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Now here's an ingenious idea: a Bluetooth-capable AA battery you can control with your smartphone. That's the Tethercell in a nutshell. The gadget, then went to Indiegogo for a successful crowdfunding campaign (with early backers paying a hefty $55 -- plus shipping -- for a single pair).
Today you can buy a pair of Tethercells for $44.99, plus $3 for shipping. Or less, if you're willing to wait a bit: StackSocial has a Tethercell Bluetooth battery two-pack for $24.49, shipped.
Let me give you the caveat right up front: This being StackSocial, the estimated shipping window is two to three weeks. I've spoken with these guys about why their turnaround times are so long, and they assure me they're working on it. Partially it's the nature of how they work with vendors to get low prices on really cool products. Bottom line: If you can be patient, you'll score a great deal. (I've endured some lengthy waits myself, but the product was always exactly as advertised.)
The Tethercell itself is a Bluetooth-friendly, smartphone-controlled module designed to fit anywhere a standard AA battery can. It's not a rechargeable power cell; rather, it relies on standard (disposable or rechargeable) AAA batteries.
Yes, that means you'll get slightly less runtime from whatever device is using the Tethercell, though if it's something that can accommodate more than one battery (like, say, an Xbox controller), you need only one Tethercell in the group.
Once paired with your Android or iOS device, the Tethercell (and whatever device it's in, natch) can be switched on or off remotely, put on a schedule, and monitored for overall battery life.
It's too bad there's no 9-volt version of this, because that's what pretty much every smoke alarm uses -- and this would be awesome for that. Even so, there's no denying this is a supercool bit of engineering and a great item for gadget fans. At under $25 for a pair, it's impulse buy-friendly, too.
Bonus deal: Remember the Anki Drive, the futuristic slot-cars-without-the-slots toy demoed a few years back at an Apple event? I always thought it was pretty cool, but didn't love the idea of spending $200 just to get started. Even the current $149 price feels a little steep. Good news! Anki currently has the Anki Drive Starter Kit for $99.99. That gets you the standard oval track, two cars, two charging cases and other odds and ends. Bad news: Even on sale, additional cars and tracks cost $50 apiece. Ouch.
Your turn: For the past couple of months I've been using a sub-$10 smartphone accessory. And it got me thinking: What's your favorite super-cheap tech gadget or accessory? Maybe a wallet-size multitool or an innovative phone stand? How about a pocket-friendly mobile charger? I'm looking for items you didn't think could possibly be any good given the price, but turned out to be awesome. Let's say anything under $15 is fair game.