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Accessory roundup: some of the more useful, novel items

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As I wrote in January from CES, one of the biggest categories of products on display was accessories of all kinds. There's a good reason for that. They’re easier for small companies to make, compared with complex electronic platforms, and their profit margins can be huge, up to 80 percent.

Here's a summary of some of the more useful or novel ones.
Olloclip is a tiny, pocket-sized accessory lens module that slides onto the corner of an iPhone 5 that works to provide a variety of imaging options.

The Olloclip enhances the iPhone 5's camera. Courtesy photo.

Slipped on with the fish-eye lens side facing forward, it produces a circular image with about a 180-degree field of view. Slipped on in the other direction, it creates a wide-angle image with twice the normal field of view.

Remove the outer lens, and you have a macro lens that focuses to a half-inch from the subject. Not surprisingly, the images are not as sharp and high in contrast as the camera lens alone, and there's some spherical distortion in the wide-angle image.

But the Olloclip is still useful and increases the versatility of the iPhone 5 camera's capabilities. ($70, olloclip.com)

Accell Home or Away Power Station – three-outlet travel surge protector.

Accell's outlet and surge protector is compact and affordable. Courtesy photo

This is one of those industrial-looking products that you might see sitting on the shelf of a hardware store and pass it by. It's a nondescript plastic enclosure, with three grounded AC outlets and two USB connectors.

I've been traveling with it in my computer bag for a few weeks and have tried it out in hotel rooms and lobbies, and find it’s become indispensible. It’s a fist-size device that plugs into a single outlet and can charge three devices with their AC chargers and two USB devices directly, including an iPad.

It also has a built-in surge protector to protect your devices from voltage spikes. While it will never win an award for its industrial look, it's useful and a bargain at about $20. (accellcables.com)

Rokform Rokshield v3 case
Rokform makes some unusual cases for a variety of products that are focused around a clever built-in universal mount, which lets you attach your device to a variety of places. Its Rokshield v3 is a rugged, somewhat bulky iPhone case made of plastic and silicone rubber.

The built-in mounting system bayonets onto one of its custom mounts or attaches onto a metal surface with the case's built-in magnet. It’s more industrial-looking than sleek, but it’s a good solution for mounting your phone onto your car’s dashboard, on a bike or tripod. ($50, rokform.com)

Rokform's case for the iPhone has a clever mount. Courtesy photo

Just Mobile AluRack and AluBase are two attractively designed aluminum stands for holding MacBooks. The AluRack attaches to the back of an Apple Monitor or desktop iMac and provides a shelf for storing your MacBook vertically behind the monitor, hidden from view ($60).

Just Mobile's stand for MacBooks. Courtesy photo

The AluBase is a compact, heavily weighted aluminum stand to hold your MacBook or MacBook Air vertically on a table or desk for storage or while being charged. Each of these products is handsomely finished to match the materials of Apple products. ($50, just-mobile.com)

Just Mobile is one of the few accessory companies from Asia that I've come across that understands the importance of good industrial design.

Samsung cover for Galaxy phones -- Two of the hottest phones continue to be the Samsung Galaxy III and Note 2.

Samsung has ultrathin cases for its Galaxy and Note phones. Photo courtesy of Bloomberg.

Samsung has taken advantage of having a removable back, and has come up with an ultrathin case that protects the display. The case replicates the back cover, contacts and all, and grafts onto it a flat front cover that opens like a book. It can fold around the back to use the display or stay in place to talk through an opening on the cover.

Prices range from $30 to $50, and it's available at AT&T stores and other carriers that carry these Samsung phones. Beware of some the online sites that are selling cheap imitation copies for less than half the price. (Samsung.com)

Baker is the author of "From Concept to Consumer" published by Financial Times Press and available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon and other booksellers. He has developed and marketed consumer and computer products for Polaroid, Apple, Seiko and others; holds 30 patents; and is an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year. Baker can be heard on KOGO AM the first Sunday of each month. Send comments to phil.baker@sddt.com. Comments may be published as Letters to the Editor. Baker's blog is blog.philipgbaker.com, and his website is philipgbaker.com.

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