Gears & Gadgets

Guidemaster: Our favorite accessories for iPhones and iPads

Guidemaster: Our favorite accessories for iPhones and iPads

With the popularity of the iPhone and iPad comes a sea of accessories for both devices. While iPhones and iPads are powerful devices on their own, they can be enhanced by accessories that protect them, let you use them in different ways, and make them work harder for you.

But sifting through the plethora of cases, cables, keyboards, adapters and other accessories available today is a daunting task. It’s made even harder thanks to all the different companies making accessories—while that means you can find iPhone and iPad accessories to fit any budget, it also means that not all of those accessories are worth buying (the cheapest option isn’t always the way to go, nor is the most expensive option the best out there).

To make things easier for you, Ars has spent the fall testing a slew of iPhone and iPad accessories in order to find the best and most useful ones that are worth your hard-earned dollars.

Note: Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs.

Table of Contents

Best Lightning-to-USB-C cable

Anker PowerLine+ II

Anker's PowerLine+ II USB-C to Lightning cable.
Enlarge / Anker’s PowerLine+ II USB-C to Lightning cable.
Valentina Palladino

One lightning cable is never enough, even if you just have one Apple device. Anker’s PowerLine+ II family of cords are arguably better than Apple’s own lightning cables because they’re built to last longer and they’re MFi-certified. The double-braided nylon cables won’t break or fray like others might, and they come in different lengths so you don’t have to be so physically close to a power source while you’re charging your iPhone or iPad. They also support iPhone fast charging when connected to Apple or other Anker PD chargers. While a charging cable is only one part of the puzzle in terms of power delivery and charging speed, Anker’s Powerline+ II cords are solid options that provide all of the features you’d get from an Apple cable plus even better build quality and value for the money.

Anker PowerLine+ II USB-C to Lightning Cable product image

Anker PowerLine+ II USB-C to Lightning Cable

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Best portable battery pack

Anker PowerCore 10000 PD Redux

ZMI PowerPack 20000

The benefits of a portable battery should be obvious by now: when your iPhone or iPad is low on power and there’s no outlet in sight, it’ll keep your device kicking. If you need a battery to primarily charge an iPhone, get Anker’s PowerCore 10000 PD Redux. It’s not the cheapest device in its class, but it has an 18W USB-C Power Delivery (PD) that can safely charge newer iPhones (and most other non-Galaxy Note 10+ phones) at maximum speeds. The battery itself can recharge quickly at 18W through that USB-C PD port. There’s a USB-A port rated at 12W beyond that, though the whole pack can only output 18W in total at a time.

Still, its 10,000mAh (or 36Wh) capacity is enough to get an iPhone 11 roughly two charges. There’s a USB-C to USB-C charging cable in the box. And most notably, it’s supremely portable, weighing less than seven ounces and measuring just 106×52.3×25.5mm. That means it can easily fit in a pants pocket or handbag. Having this kind of fast-charging power in a design that’s this small and well-built makes the PowerCore 10000 PD Redux ideal for travel. Just remember that you need an MFi-certified USB-C to Lightning cable like the PowerLine+ II above to actually take advantage of its fast charging speeds with an iPhone.

If you need a battery pack for charging a newer iPad, meanwhile, get the ZMI PowerPack 20000. It includes a 45W USB-C PD port that’s powerful enough to charge the latest iPad Pros—and various 12- and 13-inch laptops—at their fastest possible rate. (Those laptops just have to charge at 15V/3A, as the PowerPack maxes out at 40W of power at a 20V charge.) There are two USB-A ports that output around 12W of power alongside that, though the whole pack can only output a maximum of 45W at any given time. The 20,000mAh (or 72Wh) capacity is enough to give roughly

one and a half charges to an 11-inch iPad Pro. It’s not USB-IF certified, but we’ve used it safely for about a year now, and there are no widespread reports of failure across the Web. Again, the PowerPack 20000 stands out in the design department: its metallic finish feels premium, and at 14 ounces and 160×82×21mm, it’s more compact than most power banks with this level of power. Plus, at $ 70, it’s more affordable than most of its peers, and it includes a USB-C to USB-C fast charging cable in the box.

