modding the mobile

If you’ve seen young people customise their mobiles to add their own personal touch, you’re witnessing ‘mobification’ or ‘modding’ – and it is fast establishing itself as the latest craze amongst Britain’s youth.
It’s not exactly rocket science, and in some ways it’s no more than an extension of schoolkids doodling on their folders or proclaiming their enthusiasm for Bon Jovi on a pencil case.
With mobile handsets it may take the form of painting or drawing their own design on to their handset, attaching jewellery and charms to the phone, or simply downloading their favourite tunes, ringtones and wallpapers … and all that spells a commercial opportunity.
Modding is the latest mobile phone trend from the Far East to be adopted by British consumers following in the footsteps of cameraphones, MMS messaging and WAP downloads.
The logic is that a decreasing number of ‘hero’ phones -handsets like the Nokia N Series, Sony Ericsson Walkmans and Motorola RAZRs – have come to dominate the British market, and in particular are the must-have phones for the young. With so few different phones available to them for social reasons, it’s not surprising people want to express their personality by modding.
Physically altering hardware and tweaking interfaces is also the natural extension of the creative self-expression driving much of the blogosphere and social networking sites such as MySpace.

Modding in the wild
Orange says it has statistics that show young people are personalising their mobile phones at record levels. More than 2m mobile phone users aged between 16 and 18 have modified their handset in some way, a massive 86.4% of the age group.
In the last six months Orange has seen the number of consumers modifying handsets more than double. The network currently estimates the value of the market at more than £30m, predicting that it will grow by 100% in the next 12 months.
Pippa Dunn, Orange Director of Brand Marketing said: “Mobification has established itself in Asia-Pacific over the last two years and we have noticed that is now catching on in the UK as well. We estimate that handsets are now being modded at a rate of around 1,000 a week.
“Young people are keen to customise their phones as an expression or extension of their personality and mobification is an easy way to make your mobile the envy of your friends.”
Pria Bakhshi is 16 and from London. A keen modder, she said: “Modding is cool, everyone’s doing it now. All my friends have their own ringtones and most of them have added something onto the case as well. My phone has glitter all over it. And I’ve got a Swarovski charm on the hand strap. I love it!”
Her friend Helen Stride, also 16, said: “Most of my mates have got their own style, they wear different clothes and have different hairstyles so our phones are just another thing we can personalise. I like keeping up to date and buying new wallpapers and stickers. For us how your phone looks is as important as what it can do.”
 Key insights
• Of those that are modding, two thirds (65.7%) have their own personalised ringtone.
• The same number has added charms to their handset.
• A third (32.4%) have used stickers to mod their mobile.
• One in five (22.3%) have a personalised wallpaper or screensaver.
• Other favoured techniques include painting and etching graffiti on handsets as well as sticking fabric or glitter to the casing.
• The phenomenon is not gender-specific – equal numbers of young men and women indulge in some form of mobification. However, teenage girls prefer to add charms and stickers while boys are more likely to buy wallpapers. Ringtones are universally popular.
• Modding is most popular in the Midlands and the North West of England – over 90% of 16-18 year olds in these areas have indulged in some form of mobification. The fashion is least popular in The South West and North East where 20% of teenagers haven’t modded their phone.
• A growing number of mobile users are also designing their own bespoke mobile phone cases
• One in twenty ‘modders’ claim to change the appearance of their phone for evenings

Supporting data was collated by who surveyed users aged 16-18 years old throughout August 2006 
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