From creepy spidery tablet stands to solar-powered backpacks, the best phone and tablet accessories around...
Crosskase Solar (www.crosskase.com, £139)
If you’re always on the move and constantly find yourself running out of battery power on your phone or tablet, the Crosskase Solar could be your saviour. This well-sized backpack features a solar panel on the front, which takes in either sun or artificial light and stores it in a handy battery pack, ready to charge up your kit.
Open up the Crosskase’s front pocket and you’ll see the power box, which is held in a net pouch. You get a series of interchangeable heads for hooking up a wide variety of smartphones and tablets (pretty much everything except Apple device heads are included, but you can use your existing USB charger cable). Charging your gear is simply a case of attaching it to the box and leaving it in the pouch until it’s done. Expect to get two charges from the fully charged power box, which takes around eight hours to recharge via the solar panel or three via the mains (cable included). A handy red light on the top of the solar panel shows when it’s taking in energy.
The front pocket has plenty of other pouches for pens and other trinkets, while the main rear pocket has a holding area for tablets or laptops with a soft, velvety lining. The back and shoulder straps are padded, so the Crosskase is comfortable to lug around for lengthy periods, or a handle on top can be used instead. Our only complaints are the less than exciting design, not helped by the bulky solar panel, and the rather steep asking price – you can grab a portable charger for very little these days.
Breffo Spiderpodium (£24.95, http://www.breffo.com)
You can buy all kinds of stands for your tablet, to prop it up at home or on the train when you’re watching a movie, but none are as funky-looking or as flexible as the Breffo Spiderpodium. It looks like a horror movie prop, but you can twist the Spiderpodium’s legs into any position and they’re long enough to grip any tablet out there, and hold it at whatever angle you want. The legs are sturdy, so you don’t have to worry about your precious tablet slipping out, but also easily plied into new positions.
In fact, it’s not just tablets that the Spiderpodium can clutch. Almost any gadget out there, from phones to MP3 players to speakers, can be housed in its grip. It’s the flexibility that we love, and if you need to take it with you, just fold up the legs and slip it into your bag. Simple.
Innergie PocketCell (myinnergie.com, £79)
Innergie’s PocketCell is a portable charger for your mobile gadgets, to top them up when you’re on the road and miles from the nearest mains socket. It’s a sleek and compact device, like a chunky lighter, so won’t take up much space in your bag. The best part is the included USB cable, which has built-in micro USB, mini USB and Apple heads, making the PocketCell compatible with almost every phone and tablet you can buy these days.
You charge the PocketCell via USB using that same cable before leaving the house, then connect it to your phone, tablet or other pocket device and hold a button on the side to start it charging. This prevents the PocketCell from accidentally discharging while travelling. We charged our iPhone one and a half times before the PocketCell was depleted, although our iPad wasn’t even halfway charged before the juice ran out. This charger is pricey compared to many on the market, but if you use different devices with different connectors and are always on the move, it’s a great way to ensure you stay connected. You can also pay out for extra accessories such as a car charger and mains adapter.
AfterShokz headphones (www.aftershokz.co.uk, £59.95)
The idea of headphones that don’t actually touch your ears is a strange one, but it’s actually an important safety feature that could possibly save lives. Unlike standard headphones, the AfterShokz wrap around the back of your head, with the buds resting on the fleshy bits in front of your ears. ‘Bone conduction technology’ helps to transmit the sound of your music, keeping your ears unblocked so you’re aware of your surroundings – a good idea for cyclists, joggers and anyone else who takes a risk when they slip in normal earphones. The rugged build is sweat- and splash-proof, ideal for those intense workouts.
The AfterShokz are comfortable to wear even during extended use, although the non-adjustable band kept catching on our shirt collar, pushing the ‘phones out of position, so they’re best used when wearing a t-shirt or similar. You also have to turn the volume up high to get a decent sound out of them, so don’t try using them on a train or other quiet public places – your fellow humans will not appreciate it. You need to charge the dongle via USB, but you’ll get a good few hours of use from each charge.
Jabra Clipper (www.jabra.co.uk, £32)
These Bluetooth earphones are a little different from the usual efforts. First, attach the bright orange clip to your sleeve, shirt or other dangly bit of cloth, and then plug your ‘phones into it. The clip pairs up via Bluetooth with your phone, and then you can play your music as usual, with no wires flapping around between your mobile and the clip. This is particularly useful for joggers or cyclists: you can keep your smartphone safely out of the way, in a bag or backpack, and still enjoy your favourite tunes.
The clip features volume controls for iPhones and iPods, to save you fumbling for your mobile during those unexpected shouty bits. The Jabra Clipper also alerts you to any incoming calls, but the lack of a built-in mic means you’ll need to pull out your mobile to answer the call. You get around six hours of use from a 2-3 hour charge, and a built-in USB cable and mains charger is included.
SanDisk Extreme Pro 16GB micro SD (www.sandisk.co.uk)
This tiny memory card comes in surprisingly bulky packaging, but is a perfect way to top up your smartphone’s storage space. Coming in either 8GB or 16GB sizes, you’ll have enough space even with the smaller model for thousands of photo and hours of video. Video capture is what this card excels at: with transfer speeds of up to 95Mbps supported, you’ll have no trouble recording Full HD video directly to the card. You’ll also be able to copy movies, songs and more across in mere seconds.
Your precious memories and media are protected at all times, as the SanDisk card is water-proof, shock-proof and resistant to extreme temperatures. In fact, your phone will likely break long before the card does. Our sample card also came with a car charger and Micro USB cable in the box, which will keep your mobile topped up on those road trips – a neat little bonus.