I still remember my first cell phone. Purchased in June 2009, it was a powerful technology, a slick design and an awesome touchscreen. But it was also a fragile device that I desperately didn’t want to break. So, like millions of others, I bought a protective case for it.
I proudly showed off “the beast” to my friends, who were impressed with the device, but less enthused about its rubber casing. One of them even went as far as pulling off the ugly white rubber shell while emphatically stressing, “You can’t use this, it ruins the design!” He then chucked the thick rubber case into the garbage and added, “People were paid thousands of dollars to design every detail of your phone!”
He was right.
Smartphones are much more than black rectangles. Every millimetre, every curve, every line has been carefully studied and fine-tuned to make the devices slimmer, more comfortable and more attractive. And now that most devices offer similar performance capabilities, the look has become a key selling feature. You see it in the way new phones are marketed: They go to great lengths to explain the creative process that led to the final product. New colours and materials are introduced with much fanfare.
And yet, as pretty as these devices are, they remain very fragile. This is great news for phone case manufacturers. Consumers don’t balk at paying $30 for a protective case, since it seems like a small price to pay to protect a smartphone worth $500 or more.
Cases have also come a long way in the past few years. Those offending soft blobs have evolved into all kinds of cool cases, like the ones that can double as wallets by storing credit cards and banknotes. Some cases, like the Otterbox Defender Series, offer protection that’s practically military grade. They can withstand falls, liquids, pressure and more. On the other side of the spectrum, there are discreet transparent shells that won’t “ruin the design.” My purist friend is a fan of these.
Meanwhile, when Google released their Pixel phones they also launched the Live Case concept, which allows you to customize your case with your favourite photo—but that’s not all! In fact, because the same manufacturer designed both the case and the phone, it’s almost like the phone had been developed and designed for the case. And these cases are very easy to customize.
How does it work? Google asks you to specify which device you have and then select an image. It can be a photo from your personal collection, an illustration, a map of a place you love or even a Google Earth snapshot. Whichever you choose, you can adjust the layout to suit your preferences (e.g., zoom, rotate, style, colour, etc.). Your phone case will match your phone’s wallpaper.
For a long time, I was a cellular nudist, but since my “phone-meets-asphalt” incident, I now see the virtues of using protection. Many phones have glass backs, which are attractive and handy for wireless charging, but they are also pretty slippery. I’m starting to think that cases are essential.
Are you a cellular nudist? Or do you have a favourite case that you can’t live without? How many phones have you dropped?