I make most of my own accessories, and have done so for ages. It’s cheaper, more flexible, faster (no need to wait for suitable accessories to come out), and you can make accessories that work with one another across devices. I’ve posted a lot of DIY projects on this site, and here are my favorites.
Device holder from a ground pad
This one is one that’s likely to scare away those that care more about looks than functionality, since it’s hard to make it look good (I personally don’t care and so I don’t try). It’s basically as simple as buying a ground pad for camping, cutting it up, and making a holder out of it using some pieces of cardboard or something similar as walls. It’s very easy to make, is done in no time at all, and the cost is more or less 0 for each new device after you buy the ground pad, which should be about $10 and last you for years worth of devices.
I still use such holders for my devices, and they work great. I can make them fit any case, easily cut out holes for cables and such, and mass produce enough of them to mount them wherever I want. Because they’re soft, it’s easier to insert a device into them, and I can easily find and use the phone holder next to my bed in complete darkness.
Ever since I started making this type of holder, I haven’t even looked at a proper dock. Paying up to $50-80 for a plastic thing that isn’t compatible with cases, is hard to insert and remove devices from, and is likely designed to sit on a tablet and nothing else is just not a bargain I’m willing to make when I can spend ten minutes making one of these.
iPad mini back case
I love the back case I have for my iPad mini, the one I got from eBay for $2. I always try to find a cheap nobrand case that doesn’t compromise on quality for my devices, because it gives me the freedom to buy a stack of them and experiment with modifying the cases themselves. For the back case, I’ve done two mods to it, a magnet mod that keeps the Smart Cover attached to the back of the iPad and an accessory attachment system that I use for a stylus holder.
Both mods work perfectly, and add a lot of functionality to the $2 case. The magnets simply fix a very annoying problem, and the stylus holder gives me a place to store my stylus, while also being removable so it doesn’t have to be on all the time.
My favorite thing about these two mods is that they’re both easy to do, cost next to nothing, and are such no-brainers for anyone who need their functionality. Expensive brand name back cases for the iPad mini doesn’t have these features, so it pleases me beyond measure to be able to put them into a $2 case, making what’s to me the perfect back case for a total cost of about $5.
Tripod screw modular system
I can’t even begin to count how many companies out there have come up with “brilliant” systems for making modular accessory systems, but they do all have one thing in common: they’re only compatible with the company’s own products. More often than not, that means expensive accessories, limited selection, and even more limited device compatibility.
I solved that issue for myself long ago, by adopting tripod screws and nuts to make modular accessories.
Whenever I make a device holder, get an extendable arm, do a game controller mod, or anything like that, I make sure to attach either a tripod nut or a tripod screw to them. Tripods use standard 1/4-20 screws and nuts to connect to cameras, and all cameras use this standard, making accessories interchangeable. By using the same system for mobile device accessories, it not only makes my accessories interchangeable, but it also means I can buy off-the-shelf camera accessories and use those (example 1, 2, 3, 4, 5).
Doing this consistently gives you a very powerful accessory system, where all you need to do when you get a new device is make a tripod adapter for it, and then you’re set. You can find tripod screws and nuts in any hardware store, but I tend to buy off eBay to get some that are designed for tripod use, with bigger nuts and screw “heads” to make it easier to mount them. Here’s one similar to what I bought last time.
I know that making your own accessories isn’t very common, but it should be. There’s a lot of advantages to doing it, and a lot of what you can do requires little skill, tools, materials, or time. I’m definitely going to continue doing it, and I encourage others to try it too.