Anker PowerCore 10000 PD Redux product image

Anker PowerCore 10000 PD Redux

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ZMI PowerPack 20000 product image

ZMI PowerPack 20000

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Best wall charger

Nekteck 4-port 72W USB-C PD Charger

RAVPower PD Pioneer 45W GaN Wall Charger

Though Apple now includes an 18W fast charger in the box with new iPhone 11 Pros, the vast majority of iOS devices continue to ship with power adapters that don’t take full advantage of their charging capabilities. Unfortunately, you still have to pay extra for a good third-party USB-C PD wall charger in order to refill most iPhones and iPads as fast as possible.

We have a couple of preferred options: if you need a charger for your desk, try Nekteck’s 4-port 72W USB-C PD Charger. It’s a small brick that plugs into an outlet and carries four charging ports, including a 60W USB-C PD port that can easily charge all iPhones and iPads at max speeds (and charge various laptops to boot). There are three 12W USB-A ports as well, so you can refill an iPhone and iPad simultaneously, albeit with one device charging at less-than-optimum speeds. (As its name implies, the device can output a maximum of 72W at once.) There’s a USB-C to USB-C charging cable in the box, and the charger is USB-IF certified, meaning it has been verified to work safely by the body that maintains the USB standard.

For a wall charger that you can take with you more easily, we like RAVPower’s PD Pioneer 45W GaN Wall Charger. As you might guess, this charger uses gallium nitride (GaN), a semiconductor that allows chargers like this to provide the power of traditional silicon in a smaller footprint. Its rectangular design measures 72×54×14.2mm and weighs 2.6 ounces, which makes it significantly smaller and slimmer than a traditional wall charger. It’s more elongated than other GaN chargers like Anker’s PowerPort Atom PD 1, so it might take up more room on a power strip, but its foldable prongs and slim profile makes it easier to squeeze into tighter spaces. (Between an outlet and a piece of furniture, for instance.)

There’s only one port here, but it’s a 45W USB-C PD connector that, again, is capable of charging all iPhones and iPads as fast as possible. This one isn’t USB-IF certified and technically goes against the official USB-C spec by supporting Quick Charge 3.0 over its port, but various chargers have done that in the past without issue. We couldn’t find any sustained complaints over reliability online, and we’ve tested the charger with various devices over the past several months with no problems. It’s not the most affordable 45W wall charger, and you’ll need to supply your own USB-C to Lightning or USB-C to USB–C cable, but we think the combination of power and travel-friendly design is worth a few bucks extra.

Nekteck 72W USB-C PD Charger product image

Nekteck 72W USB-C PD Charger

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RAVPower PD Pioneer 45W GaN Charger product image

RAVPower PD Pioneer 45W GaN Charger

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Best wireless charger

RAVPower Fast Charger RP-PC034

RAVPower's RP-PC034 wireless charger.
Enlarge / RAVPower’s RP-PC034 wireless charger.
Valentina Palladino

RAVPower’s Qi fast charger may not stick out in a bucket of wireless charging pads, but it sets itself apart by providing the most energy in a short amount of time. On average, smartphones had 34% juice after just one hour sitting on the RAVPower charging pad, so you’ll get a solid amount of juice in your device even if you have little time to spare for charging. It may not be the fanciest looking charger or even the thinnest we’ve come across, but it still has a solid design that is made better by rubberized rings on its top and bottom that prevent the pad from moving and prevent your smartphone from sliding off.

We also appreciate that RAVPower includes a fast-charge capable AC adapter with this pad, so you’re guaranteed to get max charging speeds without needing any additional adapters. If you want a wireless charging pad that looks a bit nicer, Mophie’s Charge Stream Pad+ is a good option that performs nearly as well in terms of charging time, but it costs a bit more money.

RAVPower RP-PC034 product image

RAVPower RP-PC034

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Best W1/H1 headphones

Beats Powerbeats Pro

The Beats Powerbeats Pro.
Enlarge / The Beats Powerbeats Pro.
Jeff Dunn

For better or worse, modern iOS devices are adamant about making you use Bluetooth headphones. The iPhone ditched the headphone jack back in 2016, the iPad Pro followed suit last year, and neither looks likely to bring it back any time soon. Along the way, Apple has furthered a trend in which a manufacturer’s headphones work best with its own platform.

In this case, headphones with Apple’s H1 and W1 wireless chips—which are currently exclusive to Apple’s AirPods and headphones from the company’s Beats subsidiary—are more convenient to use with iPhones and iPads. They have a simplified pairing process, immediately get remembered across your iCloud devices, keep a more stable and power-efficient wireless connection, and, with H1 headphones, let you access Siri just by saying “Hey Siri.” So while there are tons of pairs that sound better and may be more comfortable to wear, Apple’s own pairs present the least friction—again, for better or worse.

