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A Subtle “Accessory Gap” Effect Helps Keep Apple and Samsung Phones on Top

by Walter Jules

Want a case with a built-in battery for your iPhone? You can get one from Apple, Mophie, or innumerable indie sellers on Amazon. How about one for the Galaxy Note 10? I found a dozen in under a minute. What about your economical LG Stylo 5? Haha, there’s the door.

If you’ve ever bought a phone that’s not from one of the major manufacturers, you’ve probably realized that the accessory selection is pretty darn slim, as shelves and online listings are full of innumerable variations on iPhone and Galaxy, Galaxy and iPhone. You can typically find a cheap TPU case for a less notable phone, but that’s about it.

My Kingdom for a Battery Case

Here’s an example: Review Geek’s Editor in Chief Cameron was searching for a battery case for the Pixel 4, a phone that’s made by one of the biggest companies on the planet and is currently advertised on every platform, including primetime sports like Sunday Night Football. (Seriously, I can’t get through a quarter without seeing that one.) And yet, despite dozens of vendors (both officially recognized and somewhat dubious) selling battery cases for Apple and Samsung devices, at present, just one lonely little Amazon seller is making a battery case for the Pixel 4.

The company, NEWDERY (you, in the back, stop giggling), is based out of Shenzhen, established just four years ago, and doesn’t appear to have any kind support for non-Chinese speakers. In short, it’s not a name that inspires confidence, especially when the product is wrapping your $ 1000 phone in an electrical part that occasionally explodes.

I’ve searched for phone mounting options for my bike. There are some fantastic case-mount combos for iPhones that mean you never have to remove the case from your phone…but since I’m currently using a Pixel 3a XL, the best I can do is buy a second case and stick a mount adapter to it. When searching for a pair of truly wireless earbuds, I wanted a case that I could clip to my belt, like this slick leather one for the AirPods. But the best I could do was a silicone wrapper thingy for Samsung’s Galaxy Buds. That’s the only secondary accessory I’ve ever seen for non-Apple earbuds. If you want something similar for your Jaybird Vistas, you’re out of luck.

A Horween leather case for your phone AND your headphones is something only Apple customers can obtain. NOMAD

Tablets? Forget about it. I own a Pixel Slate, brought to the market in 2018. Incipio made a case for it once, and now it’s gone. Aside from the official keyboard case (which sucks), it’s the only one I’ve ever seen. Meanwhile, the company is still selling two cases for the original, 5-year-old iPad Air. iPads even get cases that add sort-of wireless charging, something I haven’t seen on a tablet since the Nexus 7.

I’m still hunting for a tablet case for my ThinkPad 8. Although since it doesn’t have enough onboard storage to update Windows, maybe I should stop.

Easy to Understand…

The reason for the scarcity of accessory selection among non-Apple and non-Samsung gadgets isn’t complicated. It’s also not sinister. Accessory makers have a limited capacity for manufacturing, and they have to sell lots of stuff to stay in business. The easiest, safest way to do that is to spend the bulk of your development on accessories for devices with the most amount of users—the largest pool of potential buyers. It’s not as if they’re intentionally stiffing owners of, say, the Kyocera DuraForce PRO 2. But Kyocera DuraForce PRO 2 owners get stiffed, all the same.

On Incipio’s quick navigation page, only Apple and Samsung get the luxury of direct device links.

Anyone who’s perused a Best Buy shelf knows you’re out of luck if you want to find a case or a screen protector for anything except an iPhone or a Galaxy. You can generally get better results online, but even there, your choices tend to be limited to cheap TPU cases that require minimal tooling. Phone buyers are starting to wise up to the fact that straying outside of the bounds of the two major phone brands means your choices for accessories will be severely curtailed.

…Hard to Solve

If you’re looking for a solution here, there isn’t one: a stymied selection of accessories is just one more factor keeping Apple and Samsung far, far ahead of the competition, on top of existing ecosystems and marketing. (Oh, and the fact that iPhones and Galaxy phones are, you know, pretty great phones.) If a competitor wants to rise to the top any time soon, it’s only going to get harder: they’ll have to climb a mountain of accessories, too.

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