Cell phones get a touch of glitz

In Japan, cell phone owners are ringing the changes and putting a smile on their dial by adorning their mobiles with ornamental stickers, charms and beads — and the craze just keeps getting bigger.

This Japanese fad is called dekoden — a combo of the words "decoration" and "denwa" (phone) —and its fans can be seen carrying glitzy phones personalized at home using accessories made just for the purpose, or created to an individual design by professionals at certain cell phone stores.

Earlier this month, consumer electronics chain Yamada Denki Co. opened its newly renovated Mobile Dream Theater in Ikebukuro, Tokyo.

On the fourth floor, decorative accessories including small bags of 20 glass beads and artificial jewels, such as rhinestones made of acrylic resin, are offered at 300 yen (about $3.42) each.

Stick-on beads featuring geometric patterns and other designs cost upward of 1,000 yen (about $11.41).

Tomoaki Nito, an executive and managing director of the chain, said, "Stick-on decorative beads in cute colors including pink, and loud glittering rhinestones are popular, particularly among women aged about 30."

Nito pointed out that because attaching decorations to a phone can void the warranty, it is important to make sure that decorations can be easily removed. So a thin protective sticker is affixed to every phone's surface before accessories are attached to the protective layer using an adhesive.

For those who are not good with glue and beads, six staffers are on hand at Yamada Denki to decorate phones to your chosen design.

At the store, prices start from about $34 for a phone professionally adorned with stickers, and from about $114 for beading. If the desired decoration is simple, your sparkling new phone can be collected an hour later.

Older dekoden fans turning up at the Yamada Denki store are asking for picture stickers depicting such things as rustic scenery to be attached to their cell phones.

Tetsuo Watanabe, who runs Glam Baby, a store specializing in custom-designed dekoden phones, said, "There's more to decorating phones than just making them glittery and flashy."

Watanabe said one of these techniques has been dubbed "sweets deco" and involves attaching mock confectionary created out of resin to phones, including cake and whipped cream designs. Initials and heart symbols are also popular.

Watanabe said dekoden can be used to cover the scratched parts of old cell phones, making cheap used cell phones more popular. He said his store had seen a rising number of people requesting makeovers of older phones.

Watanabe said, "Considering the economic slump, it seems people are getting a little more use out of key items they always carry around by decorating them."