We’re still in the process of testing the just-announced AirPods Pro, but if you don’t mind giving in to ecosystem lock-in, our favorite Apple-made headphones for now are the Beats Powerbeats Pro. They’re true wireless earphones that do everything the regular AirPods do, but better. They have a more dynamic sound, for one: like any true wireless headphone, they’re still limited in soundstage and finer detail, but their bass-forward profile is lively and fun, if not exactly accurate. This is largely due to the Powerbeats Pro creating a tighter seal in the ear: it’s not airtight, so the outside wo­rld won’t be blocked out completely, but it lets in far less noise than the AirPods, which can be difficult to use in louder environments.

The Powerbeats Pro’s battery life is far superior to any other true wireless headphone we’ve used, lasting about 11 hours per charge in our testing—where we stream music to headphones continuously at 67% volume—with a total of 24 hours advertised through its charging case. By comparison, Apple rates the AirPods and AirPods Pro at five hours each, again bumped up to 24 with their charging cases. Either way, the Powerbeats Pro pair just as easily with iOS devices and keep just as reliable a Bluetooth connection—they can still experience dropouts in extremely hectic environments (think something like Times Square) but that remains the case with most true wireless pairs.

Their design is more agreeable, too. Whereas the AirPods can tend to hang loose in the ear, the sporty ear hooks of the Powerbeats Pro keep them nice and secure, even during intense workouts and runs. Their IPX4 sweat-resistance rating is relatively mild for exercise-minded earphones, but it’s equal to the AirPods Pro and a step up from the AirPods, which have no formal rating at all. Beyond that, they have physical playback and volume buttons that are mirrored on each earpiece, instead of relying on less precise touch controls. (And in the AirPods Pro’s case, having no built-in volume controls whatsoever.)

There are two major drawbacks to the Powerbeats Pro. First, their case is almost comically huge, to the point where it could be difficult to fit in most pants pockets. You’ll usually want to leave it at home or in a separate bag. Second, they’re undeniably expensive: at $ 250, and without any special app-driven features or active noise cancellation a la the AirPods Pro, they certainly carry the “tax” that typically comes with the Beats/Apple branding. The AirPods and the on-ear Beats Solo 3 Wireless are decent alternatives with similar W1/H1 chip benefits if you want something slightly more affordable. But if you can pay the premium (or just see them on sale), the Powerbeats Pro are arguably the best true wireless headphones for anyone, let alone iOS users.

Beats Powerbeats Pro product image

Beats Powerbeats Pro

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Best 3.5mm to Bluetooth adapter

Fiio μBTR

If you’ve already invested in a good pair of wired headphones, though, there are a couple of ways to continue using them with an iPhone or iPad Pro. The simplest would be to buy a Lightning-to-3.5mm dongle: it’s not an elegant solution, and it’s frustrating that Apple no longer packages one with new iPhones, but it’s only $ 9 and works easily enough. With newer iPad Pros, it’s the same deal, only you’d need a USB-C to 3.5mm dongle.

If you want at least some of the convenience of a wireless headphone, however, you could buy a Bluetooth headphone adapter. This pairs with your phone or tablet over Bluetooth, receives that source device’s audio, and sends it to whatever pair of 3.5mm headphones you plug into the adapter. You’re then free to keep your device charging across the room, keep it in a separate pocket or bag, and generally use it without any wires attached.

Of the Bluetooth headphone adapters we’ve tested, our favorite is the Fiio μBTR. It paired as easily as any other modern Bluetooth device and presented no significant connection hiccups or latency issues in testing. Sending audio over Bluetooth means an inherent loss in audio quality compared to a wired connection, but for what it is the μBTR doesn’t sacrifice too much fidelity. Importantly, it supports the AAC audio codec, which makes music sound noticeably sharper on an iPhone or iPad than the default SBC codec. (It also supports aptX if you ever use it with a Mac or Android device.) Just know that if your headphones have a particularly high impedance, you’ll likely need to turn up the volume a bit higher than usual.

The μBTR’s stick-style design is tiny and easily portable, with a built-in clip that neatly attaches to a pants or shirt pocket. There are dedicated buttons for volume, pause/play, and voice assistant activation, though its volume level won’t sync with your source device. Its 8-9 hours of battery life should be enough to get through a typical workday, and it charges quickly through a USB-C port. The built-in mic isn’t great for making calls or using Siri, but it’s at least there in a pinch. It’d still be nice if your iPhone didn’t make devices like this desirable in the first place, but for $ 30, the μBTR isn’t a huge investment for something that effectively makes your most beloved headphones more convenient on the go.

