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One reason that mobile devices are so useful is the availability of accessories that make them even better. These accessories are of varying types and sizes, and range in price from very cheap to so expensive you may need to save up to afford them.
We’ve assembled a group of accessories that add a lot of value for gadgets currently available. They range in price from just $2 to almost $200. There are simple accessories and others that address specific needs.
Some of the accessories are universal and can be used with any gadget, while others are device- or platform-specific. Odds are most will find one or two that are appealing.
Tablet and smartphone owners will find a stand on the desk to be a useful accessory. Having the tablet or phone next to the laptop in the office adds a second screen for keeping an eye on email and other functions.
There are a lot of stands available online that vary from inexpensive to absurdly priced. They come in all shapes and sizes to fit individual tastes.
My favorite stand, however, is not a stand at all. Chances are you’ve seen those black business card holders with a mesh design. What you might not realize is that these steel mesh business card holders make great stands for either phones or small tablets. Drop the gadget in the holder and it can be easily positioned on even the most crowded desk top. Even that big iPhone 6 Plus is a good fit in this stand.
You can find these online at office supply retailers for about $2, making this a great accessory for any office.
Some Android tablet owners would like to use them with a keyboard, but the selection of cases with keyboards is not very big, if they are available at all. Accessory maker ZAGG has addressed the lack of options with a line of universal keyboard cases that work with most Android tablets.
There are three ZAGG Auto-fit keyboard cases available for 7-inch, 8-inch, and 10-inch tablets. They use a clever design with a spring-loaded bar that adjusts to securely hold most tablets of the given size. You just pop the tablet in the Auto-fit and you have a portfolio case that protects the tablet, with a good keyboard on the inside.
These cases all have a hinge that supports using the tablet at variable viewing angles for maximum utility.
The cases are available from ZAGG starting at $79.99
Earbuds perform double duty paired with mobile gadgets: playing music and other audio, and used as a headset for phone calls. Many smartphones come with wired earbuds for such use.
Those whose work takes them out in the field a lot likely use earbuds to handle calls. They work well except that for that pesky wire to the phone.
Enter the BlueBuds X Sport wireless earbuds from JayBird. They connect to the phone or tablet over Bluetooth, and are as unobtrusive as can be. Extensive testing shows the BlueBuds produce high quality audio, and phone calls are quite good. I’ve conducted many phone calls on noisy streets and gotten nothing but compliments on how clear the audio sounds.
The JayBird BlueBuds are charged via microUSB, and deliver eight hours of continuous music playback. This is significantly longer than most wireless earbuds can last. They take only two hours to charge from a completely depleted state.
I’ve used several wireless earbuds and headphones with disappointment. Due to the Bluetooth connection to the phone, it is common to have audio dropouts that are annoying while listening to music, and a serious issue during phone calls. The BlueBuds are the first earbuds I’ve used that do not have dropouts. After many hours of use, they haven’t had a single audio dropout.
The JayBird BlueBuds X Sport earbuds ship with a water repellent coating. This protects them from both use in the rain and when working out.
New owners of the iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus who are worried about those reports of bent phones may not be comfortable carrying them in pants pockets. The folks at Waterfield Designs have a case that can be worn on a belt to keep the iPhone safe.
The Spinn case is made from high quality leather and is available with and without a belt clip. The case is very thin and stays out of the way when worn on the belt.
There is a unique disk under the flap that is designed for wrapping the wire of the earbuds to keep them out of the way, yet readily accessible. The earbuds can be plugged into the phone while in the case for remote operation.
The Spinn case from Waterfield Designs is very thin, so there are two models to choose from for each iPhone: one for use with the iPhone in a case like those from Apple, and another for use with the iPhone alone.
Having used the Spinn case for a while, I've found it to be a good solution for carrying the iPhone 6 Plus. It protects the phone while I'm running around the city. The handling of the earbuds allows using the phone in the case.
These cases may work with smartphones other than the new iPhones, but since they are tailored for the phones from Apple, make sure it will fit other phones prior to purchase.
The Waterfield Designs Spinn case is available from sfbags.com starting at $59.
That new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus looks nice, but it’s awfully slippery to hold. Many will find they need a case with a secure grip.
Apple has several cases in its stores and the leather model is as good as they get. Made of quality leather in several colors, the case adds little thickness to the thin iPhone. It gives a secure grip to the iPhone and protects the aluminum back of the phone.
The Apple leather case for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus is expensive starting at $45, but the quality is top-notch.
I've tested dozens of keyboard cases for the iPad and other tablets, and this one is the best of the lot. The ClamCase Pro turns the iPad Air into a real laptop, with all the benefits that provides.
The laptop keyboard of the ClamCase Pro is the best of any I’ve tried for the iPad Air. The key spacing and layout feels just like that of any laptop, and rapid touch typing is smooth and easy. The palm rest in front of the keyboard is unique for iPad keyboard cases and is comfortable when using the ClamCase Pro, even for long periods.
The iPad Air is completely covered in the case and should provide protection for most typical drops while on the go. The lid holding the iPad Air rotates a full 360 degrees for use as a tablet when a keyboard is not needed.
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The ClamCase Pro is available for $169.