Tools to Make Mobile Gadgets More Versatile
A roundup of accessories that can allow you to print, make presentations and digitize documents all from your business smartphone or tablet.
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Mobile phones, tablets and notebook computers have become essential tools for entrepreneurs who need to do business from virtually anywhere. Now, you can enhance productivity even more by supplementing these devices with the growing array of mobile accessories. These tools can allow you to accomplish a number of important tasks, from printing or digitizing documents, to making presentations to extending your battery life.
Here is a sampling of mobile products that will satisfy common needs of entrepreneurs on the go:
Print on the fly.
You never know when you'll need to print out business materials, and you can't always count on a printing store being nearby. Here are two products that can let you print high-quality documents from your mobile device in a hotel room -- or even a cab if you're really crunched for time:
• The HP Office Jet 100 Mobile Printer is small enough to sneak into a large carry-on bag and affordable at less than $300. The inkjet printer uses traditional ink cartridges.
• The Brother PocketJet 6 Plus is one of the smallest printers on the market, but it's a bit more expensive than the competition at about $550. Because it uses thermal printing technology, you must use thermal paper. But it's comparable to inkjet alternatives in cost per printed page.
Related: Five Rules for 'Bring Your Own Device' Teams
Make mobile presentations.
Business presentations used to require a lot of advance preparation, but now you can buy high-quality projectors that fit in a suit pocket and connect to your mobile device. All you need is a blank wall to display your PowerPoint or Keynote presentation. Here are three options:
• The 3M MPro150 pocket-sized projector might be one of the best mobile projectors for the price ($300). It shouldn't be used in large or bright rooms as it might not be as bright and clear as a larger projector, but it's a useful alternative for quick, intimate presentations. The built-in data storage allows you to display Microsoft Office files and most image and video formats without a companion device.
• The Vivitek Qumi Q2 isn't an entry-level product at $500, but it comes with extra features. The 300 lumens that its bulb emits provide a crisp image in moderate light conditions. It also has built-in audio speakers and weighs less than two pounds.
• The Dell M110 Ultra Mobile Projector can fit into most luggage bags, contains several output options and provides crisp images, all for about $500.
Related: How to Protect Your Business's Mobile Devices
Any traveler knows it can be tough to keep track of documents. One solution: portable scanning to digitally back up files or send them to the office for immediate use. Here are a few options for making paper files digital:
• The Brother DS Mobile 600 DPI Document Scanner can fit in any laptop bag. This USB-powered scanner sells for $150 or less. One drawback: It needs to be connected to a laptop to work.
• Neat Receipts is a smaller, stylish product that that costs $200 and can scan business cards, documents and just about anything else you need digitized.
• Smartphone document "scanner" apps are available if you'd rather not carry another device. Created for all major smartphone brands, these apps turn your phone's camera into an impromptu scanner. The quality of the images aren't as high as those from a dedicated scanner, but they only cost about $10 and require no extra equipment. Examples include ScanBizCards for scanning business cards and Concur for scanning receipts and other travel and expense documents.
• Evernote is an online service that helps manage a variety of documents and synchronizes them across devices. You can take a photo of a document with your phone and then upload it to Evernote. The service will then store the document and recognize the characters on the document -- handwritten or otherwise -- so you can scan search the document later.
Related: Four Sleek Networking and Storage Tools
Extend your battery charge.
These mobile power sources can help ensure that your gadgets will be charged when an electric outlet isn't handy. Just plug your device into one of these products to recharge. Some power supplies use traditional batteries and provide an adapter for your devices. Others have built-in rechargeable batteries.
• Energizer Portable Chargers are a great option when your battery dies and there's not an electrical outlet in sight. These little packs have internal rechargeable batteries that hold hours of power for a variety of devices. Prices range from $7 to more than $100, depending on the type of portable charger you buy.
• The Symtek TF200 Portable Power Pack is a rechargeable DC battery for virtually any device. It provides most laptops with a two- to three-hour charge and smaller devices with more than 50 hours. At $20, it might be too large to carry without at least a small bag or briefcase.
By incorporating a few of these devices into your travel routine, you just might save some time and money -- in addition to being more productive.