The case against using a smartphone case

Smartphone Cases

People often ask for my advice on cases and protectors for Android phones. My answer is always the same: I don't use 'em. Never have, never will.

Since the question comes up so often, I thought I'd elaborate a bit as to why.

These days more than ever, manufacturers put enormous amounts of thought and effort into designing mobile products. They labor over every last detail of a device, from its look to the even more significant aspect of its feel -- the shape, the curves, the materials, the way it all comes together to feel in your hand.

As someone who reviews Android phones, I'm invariably tuned into these qualities; part of my job, after all, is noticing that sort of stuff and then telling you how it affects the device-using experience. When a phone is designed well, it makes all the difference in the world. Slapping a bulky case on top of it is removing yourself from a large part of what (ideally) makes the device pleasant to use -- what you're paying to experience.

Why would I carefully select a personal computing product and then discard a core part of what makes it shine?

Couch Plastic

Sure, there's a chance something might happen to the phone -- but hey, c'est la vie. There's a chance something's going to get spilled on my couch every day, too, but I don't keep a plastic covering on it at all times; I sit on its cushy fabric and enjoy it. I wouldn't keep my fancy sports car under a thick layer of bubble wrap, either; I'd drive it around like the beautiful beast it was built to be (if I had a fancy sports car, that is).

It boils down to this: Yes, I could probably increase my odds of keeping a phone in pristine condition if I were to keep it carefully covered in layers of material and coddled around the clock. But what's the point of having a phone in pristine condition if I never actually use and enjoy that form?

Retailers who stand to cash in on pricey pure-profit accessories won't tell you this, but when you pull a phone out of its case and peel that protector off of its face, it's like using a completely different device. Go ahead and try it. Get naked for a minute. (Your phone, pervert. Not you.) That's the device the manufacturer designed. That's the device that won reviewers over. And that's the device I'd want to use every day.

We all have different needs and priorities, and this isn't meant to be a sweeping universal argument against cases and phone protectors. If you prefer to use 'em, more power to ya. There are certainly situations for which they make sense and the tradeoffs might be worthwhile.

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For me, though, they're unnecessary additions that take away from the phone-using experience. And this is one instance where I'm more than happy to live on the wild side and go protection-free for full pleasure.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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