How appcessories are revolutionising the way we play

When Apple first uttered those immortal words 'there's an app for that', they possibly didn't appreciate just how game-changing these little pieces of software would become in such a short space of time.

Between its own App Store and its Android rival Google Play, there are now more than one million apps available, generating a combined 50 billion downloads and counting.

So it's little wonder that clever tech and gaming manufacturers are now latching on to app success with a whole new range of accompaniment gadgets, known as appcessories.

Predicted by experts as the growth area for the toy market in 2012 and beyond, appcessories work with both Apple's iOS devices or Google Android smartphones and tablets.

Essentially, appcessories are gadgets that can be monitored and controlled by a mobile app.

There is a fast-growing range of appcessories – costing from just a few pounds -  from aeroplanes that attach to an iPhone to make it feel as if you're flying to appcessories that turn your iPad display into a classic game board for Snakes and Ladders or a physical Air Hockey table.

And with companies creating appcessories to work with existing apps made by third parties and tapping into the phenomenon by developing their own to include with their products, the potential seems limitless.

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Peter Jenkinson, CEO of and organiser of a recent Appletics appcessory showcase, believes the gizmos represent a massive chance for the toy industry.

He says with traditional products declining in popularity, they now have the chance to innovate by exploring the huge popularity of pocket money-priced apps.

Peter explained: "The importance of this new appcessory category within the toy industry simply cannot be overstated. It allows brands with established content and licensing to tap into the phenomenal growth of the app market and extend their reach by delivering a physical toy item to interact with it.

"With kids spending an increasing amount of time playing on iOS or Android devices, the toy industry needed to tap in and claw back some of their lost revenue."

He added: "Some of the most innovative ideas are not just starting to engage the kids but grown-ups too with all manner of grin-inducing playthings.

"These include smartphone-controlled helicopters and cars where the phone takes the place of the remote control to augmented reality games which turn your surroundings into alien-infested battlegrounds.

"We are seeing support from the national retail chains and the bigger toy brands such as Mattel are about to unleash their Hot Wheels range into this space, so it seems no-one wants to be left out."

Appcessories are not just for kids. For older users they can also include app-driven weighing scales, sports watches and running timers or even a baby monitor.

The likes of tech accessory company Griffin is also producing products to connect guitars or DJ decks to smart devices.

Jackie Ballinger, of Griffin Technology, said: "We know how people use their smartphones and tablets in their everyday lives and in the music creation process. The evolution of Apple's GarageBand has further enabled musicians to create and record entire albums on iOS devices which is the perfect blend of our expertise.

"The category will only continue to grow from here. More and more accessories will have adjoining apps and the addition of an app, even if it's a free download, is considered in the product development process of nearly every accessory we make now."

[Get your hands on two great appcessories here]

Jeremy Healy, of Character Options, is distributor of the Elite Command alien blaster game under the AppGear brand. He said: "No longer is an app game something you have to search for online, it is a product you can buy in store with a collectable figure or accessories to enhance the experience."

Over at Apptoyz, they offer products including a steering wheel to slot a smartphone in for driving games, an interactive gun that mounts an iPhone on the top and even a fishing rod.  

Boss Joanne Ramsden summed it up enthusing: "Appcessories are a new wave of toy for the new wave of technology."

And Simon Farrow, appcessories buyer for The Carphone Warehouse, agrees.

He said: "We've seen great success amongst our customers and find the range truly brings to life our core products; smartphones and tablets.

"Appcessories aims to connect customers’ phones or tablets directly to their daily routines, whether in the gym, in the car, at home or entertaining the family. 

"As we begin to enter the Christmas period, we anticipate the appcessories range to be amongst the must-have Christmas presents."