The accessories you do and don't need for your smartphone

Last Updated July 2020

Getting a new smartphone is a pretty magical feeling – you’ve got brand-new technology in your hands that can connect you with people, information, and apps from all over the world! But as most smartphone owners know, it’s important to buy the right accessories to make sure your smartphone lasts as long as possible and supports every part of your lifestyle.

There are mountains of smartphone accessories available, ranging from the essential to the pointless, and it’s easy to waste a lot of money on extras that don’t add a lot of value. If you need help differentiating between the essential gear and the gimmicky extras you can live without, we’ve got you covered.

Essential accessories

No matter what kind of phone you choose or how often you plan on using it, there are three key accessories to never skip.

  • A case. Accidental drops can happen to anyone – and all it takes is one to permanently trash an unprotected phone. Whether you get a basic silicone case or a case built to withstand abuse, it’s important to put some type of covering on it. (If you’re just looking for a basic case that will protect your smartphone from anything, an Otterbox case is a solid choice.)

  • A screen protector. Your phone’s screen is the most sensitive part, and a cracked screen can make text hard to read – or worse, cut your fingers with sharp glass. Don’t delay putting on a screen protector, and if you’ve never put one on before, consider going to your wireless provider’s store and asking a staff member for help.

  • A power bank. Power banks are basically just big batteries that you can keep with you to provide a quick recharge when you’re away from a power outlet. Power banks measure how much power they contain in milliamp Hours, or mAh, and can hold anywhere from 2,000 mAh to 30,000 mAh. The average smartphone battery holds a maximum of 3,000 mAh of power, but that can vary with different models. Check the battery capacity of your smartphone, and make sure to buy a power bank that holds enough power to charge it at least twice.

Tech you probably won’t need

Avoid these products when you’re shopping for smartphone accessories – your money is better spent elsewhere.

  • External camera lenses. Many camera manufacturers offer sophisticated lenses – especially for iPhones – that attach to your smartphone’s camera to achieve specific effects. For example, a wide-angle smartphone lens allows your phone to take shots that aren’t possible with the stock camera; other kits will include multiple lenses that promise to deliver SLR-quality images. In reality, while some external lenses are useful, they won’t add much value unless you’re a professional photographer who’s comfortable with making manual adjustments.

  • A smartphone gimbal. A gimbal is a camera stabilizer that’s used for keeping your phone steady while you shoot video – and while you might need one if you’re filming a cinematic masterpiece, you probably don’t need one for everyday home movies. If you only take casual videos with your phone, don’t bother with a gimbal.

  • A Smartphone sanitizer. Everyone’s phone gets dirty – whether it’s fingerprints, smudges or just plain dirt, even the shiniest phones will eventually see their fair share of filth. And while it’s tempting to buy a phone sanitizer – a little box that uses ultraviolet light to clean your device – but it's on the expensive side. Grab a cleaning kit with a microfiber cloth and a light cleaning spray,  and keep your phone sanitary that way.

Our picks

Need to know about the essential accessories for your lifestyle? Check out our favorite picks for the most common use cases.

For the rugged lifestyle

If your phones tend to get beat up, or if you’ve got kids who haven’t mastered being gentle with electronics, you’ll need to keep your phone as physically safe as possible. Here are our favorite safety-minded accessories.

  • A heavy-duty smartphone case. Hopefully, this is a no-brainer: if your phones go through a lot of abuse, you should buy a big, bulky case to keep yours as safe as possible. Lots of phone cases claim durability, but not all of them deliver, so be sure to read user reviews carefully as you’re shopping.

  • Our pick for iPhone 7 and iPhone 8: the OtterBox Defender Series case.

  • Our pick for Samsung Galaxy S9 phones: the OtterBox Defender Series case.

  • A screen protector. Don’t take any chances with screen scratches: once your screen is scratched, the only real fix is to replace the glass, which can be expensive. Make sure you’re safeguarding your screen from scrapes and permanent scars and pick up a screen protector.

  • Our pick for iPhone 7 and iPhone 8: a JeTech Screen Protector.

  • Our pick for Samsung Galaxy S9 phones: an OTAO Galaxy S9 Screen Protector.

  • A warranty or protection plan. Most of the time, adding a protection plan to an electronics purchase is a waste of money, but not when it comes to smartphones. Smartphone insurance is pretty affordable these days – especially if you opt for third-party insurance instead of the options available from your wireless carrier.

  • Our pick: SquareTrade’s 2-Year Cell Phone Accidental Protection Plan.

For frequent travelers

If you take your phone with you everywhere, make sure you’re picking up the right gear to help your phone be your best travel companion. Here’s the tech we wouldn’t head to the airport without.

  • A phone finder. Never leave your phone on a plane or in a hotel room again by using Bluetooth phone trackers. With a phone finder, you can locate your phone if you ever misplace it nearby, and even get alerted if you leave it behind somewhere.  

  • Our pick: the Tile Slim.

  • A car mount. Whether you’re travelling in your own car or renting cars in other cities, using a car mount for your phone helps you take your phone’s GPS anywhere, as well as your favorite music.

  • Our pick: the iOttie Easy One-Touch 2.

  • A phone ring. Phone rings, also known as ring stands, are discreet attachments for your smartphone that create an instant kickstand. Phone rings are perfect for standing your phone up on plane rides for a movie, or on your nightstand for binging that last episode before bed.

  • Our pick: the Humixx Finger Ring Stand.

For media fanatics

If you do most of your video streaming on your phone, make sure you’ve got the accessories to perfect the audio-visual experience. Here are the best add-ons to turn your phone into a mobile cinema.

  • Noise-cancelling headphones. Hear your movie soundtracks – and no background noise around you – in their full glory with a pair of noise-cancelling headphones. No smartphone speaker will deliver the same sonic punch a good set of headphones can, so grabbing the right pair is essential for anyone who loves streaming video on their phone.

  • Our pick: Bose QuietComfort 35 (Series II) Noise-Cancelling Wireless Headphones.

  • An adapter for your TV. Not all smartphones support it, but many can connect to your TV’s HDMI port with the help of an adapter cable. If you want to see your phone’s content on your big-screen TV, investigate if there’s a compatible adapter. 

  • Our pick: Apple lighting to HDMI adapter for iPhone.

  • A Google Chromecast. Another way to get your smartphone’s content on your TV screen is with a Google Chromecast. Chromecasts plug directly into an HDMI port on your TV, and then allow devices on your local network to “cast” media to the Chromecast for display. If you’ve ever wanted to pause a show on your phone, then resume it on your TV, pick up a Chromecast – it works so seamlessly, it feels a little bit like magic. 

  • Our pick: Google Chromecast Ultra Streaming Media Player.

Written by:
  • Jaime