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As smartphones have become more ubiquitous, the number of things they can actually do has expanded.
There’s a whole industry devoted to making add-ons for the computer in your pocket, and while a good chunk of them aren’t exactly necessary for day-to-day life, they’re often fun and creative enough to be worth it for the right niche of people.
No one device gets more of these weird little add-ons than the iPhone, so here are a few accessories for Apple’s flagship device that we enjoy, even if they aren’t totally practical.
This article was original published on 6/13/2016 and has been updated.
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If you find the flash of the current iPhone camera to be subpar, Concepter wants to help with the iBlazr 2. It connects to your phone via Bluetooth and integrates right into the default camera app on iOS -- all you have to do is point and shoot.
You can adjust the iBlazr 2's light temperature and power on the device itself, and activate the flash by double tapping its back. Its creators say the light created by the iBlazr 2 is comparable to a 'small but powerful flashlight.' So while you shouldn't expect the same results you'd get in broad daylight, the iBlazr 2 will provide significantly more light than the standard iPhone camera's flash.
If you're looking for a way to protect your phone and bring back memories from your old point-and-shoot camera days, consider the SNAP! 7 by bitplay. The case is made out of shock-absorbing material to help your iPhone from the perils of the laws of physics, and the physical shutter button works with the default camera app. The SNAP! 7 also has a grip, which should help cut down on your number of blurry photos.
Speaking of interchangeable lenses, Loha Life's solution lets you take macro and wide-angle shots on the go with a level of detail that the iPhone's default shooter can't quite match. This is a newer entry in the add-on market, but it's got stellar reviews on Amazon, it comes with a lifetime warranty, and it works with Android phones too.
Moving to something you hopefully never have to use in the office, the BACtrack Mobile Breathalyzer is exactly what you'd expect: a sensor for measuring how drunk you are that wirelessly delivers its results to an app on your iOS (or Android) device. Stellar Amazon reviews appear to back its claim of using 'police-grade' sensor tech, so it looks like a more streamlined way to figure out which weekend nights will require a taxi.
If you're in dire need to check the current wind speed, having a portable anemometer in your pack will provide accurate results in short order.
In reality only a few niche groups -- think kite surfers -- will benefit from having one of these. That said, having niche accessories on a popular mobile platform doesn't hurt, and the Yellow Jacket by Weather Flow looks like the best bet, if you're in the market for one. Reviewers on Amazon seem pretty pleased with this device's results, although one mentioned it wouldn't work with their iPhone 6 Plus, which should be taken under consideration.
Here's a simple one. The MFi-certified NomadKey holds all of your keys, but it also has a built-in Lightning-to-USB cable, which allows it to charge an iPhone or transmit its data to or from a computer. It isn't complex, but it's effective.
We're not going to pretend that a virtual keyboard is more accurate or convenient than using a traditional Bluetooth alternative, because it isn't, but it's just so much cooler-looking.
Cellulon's Epic projects a standard QWERTY keyboard onto any flat surface, and although it isn't as fast as regular old buttons, it genuinely does work as advertised. If you don't plan on using your iPhone (or, again, other compatible devices) for serious work, but want a keyboard that will wow anyone nearby, this is tough to top.
Apple famously refuses to add microSD support to the iPhone, which can make storing photos, videos, or other files tricky over time. Most people can turn the cloud when the gigabytes run out, but if you'd rather not put your faith in some company's servers, Sandisk's iXpand is a flash drive with built-in Lightning and USB ports.
That means you can use it to take anything off an iOS device, then stash it onto a USB-compatible one (or vice versa) in one go, rather than having to go through more steps than what's necessary.
If you want to make the video you take on a boat, ATV, or any other rough terrain look silky smooth, a powered gimbal will make that happen. Powered gimbals use motors to automatically adjust a camera's movement smoothly, as opposed to the jittery way our hands do.
LanParte's gimbal has two motors that provide three-axis stabilisation, so no matter how you duck, flip, or wobble, the video you take will be smooth. The main reviewer complaints on Amazon aren't about the unit itself, but the fact that this gimbal only works with lighter devices, like a GoPro or iPhone. If you're looking for a gimbal that's perfect for your smartphone and DSLR, you'll have to look elsewhere.
Looking for a heart rate monitor without going all-in on a fitness band or Apple Watch? You should consider this one from Scosche. It uses Bluetooth and a technology called ANT+ to sync with fitness apps on your phone, delivering data like how many calories you've burned and the pace, distance, and speed of your last run.
With an eight-hour battery, the Scosche band is likely to last for an entire workout, and it's water-resistant in up to one meter of water, so it should be able to withstand a run in the rain. The best part may be that it can maintain a connection with your phone from 100 feet away, so you don't need to have your phone in your pocket when performing body weight exercises.
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