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Best portable speaker

UE Wonderboom 2

The UE Wonderboom 2.
Enlarge / The UE Wonderboom 2.
Jeff Dunn

While the built-in speakers on iPhones and iPads have improved as the years have rolled on—particularly on recent iPad Pro models—they still aren’t the best for truly enjoying music. A good Bluetooth speaker can address that. We wouldn’t recommend paying a ton here given the inherent compromises with Bluetooth audio: you typically need to pay a premium for something large enough to sound passable, and at that point you might as well buy a Wi-Fi speaker that’ll sound significantly better. But for less than $ 100, the UE Wonderboom 2 achieves most of the things you’d want a portable wireless speaker to do well.

Chief among those: it’s really portable, with a squat candle-like shape that’s just 104mm high and 95.3mm wide. It’s also supremely durable, with an IP67 rating—meaning it’s waterproof and dustproof—and a fabric- and rubber-coated design that floats in water and can withstand drops from five or so feet without any signs of scuffing. A built-in elastic loop makes it easy to clip to a bag or hang from a towel hook. The giant volume buttons and playback controls on top are generally easy to comprehend and operate, though you can only skip tracks forward, not backward. Battery life is fine, if not spectacular, at about 9-10 hours a charge, but the speaker disappointingly charges over microUSB instead of a faster USB-C standard.

No Bluetooth speaker this small will produce fantastic audio in a vacuum. The Wonderboom 2 doesn’t change that: it can distort at the highest volumes, it loses detail with more complex tracks, and it has just about nothing when it comes to deep sub-bass. But given the context, it plays loud and relatively balanced, with good mids that make vocals nicely clear. You usually won’t hear the whole of a song, but you’ll get enough to make it enjoyable. You can use a second Wonderboom speaker to play in stereo as well. On its own, we found the Wonderboom 2 to sound cleaner than the Anker Soundcore Flare and Tribit StormBox, two speakers we’ve recommended in past gift guides, so it more than holds its own in the sub-$ 100 range.

In all, the Wonderboom 2 is something of an ideal portable Bluetooth speaker: it’s rugged, travel-friendly, easy to use, good-looking, and fun-enough sounding. For the shower, pool parties, or just better personal listening at home, it’s a nifty complement to your iPhone or iPad.

UE Wonderboom 2 product image

UE Wonderboom 2

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Best Lightning flash drive

SanDisk iXpand

SanDisk's iXpand Lightning flash drive.
Enlarge / SanDisk’s iXpand Lightning flash drive.
Valentina Palladino

Lots of people in my life could use more storage on their iPhones. Even if 32GB iPhones are a thing of the past, it’s still easy to fill up your phone’s storage with photos, videos, games, music, and the like. SanDisk’s iXpand Flash Drive make it easy to keep track of all your digital belongings while freeing up space on your iPhone or iPad. Its Lightning connector plugs into your device and, using the iXpand app, lets you choose which content you want to transfer to the drive and erase from your device.

The iXpand app takes nothing to learn how to use, and you can see the files on the drive and those on your iPhone from directly in the app. I use mine to remove vacation photos from my iPhone so I can transfer them to my PC, and I appreciate that the iXpand drive saves the image as well as a .mov file for those images that were taken as Live Photos. The drive also supports an auto backup feature that will save all your content every time you plug it in. Starting at $ 59, it’s an affordable way to make your iPhone or iPad feel a bit more like new.

SanDisk iXpand product image

SanDisk iXpand

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Best USB-C flash drive

SanDisk Ultra Dual Drive USB Type-C

SanDisk's Ultra Dual Drive USB-C flash drive.
Enlarge / SanDisk’s Ultra Dual Drive USB-C flash drive.
Valentina Palladino

In the same vein as the iXpand is SanDisk’s Ultra Dual Drive, a USB-C flash drive that can help those with USB-C smartphones free up space on their devices. With max 150MB/s read speeds, it’s not as fast as some USB-C adapters or hubs, but those devices only serve as bridges between two devices sharing data. SanDisk’s drive is handy to have if and when you run out of storage unexpectedly and need to free up space immediately without losing any of your existing data. It’s also a convenient sharing device thanks to its retractable design that lets it connect to both USB-C and USB-A devices. As more laptops and smartphones switch to USB-C, SanDisk’s dual drive could end up being the only flash drive you need going forward to connect to new and old devices.

