You buy them to protect your gadgets. You buy them to make toting them easier. But when it comes to cases for cellphones and other tech devices, you also can buy them for style.
From cutesy-cute to classic, the options are endless.
You have your designer names, such as Kate Spade, Juicy Couture, Vera Bradley, Michael Kors and -- why not? -- Hello Kitty.
You have your vast array of materials, from fabric and silicone to plastic and wood.
And you have a head-spinning selection of designs, including bright colors and jazzy patterns -- along with understated ones. Let's not forget the Etch-A-Sketch iPhone and iPad cases (thinkgeek.com, $24.99 and $39.99) or the cellphone case with built-in bottle opener (iBottle Opener, $20, at uncommongoods.com).
Local interior designer Sandy Nelson carries her Droid Incredible in a bright purple acrylic protective case.
"I love picking a bright color because I can find it in the black hole of my handbag.
It doesn't get lost," she said with a laugh.
Innovations continue. Recent introductions include Speck Products' new ToughShell case for iPhone 4 -- designed for rugged environments.
LifeProof shows off its "water, shock, snow and dirt proof" case on videos on its online store offering options for the iPhone 4 (lifeproof.com).
And Uncommon (getuncommon.com) last month announced that its customizeable cases for the iPhone device are now available at KODAK Gallery (kodakgallery.com). Gallery members can personalize their cases using their favorite photos.
You need a case that is compatible with the device, of course, but from there you can find one that reflects your personality -- like any fashion accessory.
For women in their late 20s and 30s, "what I see the most are the cases with jewels and a lot of animal prints and woven effects," said Julie DeLoreto, manager of Leelee, 5444 Main St., Williamsville.
"Right now I have the BlackBerry with no case, but if I chose one it would be very neutral. I don't want my cellphone to conflict with my outfit and other accessories. That's just me; I like things to match," she said.
Whatever you choose, the cases for the devices you tote can be as stylish as your handbag -- and even coordinate with it.
And they aren't just for cellphones. There are cases for e-readers, tablets and laptops.
The Vera Bradley line offers its popular "All in One Wristlet" in a bunch of patterns. It holds a cellphone or music player in the back pocket and an ID in the front window. Inside are three credit card slots, a pocket and zippered compartment. Other designs include e-reader sleeves, laptop cases and tech cases.
Fans of the brand take different approaches to building their collection, which may include these cases as well as handbags, totes and luggage.
"For some people, everything is matchy-matchy -- but a lot of people like to mix it up," said Marsha Dautch, of Reeds/Jenss.
That way, when they are digging through their bags, the smaller cases they are looking for pop out at them.
Others go for total function. Jamie Shaner protects her Droid X in two layers -- a protective skin and then a black leather case that clips to her waistband.
"It's my business phone so it keeps me connected. I need it with me at all times, even in the garden," said Shaner, co-owner of a local organizing/home staging business called Home Solutions of WNY.
If it's handsome you're after, other options include the iPhone 4 cases from EXOvault (a brass case with rosewood back costs $165, exovault.com). Or check out the folding, wallet-like soft leather Phone Folio at Brookstone ($39.99).