Smartphone theft worldwide reached epidemic proportions in 2013, prompting manufacturers, like Samsung, to announce plans to create a device kill-switch. The kill-switch design will turn stolen phones into lifeless hunks of glass and plastic. But, let’s face it: Theft is pure profit for both carriers and manufacturers, since it translates into a greater volume of phone sales. Can we really trust a kill-switch or can other methods reduce theft?
A way of reducing the chances that your phone might get stolen is through uglification, or the art of making beautiful things ugly. Bloggers have been uglying up their cameras, bicycles and more for some time now – but a device where there’s been a strange lack of ugly is the smartphone. Perhaps because they’re seen as status symbols? Personally, I would prefer keeping my Nexus 4 from getting stolen and just dealing with the public scorn.
Three kinds of “uglification” exist: First, there’s turning your phone into something that no hardened thief would get caught dead stealing. Second, you can use a variety of techniques to make your phone appear ragged and impoverished. Third, you can disguise your phone’s appearance – such as placing it within a book, after all, what kind of criminal would steal a book?
Uglifying Your Phone Through Magical Unicorns
While I do love unicorns, the average hardened phone snatcher might not – although certainly some within their community might find snow-white ponies appealing, they are likely a minority. For this particular method, I purchased glitter-covered unicorn stickers on Amazon and applied them to the back of my Nexus 4, making sure to cover all marks indicating its brand. And it looks fabulous.
All I did was shove on the ugliest case I could possibly find and add a booklet of glitter-covered unicorn stickers. As you can see, the effect is quite magical. Some of the unicorn glitter even rubbed off onto my phone, making it sparkle. It has the added advantage of covering up any identifying markers.
This is the look I actually kept on my primary phone after several of my friends questioned my judgement. That means it’s working.
Uglifying Your Phone With Masking Tape
I first heard about the masking tape method on Lifehacker. A photographer in Brazil wrapped masking tape around his camera and then dirtied it with an unknown substance, presumably paint. Unfortunately, he did not detail the method used. In my best attempt to recreate the look and feel I took an old smartphone and got down to work.
I started off by wrapping masking tape around the phone.
Next, I used a paint brush to dab brown and yellow watercolor paint onto its surface. This didn’t have quite the effect I’d hoped for: The paint beaded up on the masking tape and clearly appeared artificial. No thief would have fallen for it.
I then used my finger to grind the watercolor into the masking tape. This had a much better effect, causing the sort of filthiness that you could only find in the worst gas station’s bathroom. I then went for the Triple Crown and used a sharpie to give it a more urban vibe.
Overall, this is the most effective method. Not only did it look like someone smeared it with feces, the phone wasn’t even recognizable as a phone. Of course, you will need to deal with becoming a social pariah, but I already had one foot in that door. No big whoop to put the other foot over.
Hiding Your Phone in a Hollowed Book
I didn’t actually try this method, but it works quite well when you’re away from the house. Simply take a book and hollow it out. Several methods exist, but my favorite seals the pages of the book together with glue and adds a felt interior lining to cushion your phone.
Here’s a manifest of the items you’ll need:
- Box cutter;
- Brush for applying glue;
- Straight edge;
- Optionally velvet.
Out of the three methods for disguising your phone, the tape method makes the phone appear the least attractive to thieves. On the other hand, you may not prefer making the phone look that ratty. If so, try using stickers to cover identifying markers on your phone. And for those of you who prefer hiding your phone in plain sight, try cracking open a book.
However, for those of you serious about protecting your phone and would like some tips, check out my review of the best cases for the Nexus 4. For discussion on the subject, check out our Answers section.
Anyone use similar methods to disguise their phone? Or would anyone like to heap recrimination upon me for daring to disfigure my phone? Feel free to let us know in the comments.