SanDisk Ultra Dual Drive USB Type-C product image

SanDisk Ultra Dual Drive USB Type-C

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Best USB-C hub for iPad

OWC Travel Dock

The OWC Travel Dock.
Enlarge / The OWC Travel Dock.
Valentina Palladino

The USB-C ports on the newest iPad Pros open the tablets up to a new world of capabilities and accessories, including hubs and docks. While almost any USB-C hub would enhance the versatility of the iPad, OWC’s Travel Dock provides the best combination of features, speed, and portability.

The new hockey-puck-sized hub connects to the iPad (and other USB-C devices) using a built-in cable that hides neatly on its underside when not in use. In our testing, it had solid data transfer speeds that were close to those of docks and hubs that are designed to be stationary on a desk. It has one USB-C port for PD pass-through, two USB-A 3.1 Gen 1 ports, one HDMI port, and one SD card reader—ports that should be enough to keep your iPad connected (and charged up) no matter where you are. We wish it had an Ethernet port, but that’s a small price to pay for an otherwise solid portable hub that doesn’t break the bank at $ 39.99.

Apple’s own adapters, such as its USB-C to USB-A adapter, are good alternatives if you only need one specific port or prefer not to have a hub hanging off of your computer.

OWC Travel Dock product image

OWC Travel Dock

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Best game controller

Microsoft Xbox One Wireless Controller (Model 1708)

Sony DualShock 4

The Xbox One Wireless Controller and Sony's DualShock 4 controller.
Enlarge / The Xbox One Wireless Controller and Sony’s DualShock 4 controller.
Jeff Dunn

With iOS 13 adding formal support for Microsoft’s Xbox One Wireless Controller and Sony’s DualShock 4 gamepad, figuring out the best game controller for the iPhone and iPad has become much simpler: just buy whichever console controller you prefer. If you’ve ever used an Xbox One (or Xbox 360) or PlayStation 4, chances are you already know which design you find more comfortable.

Personally, despite using the PS4 as my primary console for most of this past generation of consoles, I gravitate toward the Xbox One pad. Its asymmetrical joystick layout feels more natural to my hands, its triggers are springier, and its d-pad is less mushy. It requires AA batteries—unless you pay an extra $ 20-25 for Microsoft’s rechargeable battery kit—but it gets much more battery life per “charge” than the DualShock 4’s built-in unit, which tends to degrade to a fairly poor level over time. (Investing in a good set of rechargeable AA batteries and a charger is a good idea anyway.) And if you ever want to play games on the PC, the Xbox One pad is easier to set up on Windows, particularly with clients besides Steam.

That said, the DualShock 4’s joysticks are larger and softer to the touch, and the whole pad is a better fit for smaller hands. Naturally, it’s also better suited for the PS4 Remote Play app. And both are a breeze to pair with an iOS device. It’s really something of a toss-up: if you don’t want to just use whichever controller already came with your chosen console, the right answer is usually whichever is cheaper at the time.

Either way, there’s some fine print to keep in mind here. iOS games are still meant to be played with your fingers first, and while more and more titles do have controller support—including many of those included in Apple’s new Arcade service—there’s no guarantee their interfaces will match the icons on your gamepad. One game’s A button may be your controller’s X button. Rumble support and other advanced features may not always work, either. And if you opt for the Xbox One pad, you’ll need to make sure it’s a model 1708 controller, which launched alongside the Xbox One S and includes Bluetooth support. The link below is safe as of this writing, but you can verify you have the right model by checking the label within the battery compartment of your gamepad or by ensuring the surface around the Xbox button isn’t glossy.

Microsoft Xbox One Wireless Controller product image

Microsoft Xbox One Wireless Controller

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Sony DualShock 4 product image

Sony DualShock 4

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Best iPhone and iPad stands

Pop Socket

I’ve had friends admonish me for using Pop Sockets on my smartphone cases, but I brush this off every time. While they may be the staple accessory for teens and college kids alike, Pop Sockets are actually great smartphone stands that aren’t stationary. Some will prefer an actual desk accessory that props your smartphone up, but I love the portability of Pop Sockets. Stick one or two to your smartphone case (or to the smartphone itself—don’t worry, you can get them off if you really have to)—and you have a relatively unobtrusive kickstand of sorts that props the smartphone up in landscape mode quite well.

