By Joe Levi | September 2, 2013 7:28 AM
It’s September 2013. We have smartphones and tablets that feature multiple-core processors, gigs of RAM, and wireless data that’s on par with the speeds we get at our homes and offices. Our batteries last for hours and our screens come in various types of High Definitions. Operating Systems, regardless of which “team” you’re on, are all full-featured and powerful. What’s the problem? Mobile accessories: hardly anyone is getting them right!
Car docks are great for several reasons: they keep our phones from skidding across the seat while we’re trying to drive, they hold our phones right where they need to be for use as a navigation system, and they keep our phones at arm’s length to discourage us from using them while we’re driving.
There is no one-size-fits all approach to car docks today. Most have some serious drawbacks around their retention mechanism, and the vast majority require you to connect power and audio cables directly to your phone if you want to charge or route audio through your car’s stereo.
Even docks made by the phone’s manufacturer and specifically for your phone often fall sort of the mark. The dock for the Galaxy Nexus, for example, is a very tight fit. It does pass charging through the POGO pins and audio through a “special” Bluetooth configuration, but it’s a pain to use. Sometimes literally.
To get this accessory “right” manufacturers need to make docking and undocking your phone easy and convenient. They need to incorporate automatic charging (whether by POGO or Qi wireless charging). And they need to somehow tell the device it should switch to “car mode” (whether by NFC or some other mechanism). Not only that, they need to do all of that without requiring us to buy a new dock for every new phone that comes across our dash.
Whether charging on your nightstand while you catch up on your beauty sleep, or while on your desk as you clack away on computer at work, a desktop dock should provide a safe and secure place to rest your phone or tablet. It should hold your device at an angle that makes it easily readable, and should making charging simple. Again, this is were Qi compatible devices really come in handy. Alas, even with Qi in some of the more popular phones (or as an accessory add-on), in my experience only the Nexus 4 desktop dock comes close to being worth-while.
This one should be easy for virtually any manufacturer to get right, but, alas, no one seems to care.
I consider a case for your smartphone or tablet a “necessary evil”. I shouldn’t have to have a case to protect my device, it should be rugged enough on its own. No, I’m not talking about devices that are engineered to be “rugged” per se, I just shouldn’t have to baby my personal electronics.
When I finally give in and put a case on my devices the first thing I want to protect is the screen. Doing so requires something to cover that big sheet of glass. This is where a lot of you will argue that Gorilla Glass is “strong enough” and “doesn’t need protecting”. Sure, Gorilla Glass is great, but it can still break and it can still get scratched. Covering the glass is the only way to get any reasonable protection for it. Most cases, however, just cover the back and sides of the device and leave its screen to fend for itself, or, if you’re “lucky”, they’ll provide a few millimeters of clear plastic to cover the screen.
Flip cases are one of the only options for truly protecting your screen, but no one is doing them well. Even the so called “smart” covers don’t function well as stands (even though they’re advertised to do so), and they move around too much across the glass — which eventually will lead to scratches.
Tablets aside, once you start looking for a flip cover for your smartphone, unless their is an “official” cover for it, you’re probably not going to find a good one.
With the exception of Samsung’s S-Pen, I have yet to find a stylus that really “works”. Sure, they all work as a pointing device, but there’s something else that functions in that capacity: my finger.
Unless you have an app that accepts your handwriting, enables drawing simple shapes, or functions as an artist’s sketchpad, a stylus is just one more thing to get in the way. You’ve got to remember to lug it around with you. Most of them try to double as an ink-pen, but they’re pretty crappy pens. If your OS isn’t customized for use with a stylus, there’s no reason why your finger won’t do just as well.
Samsung is getting close. Its S-Pen fits in a stylus-well (on some of its devices) and is readily available. The Samsung-modified OS is only somewhat optimized for use with a stylus, but just the Samsungish parts. The core OS doesn’t care whether you’re using your finger or a fancy stylus.
What did we miss?
Are there any accessories that we should have put on the list but didn’t? Do you have recommendations for one that we did? Now’s your turn! Head down to the comments and let us know the good, the bad, and the ugly of mobile accessories!