Accessory Alley: Add-ons for Value

There are rich pickings in the accessory business, and right now there is a rich selection of products to offer. We’ve been collecting some of our favourites – and identifying some of those that retailers should do well with.
2GB miniSD cardcan store up to 17 hours of MP3, six hours of MPEG4 video or a thousand high-res digital pictures from a 2mp camera. Not bad for £65 SRP. This is the new PNY offering; it also has a 1GB microSD card at an equally sexy £35 to the end user. All the PNY mini formats come with an extender or adapter that means the card can be also used in standard SD or MMC slots – handy for moving data between different devices.

Sometimes someone comes up with a technology for which you just have to find an application. Here’s the SU-27W, Nokia’s Digital Pen– use it like a normal pen to write or draw, the Digital Pen records your work (up to 1.3MB on board, good for around 100 A5-ish pages), then lets you send your work via Bluetooth to a phone or a PC. Actually the only serious application we can imagine would be sending MMS messages in a business context, but that’s potentially very useful. Unique has supplies at less than £100.

No-one beats Sony Ericsson when it comes to good ideas for turning a mobile phone into a home audio system, and these three are favourites of ours. All are just so demonstratable: one listen and the punter is sold. The MDS 70is a cradle for a Walkman phone that recharges the handset, or replaces its speaker, or both; it has its own an amplifier, full range speaker units and a subwoofer, and it pumps out a good, rich sound at 25W RMS. Price around £110.

For around £40 less you might look at the MDS-60, described as a Music Desk Stand and an equally neat design; the four speakers don’t give such a full sound but they’re still pretty loud. The MDS-60 scores on portability; it can fold up into a compact package, and it will run off batteries as well a mains connection.

Then there’s the mighty atom approach for less than £30 – the MPS-60speaker kit. The speakers are small but solidly built cubes; as you might expect the output lacks bass and at maximum volume it gets distorted, but at three quarters of max you’ll get a good punchy sound. And it’s just so cute.

Stereo Bluetooth headsets are starting to appear from all the main suppliers, and now that more phones supported the A2DP stereo headphones profile they make good sense for the average user – especially the average music lover. This is our current preference, the i.Tech BlueBand. It’s light (just 68g), comfortable (and the clever design means it doesn’t slip off the ears easily), and tough enough to cope with the editor’s visits to the gym. The sound is excellent, and up to 7.5 hours music playing between recharges is pretty good. And the headphones come with a Bluetooth adapter for use with non-Bluetooth music systems and MP3 player. RRP is £79.99 – not the cheapest, but a long way from the most expensive.

As an alternative, here’s the Anycom BSH-100 Bluetooth stereo headset – quite similar in functional terms, including an audio- transmitter module for devices without integrated Bluetooth. It also supports the Bluetooth A2DP audio-streaming profile and a natty near-invisible microphone for your end of the call. The Anycom BSH-100 is very comfortable and works especially well for phone calls.

Speakerphones are everywhere, but it still puzzles us why some people seem to prefer headsets – the amplified versions are much more versatile, in particular allowing more than one person to participate in in-car calls or acting as a conference call centre in the office. Right now we have two faves:

  • The Jabra SP500is nicely designed and reassuringly weighty – not too heavy, just solid and professional. The handy travel kit includes sun visor clips, a suction mount if you prefer to fix it to a surface, and of course a cigarette- lighter charger. The really impressive feature is the battery life – up to 20 hours talk time and 480 hours standby.

  • The newer Anycom Bluetooth Handsfree Car Kitis equally easy to install, equally easy to make a Bluetooth connection, and also features superior audio quality, echo cancellation and noise cancelling microphone. Up to ten hours talk time and ten hours standby.

If you want Bluetooth stereo audio but you don’t want an over-the-ear headset, check out the i.Tech Clip M. For a start it can be a normal cabled hands-free headset. Or it can do wire-free Bluetooth pairing for stereo music. Either way it can switch automatically between music and phone use. It’s light, sleek, has a clever clip design, and uses a standard 3.5mm audio jack so you can use your own headphones if you wish. Volume is adjustable (and it can be VERY loud). Controls are about as uncomplicated as they could be – one button for volume, one for everything else.

