Form Meets Function
Every year we have it drummed into us how important it is to own the latest laptop, state of the art smartphone or celebrity endorsed gadget. Meticulously planned marketing campaigns, elaborate Keynote presentations and major press stunts carried out by the likes of Apple, Google and Sony all feed a hunger for the latest developments in technological innovation.
But what about tech accessories? Nothing to write home about? Think again.
Gone are the days of a cheap rubber case from eBay sufficing to house your smartphone, or settling for headphones that offer the most ear-shattering bass, but very little else. Today, we demand that our accessories be both stylish and functional.
The market has responded, with high quality tech accessories now having the power to change your life for the better, offering a degree of functionality like never before – and they’re looking pretty good while doing it, too.
With this in mind, we’ve scoured the shelves to find what we think are the best headphones, smartphone cases and speakers on the market, which provide not only style, but a little something extra in the performance stakes.
When it comes to next level form and function, Bragi’s smart ear buds – The Dash – are leading the way. Launched on Kickstarter in 2014, the project quickly eclipsed its target goal of $250k, eventually raising $3 million.
Due to launch in spring 2015, these ear buds are completely wireless and come equipped with a carry case that can charge them in just under an hour – proving they are truly designed for on the go wear.
The Dash aren’t just earphones though; they have 4GB of built-in storage, which means they can be used without the need to pair them to your smartphone or media player. But that’s not all. As well as storing your music, their in-built microphone means they’re able to function as a Bluetooth headset, and – on top of that – they’re waterproof, meaning your tech is safe if you get caught in torrential rain.
Still not swayed? They also feature integrated fitness tracker technology, which will measure your heart rate and body temperature while telling you how long you’ve been exercising and how many calories you’ve burned off in the process.
Overall, The Dash are less a pair of earphones, and more a standalone smart device that you’ll quickly wonder how you ever lived without.
Serving up both style and substance, Grado headphones not only look incredible, they also offer unmatched sound quality. Founded in Brooklyn, New York in 1953, the business has now spanned three generations of the Grado family, with each pair of headphones still handmade in the borough to this day.
Grado headphones have a distinctive look that has barely changed since the brand began. Rallying against the day-glo plastic of a certain rapper from Compton’s offerings, these are all brushed steel and stained wood.
Not only do they look good, the Grado brand has long been synonymous with quality audio. Each product is crafted with high-end components, and the hand-made aspect of the brand adds an artisanal flair that you just don’t get from other mass-produced models.
When it comes to functionality, Melaud earphones – hailing from Sweden – are set to be the smartest on the market when they launch in late 2015/early 2016. Rather than just passively playing the music you are listening to, Melaud’s units react to the activity of the wearer.
Fall asleep with your earphones in? No more waking up in the middle of the night with a jolt – these monitor the wearer’s pulse and adjust the volume accordingly, eventually stopping the sound altogether. Which also means you’ll never lose your place in a podcast again.
As well as aiding your quest for a good night’s sleep, these earphones can help you get the most out of your workout, monitoring your heart rate and selecting a playlist to match your heart rate (based on the tracks’ BPM) so you’ll never be stuck for the perfect soundtrack to see you through those all-important last few reps.
Previously just a means of preventing your screen from smashing on impact, phone cases are also getting the utilitarian treatment. Prynt is a Paris-based startup offering a product that promises to turn your smartphone into an instant camera.
Launched on Kickstarter in early 2015, the company smashed their goal of $50,000 in a matter of hours, eventually finishing on a total of $1.5 million.
What’s all the fuss about? Well, Prynt pretty much does what it says on the tin: you just pop your phone into the case and you’ve got yourself a modern day polaroid camera. Connecting via Bluetooth, the case can print photos you take (and those already stored on your phone) in less than two minutes.
Just as important, the case looks great too. Evoking an aesthetic reminiscent of Lomography and vintage Leicas, Prynt offers up true innovation and manages to look cool while doing so.
popSLATE is an iPhone case that not only offers protection, but adds a second screen. Featuring an e-ink screen on the back of the case, it utilises minimal battery power and opens up your smartphone to all kinds of dual screen possibilities.
First and foremost, popSLATE cases allow for a huge degree of personalisation, letting you set whatever you like as the resting screensaver, from photos to artwork. So, unlike that novelty iPhone case you bought on a whim, you will never get bored of how it looks.
Aesthetics aside, they can also be paired with your phone to display app notifications – from weather reports to your emails. What’s more, if you add the ‘glance’ function, you can see important information without even waking your phone up from sleep.
Laying the style on heavy, the Stanmore Brown is a Bluetooth speaker from British guitar amp legends Marshall that would look just as at home on stage behind your favourite band, as it would plonked on the side of your living room belting out Spotify playlists.
Featuring vintage mesh and heavy brass accents, its superb sound quality comes as no surprise given the brand’s status in the industry. The iconic script Marshall logo evokes years of rock ‘n’ roll history, while the physical analogue amp-like volume controls are a nice nostalgic touch which hark back to what some would call the golden days of music.
Even though it looks vintage, the speaker itself is equipped with the latest Bluetooth technology, making it easier than ever to hook up your smartphone or laptop, as well as having an optical audio input to please any true audiophiles.
We’re still debating whether or not you can really call this one a ‘speaker’, given the range of useful features it’s got packed into its 100mm diameter frame.
The Sony BSP60 boasts conference call capabilities, a smart alarm clock that lets you wake up to whatever music you like, and even comes equipped with wheels on the bottom that allow it to try and dodge your flailing arms when trying to hit the snooze button in the morning.
Oh, and it’s always listening. Sound creepy? Not really – the BSP60 responds to the voice command “OK speaker” and, much like Amazon’s Echo, can be asked all-important questions, whereupon it mines the Internet to find the answers.
Despite looking like a large snooker ball in its sleep mode (and Mickey Mouse when it’s awake), this speaker’s decidedly average aesthetics take a back seat to its enhanced functionality. There are lights that change colour in time with the beat of music, as well as ‘ear-pods’ (the bits that look like Mickey Mouse ears) that move in sync too.
While its gimmicky look might be a little too playful for the more serious, stripped-back bachelor pad, nothing can take away from the degree of utility Sony have succeeded in packing into such a small unit – after all, what other speaker can also be your personal assistant?
Tech accessories are now – more than ever – fully-fledged fashion accessories or high functioning add-ons, and at best both. The leading designs offer something unique, and enrich not only the functionality of the device they are paired with, but the user’s life as well.
What’s next is anyone’s guess, but suffice to say, if you’re looking for tech accessories that deliver on both style and performance, you’re practically spoilt for choice.
Do you own any of the items showcased above? What are your essential tech accessories?