Cliq case adds three NFC buttons to your smartphone
It's a potentially great solution for button-strapped Android phones, but is there already a better option?
Rick BroidaSenior Editor
Rick Broida is the author of numerous books and thousands of reviews, features and blog posts. He writes CNET's popular Cheapskate blog and co-hosts Protocol 1: A Travelers Podcast (about the TV show Travelers). He lives in Michigan, where he previously owned two escape rooms (chronicled in the ebook "I Was a Middle-Aged Zombie").
What's your most commonly used app? Kindle? Calendar? Camera? Sure, you can put its icon on your home screen, but you still have to swipe through the lock screen, navigate to the home screen, and tap the icon. Whew! Exhausting!
Wouldn't it be great if you could just push a physical button to immediately launch a favorite app or function? That's the idea behind the Cliq, a smartphone case with three built-in shortcut buttons.
Those buttons rely on Near Field Communication (NFC), meaning they operate wirelessly and without any kind of special power source. Rather, they draw the juice they need from your smartphone's NFC radio. And you program their functions via a simple app.
Sound familiar? This concept has already surfaced in the form of the Dimple, an NFC-button sticker that provides more or less the same functionality. Is the Cliq a better option? That depends.
Because it's a case, it offers protection. But it's available for only a select few phones, at least initially: the LG G2, Google Nexus 5, Motorola Moto X, and Samsung Note 3, S4, and S5. The Dimple won't protect your phone, but it should work with any non-metal case you're already using.
As for the buttons, the Cliq gives you three of them, all lined up near the left edge of the case ( if you're holding your phone screen-front). With the Dimple, you get to position the buttons wherever you like, at least in theory -- in my experience with a prototype, they didn't work everywhere.
Cliq's app promises just about any customization you could want, from launching an app to enabling a flashlight to sending a prefab text message. The developers are also promising compatibility with automation apps like AutomateIt and Tasker, meaning you could potentially trigger even more complex actions.
The Kickstarter campaign is looking to raise $40,000, with nearly $17,000 already funded and about three weeks to go. The $20 and $25 early-backer options are sold out, but you can still preorder a Cliq (in your choice of colors) for $30. Given that a four-button Dimple will run you $27, that's not a bad cost of entry.