Best looking smartphone accessories: making your gadgets beautiful
Fancy yourself as a bit of an amateur Jony Ive but don't quite have the resources to design and build a smartphone? Don't worry, we don't either. What we do however have, is an awesome sense of style, particularly when it comes to accessorizing your smartphone and turning it into something unique.
Forget owning a white iPhone, this is all about transforming your handset into something alternative. We get to see a lot of smartphone extras here so, as part of Style Week on at Pocket-lint, we're bringing you the very best and easiest ways of making your mobile look beautiful.
Smashing up a brand new phone, scratching it or generally accidentally defacing its beautiful exterior isn't much fun. That first mark you discover is like someone has dropped your baby. It's usually followed by the purchase of some sort of cheap phone cover from a mobile unlocking shop. Big mistake. Why detract from a device's beauty just to save it from the odd scrape? Instead, think of a mobile phone case as chance to make your gadget look good.
Those who are fans of the countryside/farmer/foxhunter look currently rocking Dalston may want to consider the Pipetto HunterWanderer Case. Its Barbour-like styling and tartan interior is about as East London as it gets. It also keeps your iPhone damn safe, thanks in part to its fold over front screen protector.
Keeping up the countryside feel is this herringbone iPhone case, with leather buckle and steel ring for your headphones to go through. Herringbone has been keeping vintage types trendy since before time began and this case is no exception. It also should keep your phone warm through these unpleasant winter months which, whilst being entirely unnecessary, is always nice to know.
Moving on from the vintage look, how about going a bit arty? One of our favourite selections of cases this year has to be the Threadless range released by Griffin. They very much adhere to the straightforward iPhone case design but it's the pictures on the back which make them cool with everything from psychedelic spacemen with ghetto blasters on their shoulders to the ports and patterns print of the back of an home cinema amp.
The closest thing we can compare them to is the Uniqlo tshirt shop in Harajuku, which changes its stock nearly every week. The Threadless cases are similar and there are so many awesome designs that you'll never bump into anyone else with the same case as you.
Belkin does a sort of Club Tropicana iPhone case that has some sort of bizarre power over us. We like its translucent fade and pastille colours. They're also not as fussy as most iPhone cases. Less is more don't forget.
Sadly, there are too many accessory manufacturers that think it's all about iPhone but there is hope for other smartphone users. Fortunately, the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S II is already a stylish enough setup by itself but add a bit of polished wood to anything and it immediately becomes that little bit more swanky. We can't quite give you genuine walnut for your device but what we can provide but there is this great looking, plastic hard case at MobileFun.
So we've had wood (ish), we've had plastic, we've even had herringbone. What's missing? Leather, of course, distressed chocolate flake leather in particular. This case allows you to slip your HTC Sensation, iPhone, Galaxy S II or anything phone related and slab shaped into relative safety.
Finally, if none of the big brands seem to tailor for your unit, then head over to Etsy and search under smartphone case and you'll find all sorts from the weird to the wonderful.
You might not be a fan of cases. This is understandable. They tend to add a little extra thickness and weight and that might not be what you had in mind when you ordered your super-slim smartphone. Decals (basically stickers) are another option, and can be an even better way of adding your own form of personalisation to your mobile.
Head over to wrappz.com where you can upload your own image and transform it into a special phone, tablet or other gadget cover. You pick an image, size it up and then send off for it to get printed. Being able to pick your own photo means you can be as stylish as you want. We opted for an Indiana Jones themed one, but then that is our own idea of style. You might want to go for something a bit more German say, Kraftwerk for example or even a bit of Bauhaus.
The other option is something like GelaSkins, who has a gallery of pre-made artwork which is awesome in its own right. Take this creation from Andy Gilmore for example, a bit nu rave, we know, but definitely turns your handset into something eye catching.
Headphones and Headsets
Style isn't just about the phone looking good itself. Its no use having an uber sexy looking iPhone with a set of big plastic blobs hanging of it and going into your ears, particularly if you're actual handset spends your entire journey to work hidden away in your jacket pocket. You need a set of headphones to compliment the device itself. They might just be the only part that strangers judge you on.
