A replaceable back certainly doesn't top the list of features for LG's latest flagship handset, the G3. The smartphone's Quad HD (2,560 x 1,440) screen is the most notable spec here, as are the 2.5GHz Snapdragon 801 processor and 3 gigs of RAM. With those top-of-the-line components, you can easily make it through a two-year contract with this device, making swappable back covers important for any enthusiast who hopes to make it past the "honeymoon period" with this device. Head to eBay to buy third-party back covers in a variety of colors, from red to gold, for around $20 and up.
While you can add on any old cover with LG's G3, Samsung's flagship smartphone is a bit trickier to please. The Galaxy S5's waterproof design presents some issues here -- many third-party replacement covers don't include the mandatory rubber gasket that's tasked with keeping out water. Even if you find a back that does have the necessary lining, the only way to guarantee your handset's safety is to purchase an accessory made by Samsung. Unfortunately, this limits your selection to more basic colors, like black, white and green, but you should be able to find a suitable replacement for as little as 10 bucks.
Samsung's larger market leader, the Galaxy Note 3, doesn't include the waterproofing of its newer sibling, so you're in the clear when it comes to replacing the back. With a new pen-equipped phablet expected at IFA in September, though, last year's model is just about ready for a refresh. Like Samsung's 2013-era device, previous Notes have come along with removable (and swappable) back covers, so we wouldn't be surprised to see that flexibility remain. If you have the current model, you're in luck -- the Note 3's been around for quite some time now, so there's a tremendous variety of covers to choose from, ranging from standard colors to custom prints, for less than $10 shipped.
One of our favorite budget smartphones has yet to make its formal debut in the US, but if you manage to get your hands on one, you'll want to pick up some alternate back covers, too. You can find the device itself, which ships from China or Taiwan, for a bit over its $200 list price on eBay. OEM replacement covers for this six-inch 720p smartphone are even trickier to come by, but if you manage to track one down online (or at a retailer in Asia), you can choose from black, blue, yellow, white and red.
Like the ASUS ZenFone 6, the OnePlus One is another excellent smartphone that can be had on the cheap. This "2014 flagship killer," as its manufacturer claims, packs some top-notch specs, like a Snapdragon 801 chipset and a 5.5-inch 1080p display. Demand still far exceeds supply, so unless you can track down an email invite, it'll probably be a few months before you can order one for yourself, but once you manage to get the go-ahead, the unlocked device can be yours for $299. You'll need to specify black or white at checkout, but replacement StyleSwap back covers are expected soon, crafted with materials ranging from fabric to bamboo.
While Motorola's more affordable alternative to the flagship Moto X doesn't ship with selectable factory-installed backs, you can swap in a replacement after the fact for a very reasonable price. The phone itself is affordable, at $179 without a contract, though it won't blow you away with performance. Still, it's quite customizable, with Shells available in eight different colors, including spearmint (green), raspberry (pink) and royal blue. They all ship from Motorola's website for just 15 bucks (plus postage) -- no eBay for you!
It may not be fancy, with a dual-core processor and a 4.3-inch sub-HD LCD, but at $129 sans contract, Motorola's Moto E costs less than pretty much every other smartphone on the market (except the Nokia we'll look at next). Still, for customers on a budget or in the company's target markets abroad, the device will need to last for at least a year or two. Fortunately, Motorola's Shells are available for the E, too, also priced at $15 a pop. Many of the same colors apply, including violet, cherry and lemon lime.
Like Motorola, Nokia's clearly targeting the budget market. Microsoft's own entry-level smartphone can be had for just over $100 on Amazon, where a variety of replacement back covers are sold, too. Blue, yellow and red are some of the more popular picks, and you can have all three for around $20 (they're sold individually, as well). In the Lumia 520's case, you're starting out with a phone that's already far behind the curve, but if you'll be stuck with it for a few more years, you might as well make it look the way you want.
The 4G variant of Nokia's Lumia 630, the 635 gets you a bit more power for a few more bucks. It's available on T-Mobile in the US for $168 or $140 on AT&T, with a quad-core processor and 512 MB of RAM on board. It's hardly the best budget Windows Phone available -- battery life is poor as is the display quality -- but it's certainly priced to sell. You do get Cortana, Microsoft's personal assistant, giving you Siri-like functionality in a much less expensive phone, but if you're set on a decent Windows Phone experience, this isn't the best pick. AT&T will be selling the 635 with both black and orange back covers in the box, so you're set for everything from black-tie parties to Halloween right off the bat.
If you like the ZenFone's large 6-inch screen and relatively low price tag, but you'd prefer to use Windows Phone as your daily driver, Nokia's Lumia 1320 might be a decent pick. It's quite large as well, with its own 6-inch display and beefy battery, but it isn't the best in its class. For that, you'll want to check out the Lumia 1520. Still, the cheaper 1320 will meet your needs as far swappable back covers are concerned -- you can choose from a few different colors on eBay, with aftermarket covers shipping for $10 and up in black, white, yellow and red.