For ease of use, most cellphone cases typically have a single, integrated design. To change the look, you have to change the entire case. Avivo thinks owners should be able to swap a few parts instead.
Avivo's line of cases offers customization with a frame, a rail and a jacket that fit together in a modular design. This concept, which Avivo calls the Rail System, allows owners to replace the rail and jacket with other pieces in the line.
The elegant Avivo cases have a look of luxury, mixing materials like aluminum and suede. The buttons on the rail and the emblem on the jacket incorporate copper, which adds to the cases' distinct appearance. Avivo's three models for the iPhone 5 – the Rail Carbonate for $50, the Titan for $60 and the Rail Aluminum for $80 – are available from Amazon.com and on the company's Web site. To replace the rail and jacket with pieces from other cases in the line, you must buy the complete case; pieces are not sold individually.
But as beautiful as they are, the cases are unnecessarily complicated. For starters, you only need two of the three pieces to complete a look, leaving the third piece to find a home in the back of a drawer somewhere. And although the cases do provide a slim profile, the rail added so much bulk on the sides that I could not use the mute switch.
The most problematic, however, was the Rail System. I was given only a Rail Carbonate case to test, so I don't know how compatible it is with the other models. But I struggled to get the separate pieces of this case to align properly on my phone. When I finally succeeded, the pieces locked in place, and I could not remove my cellphone. I had to resort to using a steak knife to saw the case off.
I like changing cases as much as anyone else, but there is something to be said for simplicity. A more integrated design on the Avivo cases would be so much easier than fiddling with three separate pieces.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.