liven things up even more.
Both these gaming wheel accessories do exactly the same thing: make accelerometer-based racing apps on your smartphone far more fun.
There isn’t too much to say about either of them that isn’t fairly obvious (you place your smartphone in the wheel and move it to direct your virtual vehicle where you want), except to say that the Clingo Gaming Wheel will work with any smartphone, while the AppToyz effort is an iOS-only affair, although it will work with iPods, too. Start your, albeit virtual, engines.
Parrot AR.Drone 2.0
I know this was actually unveiled at CES 2012 back in January, but the Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 is something a little bit special.
It isn’t a cheap accessory, for sure, but for your £280 you can own a wi-fi quadricopter that can be controlled via your Apple or Android handset. Using a dedicated app to track its flight records and using your smartphone to tilt the quadricopter in whatever direction you tilt the phone, plus perform stunts like barrel rolls, this is the stuff of boyhood dreams. As I say, it needs serious investment, but throw in the fact that your chopper can shoot video in 720p, allowing you to film up, up in the air, plus pair it with an augmented reality game for iOS, and I think this could quite possibly be the boy’s toy.
Finally, I wouldn't want anything to ever come between you and your new smartphone, but, well, sometimes the weather isn't on your side...
Mujjo Touchscreen Gloves
My final accessory is a pair of gloves although, predictably, these are touchscreen gloves from Mujjo coming in five colours – I’d go for black, frankly.
The A/W 12-13 Touchscreen gloves are an improved design over their predecessors, offering greater insulation from the cold snap we’re bound to experience over winter. Apparently, the design has also been bettered from an anti-pilling standpoint (so fewer loose fibres), plus they can be stretched over any hand, goes the claim.
Letting you type away on any touchscreen smartphone even on cold, dark nights at the bus stop, these will set you back £24.95 on the high street, and while there are plenty of touchscreen gloves on the market, I happen to like the look of these rather a lot.