I was disappointed by the selection of essential accessories in a recent ZDNet article, so I thought I’d compile my own list. While some of the items on their list are not bad suggestions, some are just awful suggestions. Here are my personal suggestions for accessories, based on what I have been using with my iPhone X for the last year, and continue to use with my iPhone XS now.
The suggested wireless charger, a PowerWave 7.5 from Anker, is one of the better suggestions on the site. However, unless you really need the rapid charging, there are cheaper Anker wireless charging options available. I have been using the much cheaper, though only 5W for iPhones (and 10W for newer Samsung devices), PowerPort Wireless 10 at home and the PowerPort Wireless 5 stand in the office where it is nice to be able to see the screen while charging. The slower speed has not bothered me (especially at home where I charge overnight anyway), and it should keep the battery cooler, extending its life.
This one is a bit more of a personal taste item. The article listed two, very different looking cases, but both the same basic style. Given the aesthetics of the iPhone design, I prefer to use the phone without a case, but protect it when it is in my pocket with a sleeve case.
Over the years, I have tried sleeves from a number of places. For a long time, I bought them from WaterField Designs in San Francisco, but since the iPhone 6, they stopped carrying the design I liked. That led me to search for a replacement, and I settled on the smooth sleeve from Joli Originals for my iPhone 6, and I replaced it with the same thing when I bought the iPhone X which still fits my iPhone XS).
The article suggests a couple of different headphone-related items. The first being the 3.5mm to lightning converter dongle, the second being a pair of Jabra bluetooth earbuds. My iPhone 7 and iPhone X both came with those dongles; the iPhone XS does not. I have never removed the two I have from the cardboard carriers they came in. I certainly would not buy the dongle. Instead, I recommend buying a pair of bluetooth headphones. Apple’s AirPods are certainly contenders, but I used a sub-$15 pair of Tzumi bluetooth earbuds for several years and found them to be just as good in almost all cases.
Apple’s touted simple connectivity with the AirPods is not as fantastic as advertised. I have just as many occasions where the AirPods do not automatically connect to my phone as I do with any bluetooth audio devices, and I miss having a volume control on the AirPods.
As with cases, your final choice of headphones will also be affected by how comfortably they fit, and that is a personal choice. If you don’t need to use them on the go, you might find a more conventional pair of headphones more comfortable, and they will almost certainly sound better than tiny earbuds can.
Several years ago I took a chance and backed a project on Kickstarter for a “smart watch” – the original Pebble. It was not the most attractive design, but the idea intrigued me. Subsequent to that I bought several more Pebble watches and quickly found them to be an essential item allowing me to filter calls, messages and alerts without needing to pull the phone from my pocket.
Later I was given a series 2 Apple Watch. I had been apprehensive of the need to charge it daily, along with the initial versions not being waterproof – something the Pebble had been from the very first version. After using it for a while though, the charging is not a big deal (I bought a fantastic, minimal nightstand charging stand from Etsy so I can use the watch as a nightstand alarm clock while it charges), and series 2 is waterproof, so I can swim in it (I have the Apple nylon band, so that is also unaffected by swimming).
While the new series 4 looks great, the series 3 will likely do everything most people need and starts at $280 (instead of $400 for the series 4).
Of course, there are other options too, such as the various fitness bands on the market. The new FitBit Versa is one option (though not much cheaper than a series 3 Apple Watch at this point). While not offering quite as many features as Apple’s offering, and not being as tightly integrated, these cheaper watches and bands do offer the essentials that make smartwatches appealing (once you’ve got used to having one, you won’t want to be without it).
The article included a USB-C cable, a multi-USB outlet charger with USB-C port, and a portable power pack battery for on the go recharging. Unless you have a laptop with only USB-C connectors (e.g. a new MacBook, or MacBook Pro), a USB-C to lightning cable is unnecessary.
Likewise, the multi-USB charger is not really essential. I do have one I use for travel that is similar to this Anker 6 port, 60W one (mine, also a 6 port 60W design, was from a company called Photive and seems to have been discontinued). When traveling with the family, it is handy to have a set of USB ports for charging phones, tablets, watches etc. Regular USB ports meet that need better than USB-C ones today given the devices & cables I already have.
If you find you run out of battery in your normal day, a battery pack might save you. Personally, even though I use the phone quite heavily, I don’t run out of battery very often. I do carry a small Jackery 3350 mAH battery in my backpack in case of need.
Photography accessories are another interesting area, especially if creative photography is something you enjoy. I have yet to find any lens accessories that I like for my iPhone, so I do not have any recommendations there. The only photography-related accessory I have is a stabilizing gimbal, although I do not like it enough to recommend the specific one I have (it works, but it could be much better and the software that drives it is not great).