Android phones are famed for their diversity: different sizes, shapes, brands, and even OS skins. But what are the add-ons you need to turn your phone into a powerful pocket companion?
A case is usually the first step for new phone buyers, but this is the 21st century—there are all sorts of cool things you can do to make your phone more formidable. Here's our shortlist of essential accessories for your Android phone.
1. An External Battery
If you're worried that your phone will leave you in the lurch and you simply can't afford any downtime, consider an external battery pack. While you can find cells that can charge your phone as many as four or five times, I like the smaller ones, like Anker's PowerCore+ mini. It fits in your pocket without much fuss, and it offers enough capacity to fully charge just about every Android phone on the market.
You might need more juice than that if you're going on a long trip. In that case, a higher-capacity cell—10,000 or 20,000 mAh—is what you're after. Just be aware that you'll be carrying around a heavier, bulkier unit.
2. Good Headphones
If you like to listen to podcasts, rock out to music, or even watch videos while you're commuting, headphones are an essential part of your daily gadgetry.
The earbuds included with most smartphones are generally lackluster, and break quickly (if they're included at all). Solution? Get a serious pair of headphones that will actually get the job done. Just be sure to get a durable set and you'll enjoy years of happy listening.
There's a perfect set of headphones out there for everyone, and we can help you find the right ones. There's a lot to consider, but it's a wonderful time to be alive if you're an audiophile.
3. A Wireless Charging Pad
Man, you just don't know convenient phone charging until you have a wireless charging pad. Instead of futzing in the dark with a microUSB cable, you can just set your phone on a surface near the bed, or let it chill on a pad at work. Of course, that's only if your phone supports it.
Though it's by no means the most efficient or speediest way to give your phone a mid-day boost, it's easily the most painless. It's also a great habit to get into for durability's sake, since it's the easiest way to extend the life of your fragile little USB port.
4. A Tempered Glass Screen Protector
I tell this to everyone I know, but a tempered glass screen protector is a great way to prevent an asphalt-savaged display. Since they take the brunt of the force and absorb most of the scratches, tempered glass protectors are a very effective way to keep your phone pristine underneath a near-invisible protective layer.
Thankfully, not only are they durable, but they're easy to replace should they break or get scratched. They're also cheap enough that you won't be too heartbroken when you inevitably toss them in the garbage.
These have given their lives saving my phones on more than one occasion—and in some pretty extreme instances, too. While it's not going to make your mobile mithril or anything, it's a good first line of defense against keys, drops, and dirt.
5. A Protective Case
This one seems like a no-brainer, but a proper case will protect your phone from drops, spills, and children—assuming you get a good one. You'll have to make your own decisions about what case to buy, but most Android phones don't give you too many choices. It's only the popular flagships that get serious attention from case makers.
Cases can also add cool features to your phone: waterproofing, a kickstand, a wallet, and even pepper spray. We don't condone that last one, but it just goes to show you can have just about anything you want in a case if you're willing to look for it. Hell, there are even cases you can vape out there.
6. A Quick Charger
Not every Android phone is compatible, but if you have a compatible phone—like the Google Nexus 6, Samsung Galaxy Note 5, or any current-gen Motorola phone—Motorola's Turbo Charger will have you topped off in a jiffy.
If you're the kind of Android geek who has to have the latest and greatest Nexus hardware, you're looking for a different sort of fast charging. Your Nexus 5X or 6P uses USB-C, but not just any charger will do if you want to unlock those phones' Rapid Charging capability. Look though this comprehensive list compiled by Google engineer Benson Leung for guidance on which chargers to buy, from car chargers to wall units.
Where normal chargers will give you a slow trickle of juice, fast chargers up the amperage to fill your cell extremely quickly. (Just keep in mind your phone might get a bit hot in the process.) It should be an essential part of your kit if you're a power user or frequent flyer.
7. A Car Mount
If you're like me, your phone isn't just a pocket distraction machine—it's also your navigator. But it doesn't come with a car mount like your old standalone GPS did.
If you use Google Maps or Waze even a little bit, a mounting bracket will save you some headaches as you trek through the countryside. Putting your phone in your field of view keeps your hands free, your eyes on the road, and even helps you take advantage of great navigation features like lane assist.
8. Amazon Echo
Despite Ray Bradbury's repeated warnings about home automation, 2015 brought us Amazon's wildly popular home automation assistant. The Amazon Echo probably won't create a terrifying virtual reality nightmare in your living room, but it will let you control just about any smart home gadget out there—including Philips Hue lights, Samsung SmartThings appliances, Wink, and WeMo.
It's an interesting experience barking commands at a cylinder on your coffee table, but the payoff is pretty great. Power users will love the baked-in ITTT support and complete voice control of the ever-expanding list of compatible devices—including some Ford cars.
But the Echo isn't just an assistant, it's also an omnidirectional wireless speaker. Using your home's WiFi network, it can stream music from a host of providers, read you the news, run down your calendar events, and much more. (Note: Though a $99 yearly Prime subscription isn't necessary to use the Echo, it does unlock more options.)
9. A Smartwatch
Okay, a smartwatch might not really qualify as essential—at least, not quite yet. But if you're a fan of futurism, there a few cooler products on the market, and these little wrist computers can seriously augment your smartphone experience when done right.
The Samsung Gear S2 Classic is a popular choice, but I like the design of the Huawei Watch (or "Huatch," as I like to call it). Not only is it metal and actually stylish, but it has most of the features you'd want in a smartwatch. The choice is up to you, but either of those options will work great.
That said, most users would do just as well with a cheaper fitness tracker. Consider a model from Fitbit, Garmin, or Misfit if longer battery life and enhanced monitoring of your vitals are more important to you than texts and turn-by-turn navigation on your wrist.