Tech columnist Marc Saltzman suggests some accessories to improve mobile gaming including controllers, battery boosters and wireless headphones.
Marc Saltzman, for USA TODAY
Prop up your smartphone with a PopSocket ($10-up) on the back – ideal for mobile gamers who use a wireless controller to play. (Photo: PopSockets LLC)
Whether you’re into console gaming on a TV or computer gaming on a PC, it’s quite common to pick up a few peripherals to enhance your experience.
From game controllers and headset microphones to high-speed mice and keyboards, there’s no shortage of accessories to spice up your game time at home.
But what about add-ons for gamers on the go?
They exist, too. Some are specific to mobile gaming, like specially-designed controllers, while more generic products, such as battery boosters and wireless headphones, are also ideal for the millions who play on smartphones and tablets.
Here’s a look at a few worthy additions to elevate your mobile gaming fun.
Improve your video game grip
If you prefer to hold a console-like controller to swiping on a touch screen, there are a few options available, but you’ll need to know if it works with iOS (iPhone and iPad) or Android, as there’s no overlap. And I recommend testing your favorite games with a controller to make sure they work together before you buy.
For Android (and Windows) gamers, the Bluetooth-enabled SteelSeries Stratus XL ($39.99) is an affordable gamepad that feels great in your hands, and features several buttons, clickable analog sticks, pressure-sensitive triggers, smooth shoulder buttons and a multidirectional D-pad – most of which are programmable. Battery life tops 40 hours with its two AA batteries (included).
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Get a console-like experience with your iPhone by adding the Gamevice iPhone Controller ($75). Bluetooth-based Android controllers are available, too. (Photo: Gamevice)
iOS gamers, on the other hand, should look for controllers stamped with the “Made for iPhone” certification (“MFi”), such as the Gamevice Controller for iPhone ($74.95), which holds the iPhone snug in between the controller’s two parts, and plugs into the Lightning port (as opposed to Bluetooth connectivity). Ideal for games like “Fortnite,” Gamevice includes buttons, dual analog sticks, a D-pad, bumpers, triggers and more. An iPad version costs $99.95.
A sound addition for gamers
Just as George Lucas once said sound is half of the movie viewing experience, great audio can also supersize your gaming.
For private listening, the Sony WH-1000XM3s ($349.99) are the company’s top-of-the-line noise-cancelling on-ear headphones. Along with the premium sound quality from its 40 millimeter liquid crystal polymer drivers, these super comfortable Bluetooth headphones enjoy battery life of up to 30 hours between charges – and with a quick charge feature that gives you 5 hours of playback from just a 10-minute charge – plus there’s a cable in the travel case (included) should you prefer a wired connection.
Gamers know audio is incredibly important. These noise-cancelling headphones from Sony (WH-1000XM3, $349) sound great and are incredibly comfortable. (Photo: Sony)
To optimize the noise-cancelling feature, first press a button on the headphones for it to analyze the environment you’re in, such as an airplane. A “Quick Attention” feature will temporarily stop the noise-cancellation if you want to talk to someone; just cup your hand over the right earphone (the microphone boosts the nearby sound for you). Touch sensors on the earcup let you control your tunes and calls with simple swipes and taps.
Add memory for more, faster mobile games
You shouldn’t have to delete apps and games in order to make room for new content. Most Android phones let you expand the storage, should you run out of room on the device’s internal memory.
For those who want a lot of storage – and speed – SanDisk Extreme UHS-I microSD memory cards are now available in 512GB ($199.99) and 1TB ($449.99) capacities. Yes, with the latter, we’re talking more than 1,000 gigabytes of storage, yet the card’s A2 spec means superfast speeds.
SanDisk Extreme UHS-I microSD memory cards (in 512GB and 1TB capacities, priced at $199 and $449) promise superfast speeds, an important consideration for gamers. (Photo: Western Digital Corporation)
In fact, SanDisk says these cards have read speeds of up to 160 megabits per second and write speeds of up to 90 megabits per second – therefore more than capable of shooting 4K video, too.
Speaking of mobile gaming, SanDisk also makes memory cards specifically for the Nintendo Switch gaming console. The officially-licensed SanDisk microSDXC card for the Nintendo Switch offers high-performance storage up to 128 gigabytes (and next month, up to 256 gigs). Load games faster with transfer rates up to 100 megabits per second. Prices start at $17.99 for 64GB of storage.
Prop up your device
If you’re using a Bluetooth controller to play games wirelessly, you might want to prop up your smartphone, so you can better see the screen.
From $10, PopSockets are a multifunctional accessory that sticks to the back of your phone (or case). With its accordion-like design, you can pop out the PopSocket when you want to comfortably hold your phone for a selfie (by slipping your fingers in between the phone and PopSocket). You can also wrap headphone cables around it (for safe keeping) or, for the purposes of our discussion, prop up the phone on a desk or table, to angle the screen towards you.
But it’s fun to just pull and push on a PopSocket, too – perfect for fidgety types.
There are hundreds of designs and materials available, but you can also upload you own custom artwork to create a truly unique PopSocket.
For both smartphones and tablets, there are also several cases that turn into stands to prop up the screen for gaming, movie viewing, or video calling.
Great for little kids, the Speck iGuy foam case for tablets ($22) protects your investment and stands it up for game time, too. (Photo: Samsonite IP Holdings S.A.R.L.)
A great pick for kids is the iGuy from Speck (from $29.95), a fitted foam case for iPads that can stand on its own two feet, literally, and be carried around with its pudgy “arms.” Available in many colors, the iGuy adds some personality to a tot’s favorite tablet.
A portable power play
Finally, you’ll want to make sure your phone or tablet doesn’t conk out before you do.
A portable power bank is a great idea for mobile gamers, as it eliminates the need for you to plug your device into an electrical socket – you won’t have to be one of those “wall huggers” you see at the airport.
There are a few to choose from, but the myCharge HubMax 10,050 mAh Portable Charger ($99.99) has both a built-in Lighting cable (for iPhone and iPad) and integrated USB-C (for Android devices), along with a standard USB-A port to plug anything else into.
Fold-out wall prongs let you juice up the battery, when needed, as well.
Juice up your smartphone and tablets on the go with a portable power bank, like this myCharge battery booster ($99). (Photo: myCharge)
Follow Marc on Twitter: @marc_saltzman. Email him or subscribe to his Tech It Out podcast at www.marcsaltzman.com.
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