Cell Phone Accessories

The Glowme smartphone case makes every notification a light show

The rise of the smartphone has been accompanied by the many useful — and not so useful — accessories. Whatever their value, people still scoop them all up, prompting half-hearted inventors and passionate pursuers of innovation to create new add-ons in the chase for profits.

An accessory that lands itself firmly in the former category is the Glowme, a silicon smartphone case outfitted with an RGB LED strip housing 20 individual lights. Using the Glowme app, these lights can be customized to light up in whatever way a user wants, from an incoming call, an upcoming turn while driving, or even the music being played. It can also be used as an RGB flashlight or a multi-LED flash for photos, all while using “minimal” battery life. 

Cell Phone Accessories

ViKC projects a simpler way to text on your smartphone

Typing on a smartphone is notoriously difficult -– and also uncomfortable — for many people. Whether somebody is texting, emailing or filling out an online registration form, the phone’s buttons tend to be too darn small to type anything –- especially complete sentences -– without making at least a few mistakes.

The Virtual Keyboard Cover (ViKC) is designed to address that issue. It attaches to a smartphone like any other cover, but features a red laser diode on top that aims down onto a flat surface and can be powered on to project a virtual LED keyboard onto a table or any other flat, non-reflective work surface.

It works in conjunction with an Android and iOS app that recognizes what the user is typing and transfers it to the screen. ViKC ships in July at the expected price of about $107. Its makers are hoping to raise $162,634 by Jan. 17.

Some consumers –- especially middle-aged ones — may want to give ViKC a try. Younger smartphone users tend to have little problem typing on their mobile devices for some reason, while many older consumers are too technophobic to use a smartphone to begin with. This is a variation on the projection keyboards that have been around for a long time and have tended to not work very well. A further negative is that, for now anyway, ViKC only works with an iPhone 5, 5S, 6, 6S, 6 Plus or Samsung Galaxy S5 or S6.

Cell Phone Accessories

Prynt will instantly print photos taken with your smartphone

As their cameras get ever better, smartphones have become the go-to device that many people use to take photos. But although they generate photos that can look amazing, there is no on-the-go way to get a physical photo to post on a refrigerator or a wall, or to give to grandparents who don’t use devices that would allow them to receive the image digitally.

Prynt is a camera case for iPhones and Android smartphones that enables the user to instantly print out any photo that is taken with the device. The San Francisco- and Paris-based team of developers is using the same ZINK Zero Ink printing technology that’s been used in products like Polaroid’s instant mobile printers. The special paper that’s used has ink embedded inside, eliminating the need for any ink cartridges that need to be replaced.

Prynt’s makers have also added a neat additional feature involving augmented reality. When a photo is being taken, the Android and iOS app records a short video and stores it in the cloud. Then, when a user holds the phone over the printed image, the app will automatically scan and recognize it, showing that video on screen in augmented reality.

Backers who pledge $99 will get a Prynt case when it ships in August. That’s less than the $130-$150 that its makers expect to charge at retail. Its makers have set a goal of raising $50,000 in funding.

Prynt holds great promise—adding instant printing capability to a smartphone is a great idea. Other devices have tried to do the same thing, such as Snapjet, which users dock their smartphones on to print an image using analog instant film. Designing Prynt as a lightweight case makes it more portable, and makes the process of taking a photo and printing it out instantly very much like using an old Polaroid instant camera. Using ZINK paper also seems to be a superior alternative to using analog film. Prynt’s augmented reality feature adds even more value to the product. One drawback is that it is only compatible with select iPhones and Android phones, but its makers are trying to add compatibility for more smartphone models, according to the Kickstarter campaign video.