Just as there is a wide range of mobile phones on the market, there is also an increasingly large variety of cell phone accessories available too. Some accessories are primarily functional, whereas others are more ornamental in nature. The trends in accessories tend to follow the trends of the newest mobile phones, complementing the newest features and supporting the most prominent areas where improvement is needed.
Cell Phone Cases
Smartphones are very expensive pieces of equipment, so it only makes sense that consumers will want to invest in a protective case for their phones.
- Zagg InvisibleShield: Quite unlike most protective cell phone cases, the InvisibleShield line from Zagg is simply a thin, transparent film that is placed around the entire exterior of the device. This adds virtually no extra bulk and, from a distance, no one would even know that the phone has a skin on it. It doesn't offer the most protection against drops, but InvisibleShield can protect against scratches and other minor damage. Gotta Be Mobile writes that the Zagg InvisibleShield Extreme, in particular, is "definitely one of the best screen protectors I've used." The full protection kit typically retails for around $50.
- Trident Cyclops: Offering considerably more protection, the Cyclops series from Trident is available for a wide range of smartphones. It offers a relatively slim design, while still providing outstanding protection against drops and other impacts. There is a built-in screen protector, as well as silicone plugs for port openings. Phones that have a kickstand, like the HTC Thunderbolt, are provided with a gap to allow the kickstand can protrude from the case. A review on MEGATechNews review indicates that the "hard plastic exterior protects the phone without interfering with using it [and] the case does not add much bulk or size to the phone." The retail price is around $20.
- Speck CandyShell: While the actual protection offered by the plastic protective CandyShell case from Speck is about the same as similar cases, what makes the collection stand out is the variety of flashy and unique designs in a number of bold color combinations. A review on CultOfMac.com describes the case as "a tough case" that "looks good". The retail price is just under $35. Speck's similar collection of FabFit cases add interesting texture by utilizing a fabric material on the back and sells for about $30.
External Battery Boosters
Modern smartphones are incredibly powerful devices, but they also have notoriously poor battery life. In addition to universal battery chargers, a big trend in cell phone accessories is the added need for external batteries for extending the life of phones between charges.
- mophie juice pack: Rather than being a completely separate device, the juice pack also acts as a case for the iPhone. This does add some bulk to the phone, but the internal 1500mAh battery can nearly double the battery life of the iPhone. A review from PCMag is positive, earning an editor rating of 'Excellent.' Retail price is just under $80.
- TYLT Energi: This external battery pack comes with two very unique features. First, it has built-in fold-away AC prongs, making it easy to charge the battery when near an outlet without the use of an additional adapter. Second, there is an embedded flex cable with either an Apple Lightning connector or a standard microUSB connector, making the unit nearly universal for most Android devices and iPhones. The internal 1800mAh lithium-ion battery is generally enough for one full charge to a smartphone. PCMag likes that it is "compact," though they "prefer even more powerful backup batteries." The MSRP is around $40.
When the primary use of a cell phone was for voice calls, Bluetooth headsets and Bluetooth speakerphones were quite popular. They still serve their purpose, but as more functionality moves toward media and text, a different solution is being proposed. Smart watches, which pair with smartphones via Bluetooth, are increasing in popularity. These devices can make it easier to receive notifications, control music playback, read text messages and more.
- Pebble: This smart watch features a basic monochromatic display and connects to iPhone and Android smartphones via Bluetooth. It provides silent alerts for incoming calls, emails and messages, but the most unique aspect is that Pebble can be customized with apps for even more advanced features and functions. Tech blogger John Biehler says that the watch "has a very strong vibrate motor," but he "had a few instances of accidental button presses when wearing a jacket." The retail price is $150.
- Sony SmartWatch: Designed for use with Android smartphones, particularly those from Sony, the Sony SmartWatch notifies you of incoming calls and messages, as well as information from social networks. A number of dedicated apps are also available through the Google Play Store to expand its function. The SmartWatch features a full-color three-level micro display for multi-level touch navigation. Android Central likes the "simple, sharp style," but feels that the navigation can be "finicky." Retail price for the SmartWatch is around $130.
- i'm Watch: Meant to make "the most of your smartphone," the i'm Watch has a color display that allows you to receive phone calls directly from the watch itself, as well as access SMS text messages and e-mails. Hundreds of apps for weather, sports, music and other functions are also available. Trusted Reviews applauds the "responsive touchscreen" and "stylish, chunky design," but says that the apps are "poorly designed." Made in Italy, the i'm Watch has a list price of about $470.
Future Cell Phone Accessories
Expanding on where smart watches appear to be taking the cell phone accessories market, a rising trend could be the arrival of smart eyewear and augmented reality. This is being actively being pursued by Google and its Project Glass, allowing users to rely on voice commands while a virtualized display appears in front of them in a hands-free fashion. That is one possible avenue for future cell phone accessories, but many other possibilities could be right around the corner.