Why We Love Cases, Stands, and Accessories So Much

Express yourself

Key Takeaways

  • Accessories let us personalize our gadgets.
  • Simple accessories are often best. 
  • Most of our phones look exactly the same while naked.
The BackPack for iMac from Twelve South.

Twelve South

Twelve South's BackPack is nothing more than a shelf that attaches to your iMac's foot, and yet it is so popular that there's now a new version for the latest 24-inch iMac. 

It wouldn't be a stretch to say that we spend a significant percentage of our gadgets' price again on cases, cables, adapters, stands, and other accessories. From iMac shelves through wearable Apple Watch cases to golf-club cozies, we're obsessed with buying gifts for our devices. Why do we like them so much?

"You choose your own wallpaper when you get a new iPhone, right?" Andrew Green, co-founder of Twelve South, told Lifewire via direct message. "With every new gadget, there's the opportunity to customize it—whether to show your personality or tailor it to your specific needs or workspace. The accessories you choose help you achieve this."

Regular Expression

Accessories don't have to be fancy or technical to be popular. Simpler might even be better. Accessory buying is a little like nesting, decorating your home, or buying clothes. It's as much about establishing your identity as it is about functionality or protection.

We think that we're buying a phone case to please ourselves, and we are. But we are also choosing what image we present to the world. 

"With every new gadget, there's the opportunity to customize it—whether to show your personality or tailor it to your specific needs or workspace."

Even those folks who claim they don't care about design or fashion are the same as anyone. I once asked a macho type on a guitar forum, who claimed they didn't care what a guitar looked like as long as it played well, whether they would buy a Hello Kitty guitar. The answer was inconclusive.

"People tend to personalize their gadgets for two reasons—either they love expressing their individuality or so that their gadgets don't get mixed up with those around them," technology writer Kristen Bolig told Lifewire via email. "For those who love expressing their individuality, dressing up their gadget allows them to turn something practical, like a phone or a watch, into an accessory." 

It's not all about personality. Sometimes it really is about protection. Or at least, the need to buy protection for a gadget can offer its own window into our psyche. 

It's one thing to buy a $50 polycarbonate cover to protect your brand-new $800 drum machine from drops and spills, and quite another to buy a protective silicone case for your already almost-indestructible AirPods case. It's the gadget equivalent of keeping the plastic cover on the sofa until the day you sell it. 

BackPacking

Which brings us to the BackPack, possibly the simplest accessory ever. It clips onto the hole in the iMac's stand and adds a little shelf around the back. You can put anything you like on there, up to a limit of three pounds. 

The most obvious option is an external SSD drive, but these are so thin and light now you may as well just Velcro it to the back of the Mac or the inside of its stand. For hard drives or anything that gets hot, cooling holes will help out. Or you can use those holes along with the included twist ties to secure your load. 

The BackPack on the back of an iMac computer.

Twelve South

Maybe you want to put a potted plant back there? Or a box of paper clips. Or a USB audio interface that you don't need to see all the time. 

"BackPack is one of those products that probably makes people think, 'why didn't I think of that?'" says Twelve South's Green. "It's a simple product but one that was thoughtfully designed to create even more options for your setup—a place to store backup drives and hubs, a place to hide unruly cables, or even a place to display artwork, desk plants, or figurines."

It's common to think of gadgets as necessarily electronic, but some of the most useful gadgets we use are simple tools. Perhaps it's something like the BackPack or the card-holder that sticks to the back of your phone, so you can carry your ID and vaccine status card to enter shops during lockdown.

But high tech is obviously just as popular. You can completely transform an iPad by adding the Magic Keyboard with trackpad, some AirPods, and an Apple Pencil.

The point is, these accessories allow us not just to stamp our personality on our gear, but they also allow us to personalize it to make it more useful. In some ways, then, the accessories are more important than the main event.

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