The dominance of touchscreens in the smartphone market has created a cottage industry of its own: add-on extra buttons for Android devices.
There are several options out there, but all come with a smattering of caveat emptor: buyer beware. Between device compatibility, questionable patent claims, and foreign distribution channels, each product should be approached with a bit of caution.
Pressy might be what started it all; its Kickstarter campaign raised nearly $700,000 back in October, and the gadget press was all over it.
Pre-orders are still open at $27 a pop, which gets you a small button that plugs into your Android device’s headphone jack. An accompanying app lets you assign different actions to the button, like turning on the flashlight, starting an app, taking a photo, etc.
Multiple actions can be assigned by using a series of presses rather than a single tap.
Delivery was supposed to start in “Spring 2014”, but a few promised ship dates have come and gone.
Commenters on Pressy’s Facebook and Kickstarter pages are a bit disgruntled with the lack of public updates, though many seem to have received replies to individual emails. Some commenters are also questioning the creators’ claim of an international patent.
Only problem? The English is not great. Klick’s site is all in Chinese, and the app itself is a challenge to understand at times.
Is this the same hardware as Pressy? Which one is the original and which is the copy? No one’s quite sure.
Another Chinese manufacturer, Xiaomi, is making a similar device called the Mi Key. It’s even cheaper, but is only usable with Xiaomi phones.
DIMPLE is the latest contender, but its hardware is clearly different.
It’s in the form of a sticker that goes on the back of your Android device and communicates with its NFC chip. It just started its own crowdfunding campaign on IndieGogo May 6. The two-button version is $17 and is expected to ship in September, while the four-button version is $27 and is expected to ship in August.
There is a totally free way to get most of the functionality of these products, though. Instead of adding more buttons, the QuickClick app just customizes your volume buttons instead.
It can make for a bit of confusion when listening to music, but free is usually worth a try, right?