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February 8, 2018

Smart buyers guide for phone accessories in 2018

by John_A

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How to live your best accessory life.

Phone accessories are ubiquitous these days. Anyone who owns a smartphone in 2018 is likely to use a variety of accessories during an average day of using your phone: charging cables and bricks, wireless charging pads, Bluetooth headphones, or some dongle so you can use your old earbuds.

The annual release of new phones brings us an inevitable new wave of accessories. If you’re planning to upgrade to a new phone this year from a phone that still uses micro-USB (the Samsung Galaxy S7, for example), you’re about to make all those cables you’ve been collecting obsolete as you enter the realm for the sweet world of USB-C.

Being a smart smartphone owner isn’t about buying more or fewer accessories, but instead being smarter in the purchases you make to support your phone. Here are some tips to help you make smarter buying decisions for accessories that will work life easier.

Do an inventory check on what you have and your needs

Before you go and make some impulse purchases on Amazon, take a moment to inventory the stuff you have already and figure out what you still need. This is an especially important thing to do if it’s been a while since you last bought a new phone.

The essential accessories are ones that keep your phone charged throughout the day, and the easiest way to lose your phone charger is to only own one and bring it everywhere you go. It’s all too easy to accidentally leave it in a study hall, office space, or at a friend’s place.

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There are three charging scenarios you need to consider: Life at home, in your car or during your commute, and at work or school. Ideally, you’ll want to keep the accessories that came with your phone at home, because if you ever plan on reselling your device it’s always best to have the original accessories in good shape. Travel accessories are important to keep in the bag you use on a daily basis, and might include a high-capacity power bank, a trusty charging cable, a good set of Bluetooth headphones or maybe even a Bluetooth speaker. If you drive, you’ll probably want a car mount for your daily commute, too And at work, depending on what line of business you’re in, you might want a wireless charging pad for your desk or a reliable wall brick and cable to keep in your locker.

Accessories are a personal preference and everyone’s needs will be different. But once you’ve gone through everything you own and have addressed the gaps you’d like to fill, the next smart move is ensuring you’re investing in quality accessories.

Don’t get stuck in the cheap accessory cycle

Story time.

When I got my first smartphone (an iPhone) a decade ago, it took me a good while to get the hang of this new era of being obsessed with your phone. I never remembered being so paranoid about my phone’s battery life with a flip phone, but suddenly with my first phone with a touchscreen, I absolutely needed to have my charging stuff with me at all times.

Once you fall into the habit of buying cheap cables, the sunk cost fallacy starts to creep in.

Making things worse was the fact that I was a clumsy kid who was really bad at keeping track of my things, and a phone charger was the easiest thing to lose. If I wasn’t begging to borrow a friend’s charger, I was bouncing out to buy a cheap-o replacement from 7-11 or Walmart. Over the years later, I’ve cycled through small nest-eggs of replacement cables and earbuds that I’ve bought from convenience stores, airports, and cheaply in bulk off of Amazon.

Once you fall into the habit of buying cheap cables, the sunk cost fallacy starts to creep in: you bought the first cable for $5 because you didn’t want to put out for a name brand one for $20. You knew it was cheap and replaceable… and now it needs to be replaced — might as well try save money and replace it with another cheap one, right?

In the same way you’re likely to take better care of a brand new $900 phone then the old phones you keep stashed in a drawer, I think it’s easy for us to take better care of the accessories that come with our phones and lump all third-party accessories as lesser-than — because we’ve all probably dealt with a crappy product. I propose that we all take better care of our phone accessories, which starts with better planning and spending a bit more on something reliable rather than buying cheap accessories as stop-gap measures.

We need to collectively do a better job at cutting down on e-waste

I keep coming back to charging accessories as my primary example here, but it goes the same for any other accessories we buy — whether it’s headphones, speakers, or a battery pack. There is so many options out there at every price point and everyone loves a good deal — but the old adage “you get what you pay for” always rings true when buying tech.

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Living in a northern climate, charging cables I leave in my car frequently become extremely brittle due to the winter cold. When the cheap cables would inevitably break, I’d throw them away and go buy another cheap cable. It wasn’t until I got my hands on a more rugged cable by Ventev that the cycle stopped. Making one small change has made a significant difference for an essential accessory that I now don’t foresee needing to replace for years.

There’s a lot of talk about planned obsolescence in the smartphone market, but there doesn’t seem to be as much focus on cheap accessories that seem exclusively designed to be almost disposable. While companies like Apple or Samsung talk highly about responsible device recycling programs, and some wireless carriers mitigate e-waste with their own disposal services, we all can do our part in addressing the global issue of electronic waste by acting as more sensible and responsible consumers.

What do you think?

What are some accessories you’d recommend that have never let you down? Are you concerned about the growing issue of e-waste? Drop us a line in the comments.

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