Friends don’t let friends use an unprotected smartphone. They also don’t let them listen to music through the phone’s tiny speakers, type for extended periods of time on the touchscreen or leave the house without a back-up power solution.
Accessories – such as protective cases, Bluetooth speakers, portable keyboards and battery boosters – can all help add some functionality and longevity to your beloved (but limited) device.
Logitech Wireless Solar Keyboard K760
Smartphones and tablets have a number of benefits over personal computers – they’re more portable, affordable and last all day on a single charge – but smaller screens and an all-touch interface mean they’re not as conducive for taking notes, writing lengthy emails or cranking out essays or reports.
Logitech’s Wireless Solar Keyboard K760 ($89.99) is a powered by any light – be it a small lamp, overhead light or the sun’s rays – and fully charged it’ll work for at least three months, even in total darkness. This Bluetooth keyboard works specifically with Apple’s iOS devices (iPhone, iPad or iPod touch) as well as Macs, but Logitech also has Android and Windows 8-based wireless keyboards, too.
Carbon Audio Zooka
Whether you’re hanging outside with friends or want to add more boom to your room, a Bluetooth speaker like Carbon Audio’s Zooka ($89.99) is an ideal companion to your favorite mobile device. Like other products of this kind, you can wirelessly play music from your smartphone or tablet without having to dock it – therefore you can use it while it streams audio to the speaker – but the Zooka also has a built-in slit to insert your tablet and a stand to prop it up.
Also ideal for watching video and playing games, the silicone-covered Zooka houses dual speakers (each with 30mm drivers), a built-in microphone (in case a call comes in) and integrated rechargeable battery (that lasts up to eight hours per charge). The Zooka is available in eight colors.
OtterBox Defender Series
Whether you're a klutz or work in harsh environments, a rugged smartphone case is the best way to protect your investment. While many have tried to take ownership of the category, OtterBox is still the king of cases -- including the company’s line of Defender Series (from $39.95) products that safeguard your phone in three ways: a clear membrane that covers the screen, a hard polycarbonate skeleton that surrounds the smartphone and a wrap-around silicone skin that absorbs bumps. Available for Android, iPhone, Windows Phone 8 and BlackBerry 10 devices, these super-durable cases also include a swivel belt clip that doubles as a small stand for viewing video.
Seagate Wireless Plus
Have a couple of bored kids in the backseat on a road trip? Eliminate the “Are we there yet?” with the Seagate Wireless Plus ($199.99), a pocket-sized hard drive with a unique trick up its sleeve.
Like any other portable drive, you’ll first connect it to a PC or Mac and drag and drop files onto it for safe keeping – this 1-terabyte drive can store 500 HD movies, for example -- and when you take it to go, press a button to turn it on and it creates a wireless hotspot; now up to seven people can stream content at the same time – via a smartphone, tablet or laptop – and even one can watch something different. You can also use this drive to stream music, photos, documents and more. Another feature is the ability to wirelessly save photos and videos from a smartphone or tablet to the drive, to free up more space on your portable device.
Mophie Juice Pack Powerstation Duo
There’s nothing worse when you’re enjoying yourself out of the home and the gadgets you rely on start to run out of juice. Instead of a bulky battery case that weighs down your mobile phone – even when you don’t need it – consider an external power solution you can plug in, as needed. About the size of a deck of cards, the Mophie Juice Pack Powerstation Duo ($99.99) is an all-black 6000 mAh battery that can charge up a typical smartphone roughly four times. In fact, as the name suggests, you can charge two devices at the same time via its full-size USB ports. Four small LED indicators show you when it’s time to charge up the Mophie, as well, which you can do by plugging it into a computer or AC plug, before tossing it in your backpack, purse or carryon bag.
We can also use a little extra motivation to get fit and lose weight. The Fitbit Flex ($99.99) is a wearable wristband that first asks you to set a daily goal – such as a certain number of steps taken, distance traveled or calories burned – and then you can glance at the LED lights to see how close or far you are to reaching it. Along with its built-in accelerometer, this water-resistant band also has integrated Bluetooth to wirelessly sync your data with Android and iOS smartphones, as well as PCs and Macs. Available in four colors, the Flex can also give you challenges and rewards; let you compete on an opt-in leaderboard; and can also help monitor how long and well you sleep (and can wake you up with a silent alarm so it won’t bother your partner).
Cobra Tag Universal
Keep losing your keys or misplacing your smartphone? Perhaps you need the Cobra Tag Universal ($33). This second generation product — which works with free apps for iPhone or Android devices -- clamps onto your keys, purse, luggage or whatever else you don't want to lose. Simply open the app, tap the scree and you'll hear a loud chirping noise to help you locate your stuff. Or press the button on the Cobra Tag Universal and your Bluetooth-enabled smartphone or tablet will chime or play as song from your collection. The most underrated feature, however, is your Cobra Tag will sound its alarm if it loses a connection with you device -- such as accidentally leaving your Android tab in a café. The app can also send you a text, email, tweet or post that your phone or tablet can't be located and show you a map where it is.
Any cool gadgets you'd like to share with us? Please let us know in the comments below!
*Yahoo! Shopping is not compensated by any of the brands listed in this article.