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RINGING THE CHANGES

 

INTRO

Fed up with your phone? Is the case is scratched or cracked? You don’t have to live with it; Rick Maybury looks at some ways of sprucing up your mobile

 

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It doesn’t take long for your shiny new mobile phone to become covered in scratches, dents and dinks, sooner or later you’re going to drop it! It’s not usually a problem, providing it still works, but a tatty phone isn’t very attractive. Moreover, cracks or breaks in the case may eventually lead to more serious problems. On the other hand you may have simply become bored with it, after all, one little black button box looks pretty much like the rest.

 

Apart from replacing your phone, there’s not much you can do about its looks, at least, there didn’t used to be. Now you can give your phone a different identity, from a simple cosmetic facelift with some brightly coloured stickers, to a completely new case, and all for a lot less than the cost of changing your phone.

 

However, before we go any further we’re duty bound to insert a disclaimer or two and alert you to the perils of  tinkering around with the guts of your phone. Case replacement on most handsets necessarily involves some dismantling, that usually requires specialist tools, which you’re unlikely to find in your home handyman kit. If you attempt to disassemble a phone without them, you will almost certainly do a lot of expensive damage. Secondly, any modification to the phone will invalidate the manufacturer’s guarantee. If you’re not willing to accept the risks involved, or unsure of your abilities, don’t do it! You could ask your friendly local phone mender to do it for you, though they’ll charge you, and you’ll still void the warranty.

 

But just how difficult is it? On some models it’s quite straightforward, involving removing a half dozen or so small screws, carefully separating the halves of the old case, and slotting on the new one. However, most manufacturers use tamper-resistant ‘Torx’ type screws. They look a bit like hex or Allen screws, but the ‘key’ hole is star-shaped, and no other type of screwdriver blade (Philips, Posidriv or cross-head) will fit. Torx keys and screwdriver heads are available, but the really small ones used on phones (T4 and T6) are difficult to obtain.

 

Prising plastic cases apart is something of an art. Inside there are usually rows of little plastic lugs, that have to be carefully released, it’s quite an art. If you tug or prise too hard they will break, possibly allowing the case shell to fly apart, spilling the contents, or stretching and snapping wires attached to components inside the case. Even if you do manage to remove the old case without incident, there’s the problem of static discharge. The delicate microcircuits inside a phone can be easily damaged by high voltage static electricity; it’s good practice to wear an earthing strap on your wrist, to neutralise any charges, before you go poking around. You have been warned...

 

At the moment cosmetic upgrades are available for a handful of the most popular phones. They include members of the Ericsson and Nokia families plus some Motorola Flips, Flares and TACs. Others may follow, though you can be fairly sure accessory companies will only bother with top-selling models. Nokia and Ericsson phones are both relatively easy to re-case, Motorola Flips can be real swines, removing the hinged cover can be a very tricky operation, and we’d advise against trying it.

 

BTG REPLACEMENT COVERS £35-£45

BTG have some of the more exotic replacement cases, including our favourite so far, the ‘Aloha Palmtree’ for the Ericsson 337. This is a transparent case, so you can see the innards; it’s a bit Swatch-like, rather trendy and very eye-catching. All of the kits we’ve seen were very complete, in addition to the replacement shells they include a new display window, rubber keypad and a full set of trims. They have a good selection of finishes, from sober blues to wacky wood and sparkling emerald. They’re made to a very high standard, comparable with the original item.

 

THE FACTS

Typical price      £35-£45

Available finishes           transparent, wood, blue & green coral, blue & green emerald        

To Fit                            Ericsson 237/337/338, Nokia 2110, Motorola Flip

Contact             BTG, telephone (01992) 825825

What Cellphone Verdict 87%

 

KONDOR FASCIAS, £40

Very smart looking case shells for Ericsson and Nokia phones, with wood coloured marble, as well as standard black! Some kits are rather basic, though the Ericsson model is fitted with earphone and microphone modules, which makes fitting a little easier. They’re not especially cheap, though the quality is very good and we couldn’t detect any significant difference between them, and the makers originals, in terms of fit and finish.

 

THE FACTS

Typical price £40

Available finishes           burr walnut, micro-carbon, blue marble, green marble

To Fit                            Ericsson 337/338/388, Nokia 233, 1610, 2110, 2140, Samsung SS710

Contact             Kondor, telephone 01425 276644

What Cellphone Verdict  83%     

 

ORA FACELIFT COLLECTION £13 for 3

If you don’t fancy the idea of a full case transplant, then how about these colourful stickers from Ora? They only take a couple of minutes to fit. The phone must be thoroughly cleaned first, otherwise they won’t stick. It can be a little fiddly, and some care is needed to line up all the holes. The adhesive takes around 24 hours to set, after that the stickers stay firmly in place. They can be easily removed, though they can’t be used again. At £13 for three they’re a little pricey, but they really can transform a dull, tired looking phone, giving it a new lease of life.

 

THE FACTS

Typical price      £13 for three

Available finishes           blue, shocking pink, magenta

To Fit                            Ericsson 237/238/337/338, Motorola Flare, Nokia 2110/2120/2140/2146

Contact             Ora Electronics, telephone (01296) 415445,

What Cellphone Verdict 85%

 

WESTAR DESIGNER FASCIAS, £28-£30

Another selection of well thought-out kits, with all the little bits and pieces, and replacement keypads on some models. Currently they have cases for Ericsson 337 phones, and a couple of wood and blue marble cases for the Nokia 2140 (with matching batteries). The Ericsson range is most impressive; there’s a selection of clear, coloured, black and chrome shells,  plus some with spring-loaded flip fronts. Quality of manufacture is fine, and the prices are very reasonable indeed.

 

THE FACTS

Typical price      £28-£30

Available finishes           wood, blue marble, graphite green, clear, micro-carbon (standard and Flip styles)

To Fit                            Ericsson 337, Nokia 2140

Contact                         Westar Connections, telephone 0181-903 3903

What Cellphone Verdict 88%

 

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Ó R. Maybury 1996 1410

 

 


 

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