In pictures: The 15 best Android accessories

We take a look at the best Android accessories you might actually use.

  • Android Accessories Android accessories are a lot like Android phones: There are tons of 'em on the market, and most aren't worth a second glance. Also, since not all Android phones are the same, not all Android accessories work with all Android devices. It's almost enough to make you throw in the towel and buy an iPhone. Almost. But you'll change your mind when you see these cool accessories--15 of the best Android accessories available today. Some are universal, and others are device-specific, but all are awesome.

  • A Desktop Dock Few phone accessories are as useful as a desktop docking station. It lets you listen to tunes, watch videos, or keep your shiny new phone propped up and looking pretty--all while charging it. Samsung's $50 Galaxy Universal Multimedia Desktop Dock isn't really universal, but it does work with a number of Android devices, including the new Galaxy S III, the Galaxy Note, the Galaxy S II, and the Galaxy Nexus. (Maybe Samsung should have named it the Galaxy Galactic Multimedia Desktop Dock.) If you don't have one of those handsets, check with your phone's manufacturer or your wireless carrier to find a dock that fits your device.

  • Belkin Armband You could hold your Android phone in your hand while you jog, or you could slip it in your pocket. But today's phones are bigger and bulkier than ever. So why not use one of Belkin's armbands to get your phone out of the way? These carrying cases strap onto your upper arm, keeping your hands and pockets free. Belkin has been making armbands and cases for Apple's iPhone since the device came out, but now it's moving into the Android market with the recently announced EaseFit Plus Armband for the Samsung Galaxy S III ($25).

  • Wired and Wireless Headphones With your Belkin armband in place, you're ready for the perfect pair of headphones to complete your auditory ensemble. If you're looking to go wireless, you'll appreciate Plantronics's BackBeat GO wireless earbuds. Small and lightweight, these earbuds use a tangle-free cable to connect to each other, but they connect to your Android phone wirelessly via Bluetooth. If you prefer the reliability of a wired headset, consider Etymotic Research's hf5 earphones ($149). They're compatible with any device that has a 3.5mm stereo plug, and they offer top-notch audio quality.

  • Jawbone Big Jambox Let the music play with Jawbone's Big Jambox. This wireless speaker connects to most Bluetooth-enabled phones or tablets, and plays back your music and calls over its high-fidelity sound system. If the $300 Big Jambox is a budget-buster for you, try Jawbone's smaller $200 original Jambox.

  • Jawbone Bluetooth Headset and Companion App If you don't need a full-fledged speaker system, but you're interested in making hands-free phone calls, consider one of Jawbone's excellent Bluetooth headsets, such as the Era or the Icon, both of which work with the Jawbone Companion for Android app. These stylish headsets support clear hands-free calls, while the Companion app delivers calendar alerts, battery life updates, and more.

  • A Keyboard Today's Android smartphones and tablets are powerful enough to replace your mobile computer for some tasks--if you can deal with the limitations of a touchscreen. Or you can overcome that limitation by investing in a wireless keyboard that connects to your Android device via Bluetooth. The $80 ZAGGkeys Flex keyboard features a protective cover that doubles as a stand for your Android phone or tablet. The ZAGGfolio ($100) is a tablet case and keyboard designed specifically to work with the Samsung Galaxy Tab.

  • Protective Cases You probably paid a lot for your Android phone, so paying a little extra to keep it safe makes sense. A protective case--like those made by Body Glove (about $25), OtterBox ($30 to $50), and Seidio ($30 to $50)--will help protect your phone from potentially costly bumps, bruises, and cracks that it might suffer from an accidental drop. To ensure a proper fit, you must buy a case made specifically for your Android handset, but such cases are available for most phones. Some cases include transparent protectors for your touchscreen; if your case of choice doesn't, consider investing in a stand-alone touchscreen protector, such as ZAGG's InvisibleShield ($15).

  • Portable Power Most phones--especially 4G models--need to refill from a power outlet at least once during a normal day. But what if you're nowhere near a power outlet? You're not out of luck if you have Mophie's $130 Juice Pack Powerstation Pro. This universal external battery provides power to your USB-enabled phone or tablet, no matter where you are. It's also weather tested, and water, dust, and sand resistant.

  • A Beach Bag for Your Phone Mophie's external battery may be built to withstand water, dust, and sand, but most Android phones are not. If you plan on taking your phone or tablet to the beach this summer, investing in a Dry Case might be a good idea. This $40 case vacuum-seals around your phone, keeping it safe from water and sand without depriving you of access to its touchscreen, camera, and headphones.

  • A Discreet Display Not only is it rude to constantly check your phone while you're in a business meeting, or in class, or conversing with someone--it's obvious. But if basic civility is out of the question in your quest for the latest texts, tweets, and Facebook updates, you can at least be sneaky about your obsession. Sony Ericsson's SmartWatch wristwatch ($150) lets you check the contents of and control your Bluetooth-enabled Android phone directly from your wrist. But make no mistake: Miss Manners would not approve.

  • A Bike Mount Instead of leaving your Android phone at home when you're on your bike, bring it along securely. BioLogic's $45 Bike Mount for Android lets you attach your compatible smartphone (for a list of devices that work with the Bike Mount, see BioLogic's website) to your handlebars so that you can use your favorite GPS or fitness app as you ride. The Bike Mount comes with a hard outer case; the $10 Bike Mount for Android Liner provides an additional layer of shock resistance.

  • Get Paid If you use your Android smartphone to help run a business, you also can use it to help ensure that you get paid. The Square Card Reader is a small device that plugs into your Android's headset jack (you can find information about compatible devices on Square's website) and works with Square's Android app to enable you to accept credit card payments via your mobile phone.

  • Tangle-Free Connections Connecting your Android device to your computer isn't difficult, but the too-long USB cords that come with most devices can be annoying. Too often, they double as the device's charger, so you have to disconnect them from the wall outlet dongle if you want to connect your phone to your PC. And if not, you have to deal with an unsightly set of tangles and knots. Eliminate these problems with AViiQ's Ready Clips--$13 pen-size devices that provide an easy, bendable-but-tangle-free way to connect your Micro-USB and Mini-USB devices to your PC.

  • A Stylus If you dislike fingerprints and smudges on your Android's screen, or if you want your fingers to stay comfortably warm in a pair of toasty gloves on a cold day, a stylus can save the day. But not just any stylus will work with your Android device: You need one designed to work with your phone's capacitive touchscreen--like Spigen SGP's Stylus Pen Kuel H12 series ($20). It looks good, feels lightweight, and comes with a twist closure that protects its tip.

  • Prop Up Your Phone If you envy your Evo 4G-owning friends, who can use their phone's built-in kickstand to prop up the device, put your inner green-eyed monster to rest. For just $5 you can buy a Smartphone Coaster, a stainless-steel stand that you can use to prop up your Android phone for hands-free video viewing or more-orderly charging. "Kickstand" is a bit of a misnomer, since the stand has no hinge and doesn't fold flat--but as the vendor (NewPCGadgets) points out, Smartphone Coasters are stackable!

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