Without doubt one of the best sets of headphones we came across this year, and easily one of the sexiest, was Atomic Floyd's Super Darts. All metal, tough and sounding downright incredible, they were perfectly suited to the 3.5mm jack of our brand new white iPhone 4S.
Adidas Originals is a brand that has been turning out cool retro style products for a good few years now. What better then than a combination of its styling knowledge and Sennheiser's audio expertise, namely its HD 25 headphones which sound and look great anyway. Very urban but not quite as in your face as some of the releases from the Beats range. These are understated and cool in their own right but if you'd rather be a little more explicit, then there's always the likes of the Marshall FX cans.
Of course, if your earware is all about phone calls rather than music, then you're in the tough territory of Bluetooth headsets. Fortunately, Etymotics, who normally turn out high quality headphones, has now turned its hand to crafting headsets too. The EtyBLU2 somehow succeeds in avoiding that typical call centre look that most of them tend to give while also sounding great and being easy to use. Otherwise you could go with the good looking but quite common Aliph Jawbone or perhaps the Motorola H790 for something as discrete as possible.
Android does a nice job of looking swish straight out of the box thanks in part to its live wallpapers. These interactive backgrounds tick along on your phone's home screen and are highly customisable for those in the know.
Some of the best looking live wallpapers we have seen are totally free and sitting on the Android Market right now. Without doubt our favourite is the Light Grid wallpaper, which isn't a massive strain on the battery, looks great and can be customised to exactly how you want your handset to look. You can vary the size, colour and oscillations of the shifting tiles that populate you phone's home screen.
Another option is to go with something more minimal but no less striking in the shape of Colours which does pretty much what it says on the tin. The downloadable app gives a choice of hundreds of interestingly named solid pastille desktop backgrounds to choose from. It takes a while to find one to your liking but, once you have it, it will likely stay your wallpaper for a good while.
The iPhone is a bit more difficult on the wallpaper front, partly due to the fact that it has a stationary background. Crafty devs and picture masters however have managed a few fairly stylish attempts. The danger is with the iPhone that fan made backgrounds tend to be horrendously tacky. Keep it simple though, like the phone, and you can definitely have things looking good.
We're fans of this retro style Pacman background in particular, partly because it shows off the deep blacks on the iPhone 4. You also want to make sure whatever you use is Retina Display resolution, provided you have the current gen phone.
One that really shows off what the display can manage is this picture of the inside of the phone and the A4 chip. It looks superb if you leave it as your handset's lock screen. In the end, the included iPhone wallpapers do the job for us really. After all, Apple is pretty stylish in its own right and they all act to just compliment the phone's looks perfectly.
Screen Wipes and Protectors
Not necessarily the most exciting element of smartphone styling but crucial if you don't want the looks or screen of your beloved device to be damaged are wipes and protectors. Nothing's more uncool than a scratched up smartphone.
Easily the toughest is the Zagg invisidbleShield. It's totally clear and difficult to notice provided you have applied it properly to the phone. This, unfortunately, is not quite so easy and requires a steady hand combined with impeccable sticking skills. Get it wrong even the slightest bit and the whole effect is lost. Do it right and your phone is scratch-proof for life.
Something a bit less shiny and with the added bonus of anti-glare is the PhoneDevil Magic Screen protector. Who can argue with matte? It's a style classic and has been keeping people trendy for years. You can even get matte cars now, who would have thought.
Screen wipes are quite possibly the hardest thing imaginable to make stylish, so we have been a bit inventive here. We opted for these Leica branded microfibre cloths, partly because, well, Leica do know how to take care of glass and you only want the finest for your new touchscreen. Also because the branding and logo just look so good.
The other choice is something like Brasso's Gadgetcare. Not stylish in itself necessarily, but its cleverly formulated screen-cleaning liquid shines up gadgets so that they look like they just came out of the box. It also adds silicon and anti-static qualities back to the handset, should you have regularly smeared it with greasy fingers.
You can read more from Style Week on our Style Week homepage.
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