Jack Wallen lists the five most important smartphone accessories for the mobile IT professional.
All hail the smartphone. Next to the tablet, it's the single most important tool an on-the-go pro can carry. The smartphone keeps you connected, keeps you working, and keeps you on top of your life. But there are times when the smartphone isn't enough. Those tiny keyboards can fight your sausage fingers, and those clunky handsets sometimes demand that you lose one hand for important things — like driving.
Never fear, there are smartphone accessories that just might help, five of which I'll highlight in this post. Let's dive into the mobile realm and see what kind of devices you should be using for your smartphone.
Warning: Some of these accessories might seem common sense to a certain majority of readers. You'd be surprised, however, to know that even the most basic of accessories have slipped under the radar.
1. Bluetooth handset
Oh sure, a vast majority of people mock the Bluetooth user, saying they'd never be one of "those" people. Look, if you're using a smartphone (or any phone for that matter) and you drive, chances are you've had that device up to your ear while you drive. Don't take that chance. It's not like the old days with a standard cell phone, where answering the phone was as simple as pushing a single button and saying "hello." Now, you have to unlock the phone and accept the call. With a Bluetooth headset, you can generally just tap a button while the piece is in your ear. On top of that, you can still drive with both hands on the wheel.
But listen, if you do use a Bluetooth, be respectful; don't have that piece in your ear and be chatting with your bros or doing business while you're in line for that latte or to buy a package of diapers. Get off the phone and be considerate of those around you.
2. Bluetooth keyboard
Smartphones have become so powerful that it's actually possible to do real-world work on them. You can type documents and send serious communications with them. The problem is, if you're doing anything of length, those virtual keyboards will be a real pain in the finger and the brain. I've used Bluetooth keyboards with both mobile phones and tablets, and they're truly a time and sanity saver. If you're a power user, you must at least give a Bluetooth keyboard a go. You can even purchase rubberized, roll-up keyboards to save space. But before you drop the coin for one of these nifty devices, make sure the key action and layout suit your needs. If you're a real power user, you'll want something full-sized and standard.
3. Extra chargers
I know, it seems silly to remind people to pick up extra chargers. But one thing I want to mention is this: smartphones are insanely powerful now and draw large amounts of power from their battery. You want to make sure you're always powered up. If you're looking at an iPhone, the charger is pretty standardized. If, however, you're considering an Android phone, depending on the device you use, the charger will be different. Most use a mini-USB plug, but some, like the HTC Rezound, have a proprietary plug that you might not find off the shelf. What's really important here is to purchase a plug that will allow you to charge your device directly from an electrical outlet. You'll find the device charges much faster that way.
There's one particular smartphone, the Droid Bionic (from Verizon) that offers the Lapdock, which effectively turns the smartphone into a laptop. That's right — phones are that powerful now. It still uses a pseudo-smartphone interface, but it's so much easier to use than the small screen. The touchpad and keyboard that are connected to your device allow you to work with a much more familiar form factor. And the docks tend to be much lighter than standard laptops.
Of course, many of you might be thinking "Why not just get a tablet?" That's all fine and good, but even with a tablet, you're not going to be typing as quickly on that virtual keyboard as you would on a standard keyboard. The biggest issues with docks is the cost. In the case of Bionic Lapdock, the cost can drive the price into the range of the tablet or laptop.
5. HD Dock
The lesser sibling of accessories like the Lapdock is the HD dock (such as the one made for the Droid Bionic), which allows you to connect your smartphone (if it has the capability) directly to a High Definition display. Why is this important? The days of having to use a projector for presentations are over. Now HD displays are large enough, and entire crowds can see them. So, you can keep your presentations on your smartphone, plug it into an HD display, and have at it.
You connect your HD dock to your smartphone with a mini HDMI cable, but the downfall is that you can't charge your device at the same time. This is especially important if your presentation is long winded. You certainly don't want to run out of juice during the presentation. However, the HD dock solves this by including a charger.
There are many more accessories available, but the five I've listed are, from my experience, the most important ones to consider for the on-the-go IT pro. What about you? Have you come across an accessory for your mobile that you can't work without? If so, let us know in the discussion thread below.