There are good reason why Plantronics dominates the Bluetooth headset market (along with Motorola and Jabra) and the Pulsar 590A is one of the best. It’s a professional-looking over-the-head headset with a natty pull-out speaker tube; the box also contains a nifty charging cradle, an in-flight extension lead, a travel case, and a universal Bluetooth adaptor with a 3.5mm jack to plug into just about any audio device.

It can take some adjustment to find the best position, but once you have it organised the sound is really excellent, clear and rich. Up to 12 hours talk time and up to 10 hours audio listening time.

Although priced for the mobile phone market (around £80 RRP) we also got excellent results using the 590A for Skype-type voice calls over broadband (which will of course need a Bluetooth dongle on the PC).

Parrot is probably best known for Bluetooth-based car accessories, but this is definitely one for indoors – the Parrot Photo Vieweris a small 3.5in LCD display panel that looks like a photo frame. Which is what it does: it displays pics from a Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone. You set up the thing using simple on-screen menus controlled by three buttons. The Photo Viewer can display a single image, or it can run through a slideshow using any of five time intervals ranging from five seconds to 60 minutes. The frame has 32MB memory inside, which should be good enough for more than 100 high-res photos. You simply pair the Photo Viewer with a mobile phone, select a picture to display, and send it to the Photo Viewer via Bluetooth. Clever extras include a light sensor which dims or brightens the display as needed. Very cool.

Mobile accessories are becoming an important part of a dealer’s business model. It’s not just the incremental value of an add-on sale, important though that is. The whole accessory market is increasingly a reflection of a fundamental truth – mobile phones are becoming more and more capable,but to realise their potential need additional facilities. The handset manufacturers can’t afford to include the extra hardware in each and every box they ship, because not every buyer will want,need or use those supplementary (and sometimes quite esoteric) functions. So someone else will have to provide the added extras to deliver entertainment to the max from a phone. That’s the dealer,and that’s why a whole industry is building up around accessory retail.

TOP 3 SELLERS @ JABRA

  • BT150 headset
  • SP500 speakerphone
  • BT250v behind-the-ear headset (the company’s current best seller)

HOT: The BT325s is a Bluetooth earbud headset for both music players and phone calls.Integrated microphone and phone volume controls means it can connect to Bluetooth enabled devices to support phone calls; it also has a corded connection to a standard 3.5mm jack so it can plug into MP3 players.The BT325s is shower-proof (that’s rain,not your bathroom) and features eight hours of music/talk time.

TOP 3 SELLERS @ GENUINE ACCESSORIES

  • Nokia CR-56 In Car Cradle
  • Motorola DC-800 Transceiver – listen to music from a Bluetooth phone on a
  • home audio system
  • Sony Ericsson HBH-DS970 – stylish, high-quality Bluetooth stereo headphones with the very best sound quality available

HOT: Motorola DC800 as above – two- way stereo functionality allows users to receive content from other Bluetooth devices and play music from a home entertainment system or stream content to other devices.

TOP 3 SELLERS @ UNIQUE ACCESSORIES

  • Nokia CK-7W Advanced Car Kit
  • Nokia HS-4W Bluetooth Headset – great price (from £18)
  • Nokia HF-35W Wireless Plug-in Car Handsfree

HOT: The Nokia CK-20 Multimedia Car Kit should be available in the next few weeks (but see last month’s OTT review by The Don).As well as all the features of the CK-7W,this one lets you play your phone’s MP3 tracks through the car’s audio system; it also supports first class route-finding with the yet to be released Nokia Navigation Pack (available separately)

TOP 3 SELLERS @ AVENIR TELECOM

  • Anycom Bluetooth Handsfree Car Kit
  • i.Tech Clip M – earbud style handsfree stereo headphones for Bluetooth or cabled connections
  • Sitecom Bluetooth Adapter – Bluetooth 2.0 USB dongle that allows up to seven connections at the same time

HOT: Anycom Speaker System (subwoofer 2.5in bass driver,two satellite speakers with average output 20W RMS) and BluNa adaptor – available together or separately.Use the portable speaker for music from any Bluetooth-enabled device; or Bluetooth-enable something with the BluNa adapter,for instance to send music or Internet radio from a PC to the Anycom Speakers sited in a different room.

We’ve got a couple of the accessories featured in this article to give away this month and it’s all thanks to those nice people at Anycom. For your chance to win one get online at www.mbmagazine.co.uk