I regularly use my Pop Socket to make watching videos on my iPhone easier and to make viewing photos, documents, and other things more convenient when I’m on the go. I also use these little popping disks to grip my smartphone more easily, and that comes in handy when I’m taking photos (selfies and regular photos) or when I have a bunch of other things to hold and only have two fingers to grip my smartphone.

Pop Socket product image

Pop Socket

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Tomtoc Play Stand

If you’re just not into the Pop Socket’s style, we also like Tomtoc’s Play Stand. While Tomtoc technically markets it for the Nintendo Switch—and it works great for that purpose—it’s just as useful for an iPhone or iPad mini. Its aluminum frame feels sturdy and substantial, with small rubber grips on the base and “lip” that keep an iPhone and the stand itself steadily in place. Since it’s designed to hold a Switch, that lip provides plenty of room for whatever case you may have protecting your device.

The stand as a whole is highly adjustable, with a couple of freely movable hinges that don’t restrict your device to fixed heights and angles. It can fold it up flat, making it particularly easy to stash in a bag or purse, and a hole in the back lets you run a charging cable to your device without having to take it off the stand. It’s going for $ 12 as of this writing, which is good value.

Tomtoc Play Stand product image

Tomtoc Play Stand

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Stump Stand

For larger iPads, meanwhile, consider the Stump Stand. This little chunk of silicone isn’t as portable or adjustable as our other picks, but its weighted base and grippy bottom keep it stuck in place—and keep your device from shaking heavily when you need to use it. It only allows for three viewing angles—almost straight up, almost down flat, and one angle in between—and it’s somewhat heavy at 9.5 ounces, but the design is far from oversized and keeps a low profile. If your iPhone or iPad still has a Home button, there’s also a small cutout for pressing that without having to pick up your device. The $ 25 asking price is a bit high, but for a stand that’ll keep your iPad reliably in place without eating up too much desk space, it’s a good buy.

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Best iPhone cases

Speck Presidio Pro

Otterbox Commuter

I never have a naked smartphone because I want my most used device to be protected at all times. While you can find affordable iPhone cases almost anywhere you go, there’s something to be said for spending a bit more on a case if you value protection over fashion.

Two of my favorites are the Speck Presidio Pro case and the Otterbox Commuter case, and I use them both for different reasons. Speck’s Presidio Pro is more of an everyday case because it’s a great combination of protection and fashion—it protects your iPhone from drops up to 10 feet, and its soft matte finish is more luxurious than that of a flimsy, plastic case.

I break out the Otterbox Commuter case when I’m going on a day trip or a full vacation. Whether I’m hiking in a national park or hoofing it around an unfamiliar city, the Commuter case gives my iPhone extra drop protection, and I like the added Lightning cover that prevents dust from getting inside the charging port. It’s bulkier than the Presidio Pro, but the extra protection is worth the added heft in those particular situations. It’s also quite easy to get my iPhone in and out of the Commuter case thanks to its double-layer design.

Speck Presidio Pro product image

Speck Presidio Pro

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Otterbox Commuter product image

Otterbox Commuter

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Best photo/video accessory

DJI Osmo Mobile 3

DJI's Osmo Mobile 3.
Enlarge / DJI’s Osmo Mobile 3.
Valentina Palladino

If you do anything more strenuous with your smartphone camera than take photos of your cat, the DJI Osmo Mobile 3 will make things better. The newest version of DJI’s gimbal makes smartphone photography and videography easier with a plethora of features, but it’s even better now because it’s foldable. It may still be an awkwardly shaped accessory (both when in use and when folded), but now it won’t take up nearly as much space in your bag as previous models did.

The Osmo Mobile 3 has all the same features that the Osmo Mobile 2 did, including gesture control, active track, and now improved on-device controls (there’s a grand total of five buttons on the handle). It also has a USB port so you can charge your smartphone while you’re using it in the gimbal. At $ 139, it’s a great value accessory that can visibly improve your photo and video skills without breaking the bank.

