By Tracey Dowdy
Smartphones have moved beyond being an accessory to become an extension of ourselves. It’s how we communicate with each other, how we do business, how we capture our memories and keep track of our schedule. Just as you make your home a reflection of your personality and interests, customizing your phone is another way to express yourself. But don’t think of customizing as limited to wallpapers and ringtones; there’s a whole world of customization waiting for you.
Choose Your Case
Considering the cost of the device in your hands, you’re likely going to want to protect your phone with a case. But before you splurge at the dollar store on a case that looks good but offers little protection, or you choose a case that offers industrial strength protection, take the time to consider your needs.
Durability: If you lead an active lifestyle or work in an area that puts your phone at higher risk of damage, you may want to choose a case that provides serious protection such as those made by companies like Otterbox or Griffin. If like most of us the risk isn’t that high and the biggest danger is dropping your phone, the options are endless. You can choose a high-end case from designers like Kate Spade or Marc Jacobs, buy a Star Wars themed case from a kiosk at the mall, or even design your own through sites like SkinIt or DecalGirl.
Design is important not only in the style but the functionality of the case. Before making your choice, consider things like whether you’ll be able to charge with the case on, how easy it will be to clean, how it feels in your hand, and whether it’s waterproof. The material the case is constructed of will give you an idea of its durability and the protection it will offer a dropped phone.
Remember, as in most areas of life, price doesn’t always reflect quality. Cases made of poor quality materials are at both ends of the pricing spectrum and there are a lot of reasonably priced options that fall somewhere in the middle. Look at it this way, a good quality case is definitely cheaper than a new phone.
Choose Your Accessories
Because our phones are so integrated into our lives and lifestyle, there’s a wealth of smartphone accessories available.
Headsets and headphones – Whether you’re listening to your 80’s playlist to keep you calm in traffic or using your Bluetooth to call your mother because it’s been way too long – now you know how I spend my drive time – you’ll want a good headset or headphones. Verizon Wireless offers a huge selection of in-ear, over-the-ear, wireless, and hands-free options.
Camera and Photography – Whether you’re an amateur or a pro, there are a multitude of camera accessories available. With choices like selfie sticks, GoPro cameras, an AudioVox ShutterBall that lets you take selfies from up to 60 ft. away, or a HTC RE Camera that shoots underwater and streams live to your YouTube account, you’ll be able to take your photography game to the next level.
Make Yours a Smart House – Take smartphone integration one step further by pairing your smartphone with products like the Nest Home thermostat that allows you to change the thermostat even when you’re away from home, a Tagg Pet Tracker that lets you know your pet’s location at any time and tracks them if they wander off, or Bose SoundLink Bluetooth speakers that bring theater sound into your home.
From your Home Screen to storage, you can rule your world from your phone. Although the iPhone user interface isn’t customizable to the extent an Android or Windows phone is, you can still make it your own.
Home Screen – Organize your apps by pinning the most used apps to your home screen and organize apps you don’t use as often into folders. Further customize your screen with wallpapers, fonts, and widgets (Android) to make your phone even more a reflection of your personality.
Storage – Smartphones can’t really deliver the storage that’s promised on the box. For example, a 16GB iPhone 5c only has about 12.6GB of storage available once you account for the space the OS takes up. Once you start adding apps, music, photos and video, storage fills up fast. So take stock of what you need and go from there. Move photos and videos off your phone and store them on an external hard drive or choose a cloud option like Amazon Cloud. Review your apps and decide which ones you’re using and which ones are just taking up space. Movies, music and podcasts take up a lot of storage. Be selective of what you’ll need to entertain yourself on-the-go and get rid of the rest.
Choose Your Apps
Since both iTunes and Google Play offer well over one million apps in their store, chances are no matter what you’re looking for, there’s an app for that.
Consider storage – Before downloading, consider how much storage space it will require. Games generally eat up a lot of storage, so consider how often you’ll play before committing.
Consider Price – There are thousands of free apps and just as many if not more available for purchase. Beware many apps – games in particular – offer in-app purchases which could end up costing a lot if not managed.
Consider Battery use – Some apps will drain your battery faster than others. For example, if you’re using Google maps for turn-by-turn directions, your battery will run down more quickly as your phone is constantly pulling in data to give you accurate instructions. Editing your photos won’t impact your battery life in the same way, as you are working with content already downloaded to your phone.
Whatever your device, whatever the operating system and whatever the service provider, customizing your phone is limited only by your own imagination.
Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.