When it comes to our devices, we all look for two things: processing power and an attractive design. Why is that? It’s because our devices aren’t just for practical use, though good luck living without one these days. They are also a status symbol and another way to say something about ourselves. No one wants to be seen with a big, hulking piece of hardware that is the opposite of discreet. Think back to the comically large cell phones of twenty years ago. But there’s been a trade-off between durability and aesthetically pleasing designs.

After all, what’s the thought process for companies like Apple and Samsung? The answer is “thinner and sleeker”. No one wants a smartphone that doesn’t fit in his or her pocket. And no one wants an iPad or Galaxy that isn’t lightweight and easily transportable. And now we’re left with attractive devices that have amazing capabilities, but are susceptible to the dreaded shattered screen look. Everyone has friends who are walking around with a device that has a busted screen. Luckily, the market has spoken and a huge industry has developed around the single idea of protecting your iPad or iPhone.

If you’re looking for hard shell cases for the iPad 2, you’ll find hundreds of them. If you want just a clear screen cover for your iPhone, the options are limitless. Protecting your device is big business. But beyond that, an iPhone or iPad case has become yet another accessory that allows us to display our personalities. The devices themselves are designed to be as minimalist as possible to appeal to the large number of people. It’s in the accessories, including the protective cases and covers that customization comes in. That’s where your iPad becomes just like your watch or a handbag. You can tell a lot about a person by just seeing what kind of accessories they have for their smartphone or tablet.

Think about all the different styles that are available for iPad cases. There are minimalist screen covers to protect from scratches and dirt. There are multicolored cases, like the ever popular bright pink ones that you see on every subway. There are cases and accessories to suit every aesthetic and practical preference. Our devices have become extensions of ourselves, and thus the way we protect our investments has changed. It’s not just about saving yourself the hundred dollars in repairs that you’d need to pay if you dropped your iPhone; it’s also about claiming your individuality.

Jess Holmes is part of a team of writers and specializes in writing advice oriented pieces.