Personalization and modification are two trends sweeping many segments of consumer products. These trends have driven the explosive growth of the iPod economy, for example, which some have called a $700 million industry.
A new study from Orange in the UK puts the size of the handset modding market in the UK alone at $55 million. Some 87% of owners between 16 and 18 have modded their mobile, according to the survey. Cellular-News, which with Textually brought us this story, points to Asia as the source of the mobile modding trend. It was certainly one of the first regions where aftermarket products for modding were sold, such as phone jewelry (without which I'd never know my wife was sneaking up on me. Her SE w600i jingles as she walks!).
Despite the explosion of handsets available, many operators are pushing just a few models hard, such as the RAZR or SE Walkman, which funnels many young consumers into a limited range of handsets. This in turn drives modification as a means of differentiating their similar devices. It also shows the extent to which younger customers are not only using their devices to say something about their tastes to others, but also calls out the personal relationship that emerges between owner and device.
Even as modding grows for the device's exterior, it is also driving a trends of modding interfaces and applications. Handset makers are looking into the extent to which they can safely provide customers demanding extreme modification abilities a device that is highly flexible in design and function, with an open OS, without losing the design value they have invested in, or the economy of scale that comes with producing a million of one type of handset. While the device manufacturers' margins have held sway in this struggle up to now, the manufacturers' investments in the "new" value adds such as content, community and quality of experience shows they are looking for ways to allow maximum device modding and personalization without losing revenue and devaluing brand while doing it.