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The smartphone is the new computer, and wireless peripherals are popping up everywhere
It's an odd thought: peripherals for your smartphone, which itself is often considered a peripheral to your computer. But as mobile devices become computing devices in their own right, a cornucopia of peripherals is emerging.
The power-efficient Bluetooth 4.0, also called Bluetooth Smart, has been supported by Apple's iPhones and iPads since 2011 and by more recent Android devices (which must run Android Jelly Bean 4.3 or later). It's fast becoming the way these peripherals connect.
You've no doubt seen Bluetooth headsets, heart monitors, fitness trackers, blood pressure monitors, and smart watches -- the usual suspects. But you've not likely seen the 10 peripherals showcased here. They show just how far the smartphone-centered Internet of things will go.
Helios bicycle handlebar
If you can use navigation in your car, why not on your bike? The $300 Helios Handlebar connects to your arm- or handlebar-mounted iPhone (an Android app is coming soon) via Bluetooth to provide navigation and an onscreen speedometer. Plus, it has controls for the Helios Handlebar's integrated headlight and turn signals.
Prep Pad kitchen scale
It's the kitchen scale for those who crave information. The $150 Prep Pad from Orange Chef connects to an app on your iPad (sorry, not available for iPhones or Android devices) and, when weighing food, responds with all sorts of nutrition information. You can create a list of the ingredients in the app to come up with the total calories, fat, protein, and other nutritional data for your meal-in-progress.
94Fifty men's basketball
Yes, you read that right: a Bluetooth-connected basketball. The $295 94Fifty men's basketball meets NBA regulations, and it monitors all forces applied to it, from spin to dribble, to provide feedback via your iOS or Android smartphone as to your performance.
Automatic Link driving monitor
This little device from Automatic Labs plugs into the dashboard computer port of nearly any car made in 1996 or later, to monitor your driving and to display engine error codes in plain English.
The $100 Automatic Link's companion iOS and Android apps display your route, the price of the gas used for each trip, and locations where you drove poorly (such as sped or braked too fast) to help you drive more economically and safely, without tattling on you to your insurance company. It can even find a nearby gas station or mechanic -- and tell you where you parked.
Available in five colors, Blue Maestro's £29 Tempo thermometers are like none you've ever seen. You place the water-resistant devices wherever you want to monitor the temperature, and they transmit the last 24 hours of temperatures to your iOS or Android smartphone. The apps can be used to set alerts, such as to tell you when a temperature drop means it's time to bring in sensitive plants or keep your pets inside.
Boogie Board Sync 9.7 sketchpad
Even as we do more and more with keyboards, there's a place for good old-fashioned handwriting. Although Samsung has a line of pen-capable Android devices, most smartphones and tablets aren't designed to incorporate handwritten notes and sketches. The $100 Boogie Board Sync 9.7 fills that gap: It's a digital sketchpad, using a stylus to handwrite notes and make sketches. It uses Bluetooth to sync your notes to your iOS or Android device (and to your Mac or Windows PC, if desired).
August door lock
Why fumble with keys if you don't have to? The forthcoming Bluetooth door lock uses the Bluetooth in an iPhone or Bluetooth 4-compatible Android smartphone to unlock your deadbolt as you approach. You can also send electronic keys to neighbors, friends, family, and service providers, with access limited to specific days and times or for anytime use. When its internal batteries are low, the device sends you a message.
The $199 August Smart Lock also supports physical keys for those times your smartphone isn't working or not available or if the batteries have run down. It fits in standard door holes, compatible with existing strikes and receptacles.
BlueTipz ice-fishing transmitter
If you enjoy ice fishing, you know it's critical to feel when a fish brushes the fishing pole, but that's hard to do in winter weather when you're bundled up. Deep Freeze's $40 BlueTipz Transmitter does the sensing for you, alerting your iOS or Android smartphone when it perceives a fish. It also has a bright light you can turn on to see what's below the ice.
BACtrack breath analyzer
Let's hope that you don't have an urgent or regular need for this device. The $150 BACtrack Mobile breath analyzer analyzes the amount of alcohol in your breath, and the companion iOS and Android app tracks your tests to give you a history of intoxication levels. If you or your friends tend to indulge too much, this device can help objectively identify who shouldn't be driving, and help motivated people use the history to retrain themselves in terms of their drinking habits.
Whistle dog activity tracker
Most of the Bluetooth peripherals for smartphones today are designed to track fitness and health activities -- for human, that is. Whistle Labs is taking that "quantified self" concept to the dogs, with its $129 Whistle collar attachment for your pooch. Use it to track your dog's activity levels and timeline to others of the same breed and age. You can sync the data via Bluetooth such as while you're walking your dog, as well as via the Internet over Wi-Fi such as to keep tabs on your pet's activities while you're out of town.
Bonus: Knock iPhone 'key' for Macs
OK, this isn't hardware, and it makes your iPhone a peripheral to your Mac, rather than provide an add-on to your smartphone. But it's too cool to leave out.
If you have a very recent Mac running OS X Mavericks and an iPhone 4S or later model, the Knock app lets your iPhone unlock your Mac when you come in range. It essentially serves as an automatic password for your Mac, similar to the Bluetooth key fobs that some cars have. In this case, your iPhone is your key fob, making it a Bluetooth peripheral to your Mac.