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Accessory Review Submission [Full Details]
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What's my colour? - Mobile Accessories What's my colour?

27 August 2002
Written By Richard Browning



"A Nokia 8850, now with a blue backlit screen..."

Roses are red, 8250s are blue, most phones are green so what can you do? Green signifies envy, and I know plenty of mobile phone owners who are very envious of the stylish colours of the 8250. The fact of the matter is green backlights on mobile phones have been to death and people are looking for something fresh and new.

For those high rollers amongst us, a brand new 8850 with its slick white backlights is a reasonable price to pay for looking good. But for those who can’t afford the price tag, is there still hope for having a suave looking phone that appears to be straight out of the latest James Bond movie?

The good news is that there is hope for the common man to be as cool as James Bond. There is a service being offered at selected places that changes the green of our envy into the cool, calm blue that surrounds the happy. I am talking, of course, about changing the backlights of your mobile phone. The stock standard green light that resides in leather cases and pockets across the country is not the only way it has to be. 

Very green indeed!

Firstly, let’s look at why the light was green in the first place. Mobile phone manufacturers needed a way for their vital on-screen information to be seen in situations where external lighting was not readily available. The easiest option was to light the LCD screen on the mobile from behind with several small lights. Green was chosen because of its versatility; it was fairly bright and made text easy to read. Green LED’s (or Light Emitting Diodes for those who are interested) were cheap as compared to fluorescent white or blue.

This colour was then the standard for early mobile phones - and the boredom began.

Eventually, handset manufacturers caught onto the boredom that the green light inspired and attempted to steer away from it. The Motorola V2088 was a pioneer in the field with its three colour system: red, orange and green. Since then, we’ve seen many different models with original colours to break the green mould. The Nokia 8850 series, in particular, made a name for itself with the introduction of fluorescent white backlight.

These backlights (as with most mobile phone circuitry) are fairly hard to get and change. Therefore, there are only a few experienced technicians who are game enough to try this procedure. All that has to be done is for the original backlights to be taken out and replaced with new, different coloured ones. But this is a very precise procedure and, therefore, becomes fairly costly.

Getting it done

The specifics of price, colour and time are varied with the specific repairer or technician. On the cost side, the lowest quote I received was around $60. At this price, there was a large choice of colours available - but no guarantee on the results. The most common quote was around $85-$90, with just about any colour you could think of on offer. Service time for this price bracket was approximately 1-3 days, and some had short guarantees.

By far the best deal was a small shop which offered to do all the lights for $70. They had a reasonable range of colours (blue, white, red, orange and purple), would do it while I waited (about a half hour) and also offered a 3-month guarantee. This was the perfect middle ground as far as price was concerned, the shortest service time and the longest guarantee I found. But it was also about the tenth shop I had visited. The moral to this story is: there is value for money out there but it takes a lot of searching to find.

Pros and Cons

The benefits of this procedure include:

  • You can choose the colour of the backlight of your mobile;
  • There are a wide variety of colours - including green, blue, red, orange, pink, yellow, purple and white; and
  • Your phone will be personalised and not be the same as everyone else’s.
…and the drawbacks:
  • It voids the original manufacturer’s warranty on a phone;
  • It may take between a couple of hours to a couple of weeks to get done, depending on the technician doing the change for you;
  • You won’t know what its going to look like unless you’ve seen another phone with that colour light or you wait until the procedure is finished;
  • Its costly (between $60 to $100); and
  • Not many service technicians offer any sort of guarantee on this sort of customisation work.
Blue, purple or white? No green of course! :)


"... and all the way down to the keypad as well! Neat? :)"

In conclusion, the verdict is really up to you. There are advantages and drawbacks, and whether one side outweighs the other is the decision for you to make. There are quite a few dealers out there who are willing to do the modifications, and if you do your research you’re bound to find a deal that you like and that will leave your bank balance intact. If I had $70 spare lying around, my crusty, old 3310 would currently be looking quite slick, displayed on my belt rather than hiding in my pocket!

For the “creative” ones out there: another thought that I had one night (whilst making plans to take over the world) was to “mix ‘n’ match”.

Depending on the phone you have, there are several lights that light up the screen (for example on my 3310 there are four, located at the bottom of the screen shining upwards). The blending of these four lights together creates a uniform light across the screen. If the two middle lights were blue and the two outer lights become white, my theory (note that this has never been tested) is that the screen would be white on the left then gradually shift colour to blue in the middle and then shift back to white again on the right.

As I say, this is just a theory - I can only dream of having enough money to experiment with such procedures. If this is possible, is it then possible to have four different colour lights and therefore a constantly changing screen? Perhaps we will never know (but the possibilities are endless…)

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