Digital Crave

Eight hot smartphone, tablet accessories for summer

Digital Crave

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If you think smartphone accessories are limited to Bluetooth headsets and fitted cases, in the immortal words of '70s rockers Bachman-Turner Overdrive: Baby, you ain't seen nuthin' yet.

Thousands of smartphone and tablet add-ons are now available, designed to add some extra functionality, protection or style — or a combination of the three.

But with so many products competing your hard-earned dollar, it could be tough to know which ones to invest in — not to mention if they're compatible with your Apple iOS, Android, Blackberry or Windows Phone device.

Some, like smartwatches that wireless communicate with your smartphone, aren't quite ready for primetime just yet.

And so the following is a look at a few currently-available recommendations for those looking to expand the capabilities of their mobile machine.

Jam Wireless Portable Speaker

If you don't have the cash for a premium speaker solution -- such as a Bose, Sonos or Bower & Wilkins product — HMDX's Jam Wireless Portable Speaker, at just $39.99, will no doubt impress your ears. Available in multiple "flavors" (colors), this small (2.8 x 2.8 x 2.5-inch) speaker wirelessly pairs with a nearby smartphone or tablet, so you can hear your music up to 30 feet away. Any smartphone platform or model will work, as long as it's Bluetooth-enabled. And you won't believe how loud this sucker can get — especially out of such a small form factor. Included in the Jam jar (yes, clever packaging) is a small cable to charge up the device via a computer's USB port; battery life tops 4 hours on a single charge. A mini (3.5mm) headphone jack is also on the unit for non-Bluetooth devices.

Solar Keyboard Folio

Logitech's new Solar Keyboard Folio ($129.99) has four things going for it: it's a durable case that protects both the front and back of the iPad 2 or new iPad; it houses a Bluetooth keyboard for more comfortable long-form typing (including media keys to control your tunes); it converts into a stand that can prop up the tablet for typing (angled) or video (upright); and this accessory is solar- and lamplight-powered, therefore you don't need to hunt for an AC plug to charge it up. In fact, Logitech says fully powered, you can type on it for two years, for two hours a day -- even in complete darkness. Along with a small On/Off switch, the Folio can automatically wake up or power down the iPad when you open or close the folio, respectively. Own an Android? The $80 ZAGGkeys Flex keyboard ($80) also doubles as a protective cover and stand for Android phones or tablets.

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Cobra Tag Universal

Keep losing your keys or misplacing your smartphone? Perhaps you need the Cobra Tag Universal ($49.99). This second generation product — which works with free apps for iPhone, Android or BlackBerry 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. My favorite feature, however, is your Cobra Tag will sound its alarm if it loses a connection with you device — such as accidentally leaving your iPad in a coffee shop. 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.

Griffin: Crayola Case Creator

Protect and personalize your tech at the same time. As the name suggests, Griffin's Crayola Case Creator ($29.99) lets kids or kids at heart create a one-of-a-kind case for iPhone and iPod touch. The product includes a hard-shell case that snugly fits your mobile device, with a transparent backing to showcase your custom artwork or photo. The case works with the free Case Creator app for users to decorate photos with digital stickers or free-draw (in Doodle mode) with the available crayons, paints and pens; all artwork can be printed out on the included perforated inserts, each of which are sized to fit the clear iPhone or iPod touch case — plus custom creations can be saved to a gallery, emailed or uploaded to Facebook.

Mophie Juice Pack Powerstation Pro

There's nothing worse than being away from home and the gadgets you rely upon while traveling -- such as a smartphone, media player, tablet or camera -- run out of power, just as you need them. Instead, be prepared with the Mophie Juice Pack Powerstation Pro ($129.95), a top-of-the-line 6,000 mAh rechargeable battery you can use to juice up portable devices via USB. In plain English, a 6,000 mAh battery is roughly 350 percent of an iPhone 4S or Samsung Galaxy S2's battery life. About the size of a deck of cards, the Powerstation Pro also has LED lights to show you the status of the battery and is IP-65 rated for protection against water, dust and sand.

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Cosmonaut Stylus

Love the game Draw Something but need a little help? Have long nails, so find it difficult to use fingertips on portable devices? Prefer to kick it old-school while taking notes during boardroom meetings? Wear gloves in the winter? Whatever your reasons may be, many prefer to use a stylus with touchscreen tablets and smartphones. Consider the Cosmonaut wide-grip stylus ($25), a comfortable accessory with a thick, soft tip that lets you write, draw or tap on capacitive touchscreen devices. The folks at Studio Neat say their secret sauce is a stylus that feels more like a smooth and fast dry erase marker and less of a traditional pen.

iCade 8-Bitty

Seasoned gamers with a nostalgic leaning towards the golden age of consoles might consider picking up the iCade 8-Bitty ($24.99), a Bluetooth-enabled gadget designed to work with an iPhone, iPad, iPod touch or Android device. The wireless game controller sports a vintage D-Pad and button layout reminiscent of retro 8-bit game consoles '90s, such as the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and Sega Master System. The battery-powered device works with many hundreds of games, with a full list available at thinkgeek.com/icadegames. You game?

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Seagate GoFlex Satellite

Featured in Yahoo! Shopping's A Hard Drive is Good to Find round-up, the Seagate GoFlex Satellite ($199.99) is a portable, wireless hard drive. What does that mean? This handy smartphone or tablet accessory is battery powered if you want to take it on the go, and it can wirelessly beam movies, music, photos and documents to any nearby Wi-Fi enabled devices. That way, three kids in the backseat can all watch something different at the same time on a family road trip. This 500GB drive (roughly 300 HD movies) makes its own Wi-Fi hotspot to join and once you do that, simply, open your browser you can select what to watch or listen to, or use one of the many free apps available.

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