Hello, everyone! In this continuing series, we'll be looking at some of the most essential accessories in a given situation or towards a certain purpose. This week, it's all about keeping that expensive hunk of silicon and plastic that we love so very much safe and sound: protective accessories!
In the spirit of fairness, our example phone this week will be the most popular Windows Phone: The Nokia Lumia 800. I'll try to be quite general in my recommendations though, so that it'll be easy to find a good accessory no matter what phone you've got.
OK then, let's get right into it, starting with the most essential accessory of the lot for keeping your phone safe.
1. A Thin Case
The single most important item for protecting your phone is a good quality, branded case. Since this is a general-purpose article, we won't commit to an unreasonably thick and thunky case, going instead for a good blend of size and protection.
Cases can vary in quality considerably, so it can be difficult to choose one. A good way to buy in confidence is to buy a branded product that has plenty of user-written reviews - buying a no-name brand off eBay can be cheaper, but rarely works out well. If you're investing hundreds of pounds into a smartphone, it makes sense to spend the extra £10 or £20 to make sure you get something of quality. Good brands to look out for are Case-Mate, SGP, Seidio, Piel and Otterbox. If your phone's manufacturer (in this case Nokia) makes cases as well, these are often quite decent.
It's a Nokia case that we'll go for here: The Nokia Airflow Case CP-002N. This case covers the back and sides of your case with a fine mesh covering, which provides good springy protection against bumps and scratches, whilst adding very little bulk to your handset. The case fits precisely as it's made by Nokia themselves, and includes cutouts for all of the buttons, ports and the camera - always something you want to ensure when buying a case. It looks pretty good to me as well, so all in all it seems a solid choice for £15.
Next, we'll move onto another critical protective component that everyone should use - the screen protector.
2. Screen Protector
No matter what smartphone you use, the screen is going to be one of the most valuable - and delicate - components. A screen protector does exactly what it says on the tin, protecting the screen from scratches and other damage through the application of a thin layer of plastic or glass.
It's difficult to really go wrong with a screen protector; when buying it's acceptable to go with a no-name brand, as long as you're confident that the screen protector is made for your specific phone and includes an applicator in order facilitate easy installation. It can often take a few goes to get one on properly, so if you haven't done it before it can be worth either buying a couple, having an experienced friend on hand or both. Once you've got it on though, a good screen protector will do its thing without further intervention, providing extra protection with no real drawback.
For our example, we'll be going with an MFX screen protector. It's made specifically for the Nokia Lumia 800 and includes an applicator, so at £5 it's a bargain.
Now we'll move onto a complementary option to our first entry - a tough case.
3. Tough Case
So I've already suggested a thin and light case that provides a small measure of protection - why suggest a tough one as well? Well, there are often situations that you'll know that your phone will face higher risk than it will normally - whether you're working outdoors, exercising or even travelling. For these, it's great to have a tougher case on hand that'll provide more complete coverage and greater protective ability.
As I've stated before, buying a good case is an exercise in trading off size, protection and features. The most protective cases will tend to be a bit heavier and bulkier, and may also be more expensive. Again, you're looking for a case from a well-known brand too... it's far better to spend that extra £10 to get a branded case from a trustworthy retailer than it is to save the money and pay for it later.
This time around, we're going for a Krusell Premium Leather Case. It's got a unique removable flip cover which should ensure that your phone's screen is protected when the phone's not in use. The thick leather used in the Krusell case is also quite effective at preventing damage to the phone, so it should serve as a good, slightly heavier case for £20.
If we were looking for an iPhone or Android case, there are heavier options available, like the Case-Mate Tank and the Griffin Survivor. These are much bigger, but offer correspondingly greater protection.
For now though, let's move onto what is hopefully a less obvious answer to the protection problem: a Bluetooth headset.
4. Bluetooth Headset
A Bluetooth headset can keep your phone safe in a way that you might not have thought out - it allows you to make calls and listen to music without having to take out your phone. That means that your phone can be kept safely in your bag, where it's less likely to be scratched, dropped or stolen.
A good Bluetooth headset will include a few buttons to allow you to accept or reject calls, or skip tracks when playing music. Like any pair of headphones, sound quality and a good fit are the most important characteristics. It's hard to judge these for yourself until you've tried them, but reading plenty of reviews will give you a good idea. Critical reviews are best for judging sound quality, while multiple user reviews are best for judging the fit.
For this category, we're going for a simple but effective stereo Bluetooth headset called the SoundWear SD10, which proves equally adept at music and calls. Neither are able quite as handily as a dedicated gadget, but the combination of both for £25 is a decent one. They're also good from a safety standpoint, with an integrated button that'll allow you to accept or reject calls as well as skip tracks. More expensive headsets would be slightly more effective as they'd likely include more buttons, but one is the bare minium you need.
Another good idea along these same lines - albeit one not yet available for the Windows Phone platform, is a smart watch. These devices are essentially Bluetooth-enabled watches that can provide notifications and remote control of your phone, meaning that if you're in a dangerous area (like a bad part of town at night, or in the club) you can use much of your phone's functionality without actually removing it from your bag, thus making it harder for it to be noticed and stolen. While they aren't available yet for Windows Phones, they are available for Android, BlackBerry and (I think?) iPhone so have a look if you're on one of those platforms.
Let's move onto our final accessory category now - the humble desk stand.
5. Desk Stand
The desk stand is another one of those accessories that doesn't provide an obvious direct protective benefit. Instead, it works in a subtler way, by ensuring that when your phone is on your desk it's safely ensconced in a holder. That means that you're much less likely to have the phone roll, slide or get pushed off the desk - it's much more obvious, and the desk stand chassis should even take the brunt of the force if it falls over.
When looking for a desk stand, it's best to look for one that has a very stable base if safety is your primary objective. Desk stands are typically only produced for the most popular phones, so if you're looking for a relatively less popular one (including even the Nokia Lumia 800), then a universal stand may be your only option.
For this reason, we're going with the Clingo Universal Podium. It looks a bit unstable at first glance, but thanks to a self-adhesive patch it should hold the Lumia 800 with no trouble whatsoever. The Clingo stand also has the benefit of supporting both horizontal and vertical orientations, which makes watching films or incoming notifications equally easy. It's a simple dock, but well worth its £20 asking price.
So that's it - we've spent £85 in total and got two choices of case, depending on how much protection you think you'd need, an essential screen protector, a desk stand and a Bluetooth headset. If you'd prefer only one case, then you could spend even less. Either way, you'll be well equipped to protect your smartphone from all kinds of dangers in all kinds of situations.
As I always mention, if you need any advice on mobile accessories feel free to let me know in the comments below - my day job is working as a social media maven for a phone accessories company, so I've got a deeper understanding of the options available than most.
Of course, if you found this helpful please hit that Kudos button. If you didn't find it helpful, please let me know why not in the comments below - I'm not perfect, and I'd surely like to improve for the next article! Until then, keep it safe and keep it sensible.
This article was written by William Judd, a freelance tech journalist and copywriter.
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