Cell phone ar­mor bedaz­zles China’s style-con­scious women

China Daily (Canada) - - BUSINESS - By SATARUPABHATTACHARJYA satarupa@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Since I ar­rived in Bei­jing last sum­mer, I have taken to the un­der­ground train sys­tem like a duck to wa­ter. I have used the sub­way to travel to work, visit tourist sites, run petty fam­ily er­rands, meet friends and even while away time.

The mass trans­port net­work is also where I have ob­served with great fas­ci­na­tion the vast ma­jor­ity of Chi­nese women com­muters us­ing cell phone safety cases that range from de­pic­tions of ware­house Com­mu­nist art to the Ja­panese cartoon cat Hello Kitty.

In the del­i­cate era of smart­phones, own­ers need to take greater care of their de­vices.

But oh! I sorely miss the by­gone “dumb” phones for their tough­ness.

As part of my self-com­mis­sioned study, I looked up e-com­merce web­sites to find that whether on Ama­zon or China’s Alibaba, cell phone ac­ces­sories — es­pe­cially cov­ers — were priced any­where up­wards of $1. Mak­ers of phone cases have en­tire cat­e­gories to sell pro­vided you have the money.

Cov­ers are fu­tur­is­tic, elec­tro­plated, wa­ter­proof, leather, metal­lic, an­i­mal prints, hard and soft — you name it.

Line 1 on Bei­jing sub­way is the route on which I dis­cov­ered a con­nec­tion be­tween stops and cell phone cases.

Women who board the train from the east­ern part of the city are more likely to be found car­ry­ing hard and metal­lic cov­ers while those who live and work closer to the cen­tral busi­ness districts seem to flaunt gemmed cases.

Most of the af­flu­ent young women com­muters who alight from trains at Gua­mao sta­tion, for in­stance, are more prone to co­or­di­nate phone fash­ion with their clothes, cos­metic makeup and shoes as com­pared to el­derly re­tirees or mid­dle aged work­ing class women who change over to the Batong Line at Si­hui sta­tion.

My Chi­nese friend, Liu Xiao, a house­wife in her early 40s, and a fel­low sub­way rider, tells me that ar­mor-clad phones aren’t flaky fash­ion state­ments. “It’s cre­ative ex­pres­sion,” she says.

The most pop­u­lar cell phone cover that I have no­ticed so far is the one lined with stones that shine like di­a­monds.

In my ex­pe­ri­ence, how­ever, I have found them to be of­ten chunky and ca­pa­ble of threat­en­ing the phys­i­cal safety of the owner and people around her.

Imag­ine how you will feel when the pointed beak of a blue crys­tal pea­cock brushes past your skin as you try to squeeze into a packed rush-hour coach.

Crys­tals bring me to the sub­ject of face masks. Thanks to the smog in China, man­u­fac­tur­ers of face masks have al­ready turned it into a mul­ti­mil­lion dol­lar in­dus­try.

I won­der if com­pa­nies such as Swarovski ever think of part­ner­ing with lo­cal businesses to pro­duce di­a­mond-stud­ded face masks.

The bizarre thought aside, I un­der­stand that women are fond of gem stones and that John Keats prob­a­bly would have writ­ten an ode to the cell phone case had he been alive to wit­ness China’s sub­way glit­ter. How­ever, I find it hard to view phone ac­ces­sory as a thing of beauty.

Last au­tumn, at an air­port in the south­ern city of Guangzhou, a phone hub, I saw a woman’s acrylic nail plucked out of her fin­ger as she strug­gled with her lug­gage. The cul­prit wasn’t the suit­case, but a sparkling rab­bit on her cell phone case, in her hand.

My for­eign friends call me a cynic and ac­cuse me of pick­ing holes in a dig­i­tal trend on which cell phone com­pa­nies are spend­ing bil­lions of yuan.

China is leading global mo­bile sub­scrip­tions with about 1.24 bil­lion users, ac­cord­ing to the Xin­hua News Agency. In­ter­na­tional Telecommunication Union, a Geneva-based United Na­tions agency, es­ti­mates nearly 7 bil­lion cus­tomers world­wide by the end of 2014.

Still, blind con­sumerism hurt. I mean, lit­er­ally.

may

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