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Making the Most of Your Smartphone

For around a thousand bucks, a top-tier smartphone provides a dizzying amount of functionality in addition to talking and messaging. But steadily growing and evolving universes of accessories add remarkable depth to your digital Swiss Army knife in three key areas: power, protection and features. NPD Group’s executive analyst Benjamin Arnold notes the growth so far this year in mobile power and device protection, citing that “2021 sales recovered [from pandemic-related losses in 2020] as retail restrictions lifted and people engaged in more activities outside the home. The success of popular handsets in ’21 also helped to drive more investment in the category.” 

The pandemic was also a time where many of us decided to get creative, pay attention to wellness and maybe escape just a bit. Now that we’re easing back into normal life, we can bring those pursuits with us on the go with smartphone accessories for photo/video, music creation, wellness and gaming. It’s worth noting that although many of our favorite add-ons work across platforms, some OS-specific items like Apple’s MagSafe ecosystem of chargers and mounts deserve attention as well.  

Mophie’s snap+ juice pack includes a 5000 mAh battery that works with Apple’s MagSafe system and also snaps to the back of compatible iPhone models.

Capturing Moments — and a Watching Audience — More Effectively 

Death Digital’s Death Lens is an inexpensive way to add a little style to a photo shoot, with fisheye and wide-angle models that fit even the newest iOS and Android handsets. Moment offers pricier, higher-end lenses in macro, wide-angle, fisheye, anamorphic and tele models that add extremely sharp glass to any smartphone lens with pretty amazing results.  

TikTok stars will love the new wave of smartphone mounts that automatically track subjects so they’re never out of the picture. Belkin’s Magnetic Phone Mount with Face Tracking is a solid inexpensive option for iPhone 12 and 13 users. It uses Apple’s MagSafe technology to snap the phone to the mount instantly in perfect alignment, and the accompanying app connects to social media accounts for quick and seamless posting. The more expensive Pivo Pod Silver uses a more traditional clip-style grip, so it supports most handsets and has bells and whistles like fast rotation, compatibility with video call apps, multiple tracking modes and 12 shooting modes. 

A phone mount for smartphones
The Magnetic Phone Mount with Face Tracking from Belkin automatically tracks its subjects so they are always in the frame, and the accompanying app connects to social media accounts for easy posting.

Creating Better Audio 

Mobile music accessories help you turn your phone into a miniature studio and record music or podcasts anywhere. If you want to use a handful of mics to capture a roundtable discussion or a band performance, the IK Multimedia iRig Pro Quattro I/O gives you four mic/line inputs to grab up to 24-bit/96kHz audio with. It runs off USB, batteries or an optional power supply.  

Need to get your melodies down on a plane or hotel room? Connect the Akai MPK Mini Mk3 25-key keyboard to your phone and record directly into mobile audio recording software. It has 128 built-in sounds and assignable pads so you can create beats. With its integrated speaker and 14-hour run time on battery power, it can also function as a standalone instrument.   

Gaming on the Go 

Turning your iPhone into a full-fledged mobile game console is as easy as snapping on a gaming controller like the Backbone One, which is compatible with tons of Apple Arcade and other games and has an ergonomic grip. The Razer Kishi V2 is the next generation of a popular mobile controller for Android phones that, like Backbone One, has a similar button layout to controllers for gaming consoles like XBox. An iPhone version will be available later this year as well. Both require downloading apps in order to use them; both apps allow users to record gameplay and post to social media.  

The Trending Factors that Sell Mobile Chargers 

Speed and wireless are the two hottest trends among mobile chargers. Anker’s Nano II uses gallium nitride components to provide up to 100W of power in a very compact form factor, letting you power up your phone very quickly via one USB-A and 2 USB-C ports.  

Mophie also makes fast GaN chargers, but the company’s snap+ juice pack has been extremely popular; this 5000 mAh battery works with Apple’s MagSafe system and simply snaps to the back of compatible iPhone models. There’s also a version with a built-in wallet.  

Belkin’s 3-in-1 Wireless Charging Pad recharges your iPhone and accessories including Apple watch (series 7 and later), and AirPods Pro simultaneously via MagSafe technology. MagSafe also is a big hit among automotive phone charging mounts like the iOttie Velox and Belkin’s BoostCharge magnetic wireless vent-mounted chargers.  

Protecting Consumers’ Digital Lifelines 

Otterbox helped pioneer ultra-durable cases, and their MagSafe-compatible cases like the Core and Symmetry series as well as more traditional cases are protective even under pretty extreme conditions. But we’re also big fans of their tempered glass screen protectors, like the Gaming Glass Privacy Guard with Antimicrobial Technology. It protects against micro-scratches from keys and other wear that is more often the culprit of cracked or shattered screens, and it also keeps prying eyes from seeing what you see.   

LifeProof’s focus is on water, whether it’s creating waterproof cases for mobile devices or making sustainable cases made from recycled plastic sourced from the ocean. MagSafe and Qi-compatible Models like Wake, Next and FRĒ, rated for up to one hour under 2 meters of water, are made from 50-85 percent recycled materials and shipped in recyclable packaging. 

Accessories that Promote Wellness 

AlivCor’s KardiaMobile Card is the world’s first credit card-sized electrocardiogram, letting you monitor your heart with a device that fits in your wallet. It pairs wirelessly with your phone and works with an app that detects six different kinds of arrhythmia, shares data with your health provider and generates reports.  

The Muse S (Gen 2) headband helps you find inner balance by responding to your brainwaves to provide guided meditations and sleep-supporting soundscapes that change depending on how calm or noisy your mind is, as well as detailed sleep tracking features via the included smartphone app. The latest generation headband has longer battery life (10 hours), faster charge time and better signal quality than its predecessor.