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From carphones to smartphones, the mobile phone has gone stellar—both in style and tech—since the 1990s. But it’s not all about the actual phones: mobile phone covers have gone through their own geek-to-chic revolution. Protection and practicalities aside, what your phone wears has became a statement of your own creative individuality. Let’s take a turn down the phone customization catwalk!

Stylish from the start

Nokia have been style-conscious from the start, but it was in 1998 that the first customizable cases hit the shelves. In fact, the Nokia 5110 was the first mobile phone ever to boast user-changeable covers. These Xpress-On Shells were water-and-dust resistant clip-on fascias that came in seven different designs and colours. Make no mistake: this was a game-changer.


Game on!

Skip to 2003, and the Nokia 3100 introduced a new generation of Xpress-On gaming cover enhancements: shells that featured ‘electroluminesence’, or special light effects that sparkled through the faceplate in sync with ringtones, games and the phone’s alarms. Sci-Fi!


Fashion designed

 Nokia Design Studio launched the 7200 in 2004, with a limited run of, you guessed it, 7200 units. Featuring a white leather cover and wrist strap, a matching pouch, and embroidered designs, this was as much a fashion statement as it was a phone case—if you could get your mitts on one!



Keen to be green

For the eco-conscious shopper, 2007 brought the Nokia 3110 Evolve—a phone that came with bio-covers made from more than 50% renewable material. It wasn’t customizable, but it certainly made a design statement.



Hi-tech heaven

 With the release of the Nokia Lumia 820, interchangeable shells went hi-tech: not only are they colourful and hard-wearing, but they could also be used for wireless charging. Does it get much better than this?



3D printastic

Well, yes, actually! In 2013, customization has reached a whole new, awesome level. Nokia have teamed up with MakerBot, the 3D printing giants, to create special templates for clip-on shells for the Nokia Lumia 820 and the Nokia Lumia 520. Pick your basic design, alter it to suit your preferences, and then add your own text—and you’ll have a truly one-of-a-kind smartphone cover.

It’s been nearly two decades since Nokia started to craft mobile devices especially for you. Customization has changed beyond recognition, but one thing that stays the same is people’s desire to be different. So what’s can we expect in the next couple of decades? Let us know your predictions in the comments below.