Originally created 08/13/02

Various accessories add color, lights

Danielle Pitts knew she had something in mind when she went to pick out the face plate for her cell phone.

Her mother, Melanie, wasn't so sure.

"I like the function of the phones," Mrs. Pitts said. "But I had no idea about all this stuff."

That "stuff" includes hundreds of colorful face plates that give users an avenue for self-expression. Miss Pitts, 21, ended up with a purple cover with white streaks through the midd le.

Customizing isn't just for cars anymore. Basic black cell phones have been transformed by colorful covers, glowing key pads and antennas that light up.

Even the batteries flash now.

At Wireless Dimensions in Augusta Mall, a store that specializes in fashion face plates and other cell-phone necessities, the inventory ranges from the run-of-the-mill car chargers to display-panel holograms.

Face plates, with designs such as colorful Hawaiian floral prints and favorite college football teams, fill the display area.

According to owner Wayne Wells, the demand for flashy phones has risen in the past few years.

"People want to be unique," he said. "It's just like a car or truck. You could really compare these to car accessories."

Although Mr. Wells sells every thing from basic black leather covers to hands-free devices, it's the face plates that fly off the shelves faster than any other item.

"There's a high, high demand for these things," he said. "Everybody wants one. It's a million-dollar market."

Since many people have replaced their home phone with a cell phone, more and more people are customizing their phones, he said. And it's not just limited to the younger crowd.

"Everyone is buying these things," he said. "Guys come in and want them to match their shoes. Women want them to match their shirts and their purses."

And a new look is as easy as popping off the face plate and adding a new one. Some of the more flashy fare, such as the rainbow light-up antennas, have to be installed.

Because they're affordable, between $9.95 for simple designs and $24.95 for copyrighted insignias, people are able to keep several on hand to switch on a whim.

But Mrs. Pitts had another reason for getting her daughter's phone customized.

"It's so it doesn't disappear when she goes off to (The University of) Georgia," she said. "So she'd notice if someone took it."

Reach Jennifer Hilliard at (706) 823-3223 or jennifer.hilliard@augustachronicle.com.


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