DJI Osmo Mobile 3 product image

DJI Osmo Mobile 3

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Best iPad stylus

Apple Pencil

The Apple Pencil.
Enlarge / The Apple Pencil.
Samuel Axon

The Apple Pencil opens up a whole new world of things you can do on iPads. While the experience of writing or drawing on a tablet is never quite the same as doing so with a pen and paper, the Apple Pencil will get you as close to that experience as you can get. Its design mimics a real pencil or pen (just a slightly longer one), and there’s little to no latency when using it to write on an iPad’s screen. Pressure sensitivity lets you create thinner or thicker lines depending on how hard you press, and the Pencil pairs wirelessly and automatically when it snaps magnetically to your iPad’s edges. The second-gen Pencil charges wirelessly as well.

Like most of Apple’s accessories, the Pencil is the best stylus option for the iPad because it was designed specifically to work with iPadOS. But it is on the expensive side ($ 129 for the second-gen and $ 99 for the first-gen), leaving room for the $ 54 Logitech Crayon to be a good, affordable alternative. It’s not pressure sensitive like the Apple Pencil, and it has a chunkier design, but it’s nearly as good in terms of latency and is less of a hassle to charge than the first-gen Apple Pencil, thanks to its built-in Lightning port.

Apple Pencil (2nd gen) product image

Apple Pencil (2nd gen)

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Best iPad keyboard case

Apple Smart Keyboard

While Apple posits the iPad Pro as its true what’s-a-computer laptop replacement, the iPad Air and 10.2-inch iPad are capable of getting some level of work done as well, particularly when it comes to word processing. You’ll need an external keyboard to make that work, though. If you’d prefer that keyboard to double as an iPad case, Apple’s own Smart Keyboard (for the 3rd-gen iPad Air and 7th-gen iPad) and Smart Keyboard Folio (for the latest iPad Pros) are your best bets. (We dismissed iPad mini keyboard cases here as they’re too cramped to use comfortably.)

The big draw here is that these keyboards are two of the only devices that make use of Apple’s Smart Connector, which requires no Bluetooth pairing process or battery management. You snap them to the iPad and everything just works. Each device is lightweight and adds little bulk to an iPad, while the fabric-coated keys are water-resistant and easy to keep clean of gunk, since there are no crevices or openings on the boards to begin with. When you’re not typing, the keyboards serve as handy iPad stands, though the standard Smart Keyboard only lets you position your iPad at one angle, whereas the Folio supports two.

Actually typing with the Smart Keyboard isn’t what we’d call a revelation, but it’s fine. This is a far cry from a Lenovo ThinkPad, borrowing more from the super low travel of recent MacBook keyboards instead. Slamming on them for several hours straight could get fatiguing, and there’s no backlight whatsoever. But the keys are raised and spaced out well enough to avoid mistakes, the low travel makes them relatively fast to use, and that fabric coating does have a nice, smooth feel.

Both Smart Keyboards are priced higher than we’d like, and the lack of a rear cover on the 7th-gen iPad and 3rd-gen iPad Air model is something Apple probably should have addressed by now. But the convenience of the Smart Connector adds up over time, and for the kind of genuine-but-not-heavy-duty work for which iPadOS is best suited, the actual keyboard is comfortable and pleasant enough to not be a bother.

Apple Smart Keyboard product image

Apple Smart Keyboard

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Best keyboard

Logitech K780

If you do the majority of your iPad work in one place, however, we’d forego the case and get a dedicated keyboard in the form of the Logitech K780. Given that it weighs roughly two pounds and includes a number pad, it’s not the easiest thing to take on the road. But at 158mm×380mm×22mm, it’s still smaller than most full-size keyboards, and that weight helps it stay nice and steady on a desk or table. A built-in device cradle also makes it easy to stash an iPad right in front of you while you work. Its rounded keys may feel peculiar at first, but they’re distinguished and largely satisfying to type on—not as deep or tactile as a good mechanical keyboard, but quiet and comfortable for a wireless multi-device option.

That multi-device aspect means the K780 can pair with up to three devices at once, either via Bluetooth or a USB-A dongle. A trio of buttons at the top of the keyboard let you quickly switch between profiles, so you can easily jump from typing on an iPhone to an iPad to a Mac. Logitech rates its battery life at two years through a pre-installed pair of AAA batteries; we’ve yet to require a new set after more than a year of use.

The downsides here aren’t insignificant: there’s no backlighting, and while the shrunken arrow keys help reduce the K780’s overall footprint, they can be a pain to use. But for $ 60 or so, it’s a good value for a dedicated keyboard that lends itself well to working on an iOS device. If you don’t think the device stand or number pad are worth it, though, Logitech sells a smaller model called the K380 that has a similar key feel and costs $ 30-40.

Logitech K780 product image

Logitech K780

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