As if smartphones weren’t handy enough for travelers by themselves, hundreds of companies sell accessories that promise all kinds of extra features. Knowing which ones are truly useful, and which ones are just gimmicks, though, isn’t always easy. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to several of the better options this holiday season.
From protective cases that add an extra screen, to add-on lenses for zoom, wide-angle and 360-degree shots, and much more, these are five of the best smartphone accessories for travelers.
Looking for an iPhone case with a difference? Oaxis has come out with a unique take on phone protection, with its InkCase. As well as protecting that precious smartphone from travel’s inevitable knocks and scratches, the back of the InkCase is a full-size electronic ink second screen.
Using the accompanying app, the high-resolution screen can display anything from a favorite travel photo to weather, health tracking, calendar and other useful info. It can even replace an e-reader, showing text and ePub books.
The InkCase connects to the phone via Bluetooth, but holds its own charge to preserve precious battery life. Available for iPhone 6 and 7 models, it’s an easy way to make a smartphone even more useful on vacation.
Who said travel photos need to be boring? LyfieEye’s 360-degree camera instantly turns any selfie video or still image into something far more interesting.
Compatible with Facebook and YouTube’s 360 video formats, as well as any VR headset, the LyfieEye lets the viewer pan in all directions for a far richer experience. Plugging into any Android smartphone, the camera automatically saves its videos and photos straight to the device.
About the same size as a ping-ping ball and weighing barely half an ounce, it’s small enough to fit in even the tiniest pocket while on the go.
For more traditional, if no less impressive, smartphone lenses, check out Moment’s range of add-on accessories. The company produces high-quality wide angle, telephoto. fisheye and macro lenses that attach to most types of current smartphones and cases.
All of the lenses dramatically improve normal smartphone camera shots, but the two most useful for travelers are likely the wide-angle and telephoto models.
Whether it’s getting that perfect shot of a sweeping sunset vista, or zooming right in to capture the detail on a far-off building, these lenses turn a phone into something much closer to a full-size camera.
Available standalone, or with a custom case that includes a dedicated shutter button and mounting plate, Moment lenses simply make for better travel photos.
Want to be reminded of those glorious beachside days, even long after the tan has faded? Swaponz makes it easy, with its inexpensive smartphone cases. The rubber cases protect the phone from dirt and damage, but it’s the swappable designs that make things interesting.
The company’s starter kit includes a case and two designs, chosen either from a collection of images on the site, or some favorite travel photos uploaded or picked from an Instagram feed.
The case itself is available in several colors, for recent Samsung Galaxy and iPhone models. There’s no need to stop at just two designs, of course – it’s easy to add more, either at time of purchase or later.
Taking vacation photos on our phones is super-easy. Finding space for them all and remembering to keep them backed up, however? Not so much. Enter the Picture Keeper Connect.
This little gadget plugs into Android and iOS devices, and the accompanying app automatically backs up photos to the inbuilt storage. Those shots can then be copied to other mobile devices that have the app installed. There’s also a USB plug on the other end of the Picture Keeper, so it’s easy to send photos to and from Mac and Windows computers as well.
Backing up or sharing photos with others doesn’t need Wi-fi or cell data, which is ideal in places where Internet access is slow, expensive or simply unavailable.