Should You Put a Case On Your iPhone?

Dave Caolo, of 52 Tiger fame, has noted that Gizmodo wants us to stop ruining our phones with stupid cases. Writes Jamie Condliffe:

It’s time to lose your cover for good, and let your phone roam free, nude, as nature intended.

I have no love for Gizmodo, and while I disagree with the tone of Condliffe’s article — even though it bears the site’s “Rant” tag — I also don’t use a case on my phone. I frequently discuss the issue with fellow iPhone users, so I thought I’d lay out my thoughts here.

On my iPhone 3G and my current iPhone 4, I’ve used a handful of cases with varying degrees of intensity. I started with the tank-like Otterbox Defender on my 3G, which can supposedly withstand being run over by a truck. Eventually, I realized this case was overkill, and over time I settled at the opposite end of the spectrum with the minimalist Incase Snap. This case offered little more than scratch protection, but it felt good.

When my Incase Snap cracked, I replaced it with what turned out to be (according to reviews) a knockoff from Amazon, which was made of a different material and didn’t fit properly. Well, no iPhone of mine wears a knockoff case, so I decided to go try going without. I haven’t used a case for probably six months now, much to the shock and awe of my friends and family members.

In retrospect, I believe my progression from indestructible to minimalist cases helped grant me the confidence to let my iPhone go naked. When it came time to ditch my phony Incase Snap, I asked myself, “How much protection is this case really providing anyway?” In other words, going from a very thin case to no case at all wasn’t much of a leap. If you’re contemplating going sans-case, might I suggest moving to a thinner case first as a stepping stone.

But that brings us back to the original issue and Gizmodo’s article: why would you want to go without a case?

Let’s take a look at Gizmodo’s three points. The first is that “it’s unnatural”:

Putting a case on your phone is a little like painting your Ferrari with rust-proofing paint, then wrapping it in burlap. Sure, you’re less likely to scratch it. But you obscure every beautiful detail of the bodywork. “It’s sensible,” you say. Lies. It’s not more sensible. It defeats the point of designing the phone in the first place.

There’s a valid point here. The iPhone 4/4S is a beautiful device, no question about it. Much of this beauty is due to the glass screen and back, which consequently give it a fragile feel. I’m not going to go into the technical specifications of the type of glass Apple uses, but what it comes down to is showing off your beautiful device versus protecting your prized possession. If you drop things a lot, a case might in fact be the “sensible” option. That’s up to you, not Gizmodo.

Personally, “showing off” isn’t the reason I don’t use a case. While it does look better, it also feels better. Holding a bare iPhone after using a case for a long time is pretty amazing. If you haven’t taken your case off in a while, try it, and remember how the device is supposed to feel, if only for a moment. That being said, there are some wonderfully grippy cases out there that feel great in the hand. Still, I prefer the feel of a naked iPhone. Giggity.

Side Note: You might wonder why I use a Smart Cover on my iPad if I prefer having nothing on my iPhone. While I do prefer the feel of my iPad 2 without it (considerably thinner), the Smart Cover was designed by Apple specifically for that device. It doesn’t just add protection with minimal bulk. It also provides increased functionality as a stand and sleep/wake mechanism. If Apple came up with a Smart Cover equivalent for the iPhone, I’d probably jump on it.

Gizmodo’s second reason is that “it’s not worth it”. They say you’re going to upgrade to new phone in a couple of years, and any scratches only reduce the resale value by what a case would have cost anyway. Plus:

But remember that a few knocks along the way add character. Those little scratches will remind you of things that actually happen in your life. I have a ding in mine from when I walked into a wall drunk. That was a good night. I like that it reminds me of it.

But then, maybe things don’t actually happen in your life, given you spend so much time worrying about protecting your damn phone.

If you need to damage your phone to remember your drunken escapades, you might take a step back and reevaluate. Perhaps consider the Camera app. But anyway, ignore the quoted douchebaggery here for a moment, and let me say what could have cut this response down by about a thousand words:

Whether or not a case is “worth it” is a matter of personal preference. If it helps you sleep at night, by all means, get one. If you think it’s a waste of money, don’t buy one. It’s very simple. There’s no reason another person’s decision about their phone should cause you personal angst.

A $40 case is an expense, for sure, but if you’re accident-prone, it’s probably worth it for you. I will say, however, that I’ve treated my iPhone 4 better since removing the case. When it’s not covered in plastic and rubber, I remember that I’m holding a beautiful, $300 piece of technology. I’m more mindful when using it. I rarely even toss it on the couch or my bed.

My phone is usually in one of four places: in my front left pocket (alone… keys go in the front right pocket, wallet goes in the back right) with the screen facing my leg; in the center holster of my car; on the flat surface next to me; or in my hand. When my iPhone is in transit between these locations, I’m very aware of where it is. I always put my phone in my pocket before getting out of the car. I usually put it down on top of a book or legal pad if I’m at my desk, and I make sure the surface doesn’t have crumbs or other abrasive materials. These are habits I’ve built since going case-less. It’s not to say accidents don’t happen, but being consistently mindful has helped me reduce the risks and feel confident about having a naked iPhone.

On to Gizmodo’s third and final point:

A quick survey reveals that every phone in the Gizmodo office is nude. That’s right; we’re not just talk. Our phones run naked and free, as nature intended, and haven’t yet had occasion to regret it. Neither will you.

“Our final reason for being anti-case is that none of us use cases.”

All right.

A phone case is a matter of personal preference, and thus my point is two-fold.

First, the preference. If you’re going to be stressed out carrying $300 worth of unprotected technology around in your pocket, do get a case. The forty bucks is worth the peace of mind. On the other hand, I happen to think it’s worth learning how to live without a case. It’s nothing to be scared of. It just takes a bit of mindful practice. I’ve no interest in forcing anyone to adopt my point of view, although I’m happy to share it.

Which brings me to the personal: You worry about you and your phone. I’ll worry about me and mine.

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