Smartphone fallout. ISTOCK
Do You Protect Your iPhone? It’s a Case Study That Divides Americans.
| le 25 December 2019
Alex Dunn and John Dagdelen have a smashing bet going: Who will break their phone first?
“I have the beefiest case money can buy,” says Mr. Dunn, 23 years old. “He walks around with a phone not in a case, which is kind of bonkers. I said, ‘Dude, you’re going to break your phone.”
Mr. Dagdelen says that will never happen. Like Nik Wallenda tight-rope-walking across Niagara Falls, he knows the risk, and he is good with it. Through many years and many models—now an iPhone XS—Mr. Dagdelen hasn’t suffered a single cracked screen.
Cases, he says, aren’t all they are cracked up to be. “My main argument is that by not having a case I’m more careful,” says Mr. Dagdelen, 27, a materials engineering graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley.
As smartphones balloon in price, some pushing past $1,000, there is a debate between case haves and case have-nots. One side says it makes absolutely no sense to ferry such expensive gadgets unprotected—especially one vital to modern living.
Phone-case holdouts say their nervous pals are delusional, clinging to their bulky silicon prophylactics like a security blanket. Cases cause carelessness, they say, leading to phones dropped, slammed and stepped-on.
Having no protective case “makes me pay attention,” says Drew Davidson, director of Carnegie Mellon University’s Entertainment Technology Center. “I have friends that break every phone even though they have cases.”
Dr. Davidson has never dropped his phone. Not yet, the case crowd retorts.
Mr. Dunn, the case-covered yin to Mr. Dagdelen’s case-less yang, says the whole I-pay-more-attention argument is fractured.
Mr. Dunn, who prefers keeping his phone close to mint condition, says “it just takes one mistake and then it’s over.”
Shiri Amram, a marketing manager in San Francisco, went case-less for a year and a half. She convinced her girlfriend that it was perfectly safe.
Then Ms. Amram dropped her phone on a walk. The screen survived, but the bottom corner got dinged. She has since slapped a case on it. “I definitely don’t like it.” she says.
Ms. Amram’s girlfriend now keeps a foot in both camps: Her personal phone is cased, her work phone isn’t.
Some smartphone users concede they are more careless with work-issue phones. If it breaks, the boss picks up the tab.
Allstate Insurance Co.’s SquareTrade Inc., which insures phones, says it doesn’t have data to compare the number of damage claims from personal versus work-issued devices.
In general, phones are roughly four times more likely to be damaged than lost or stolen the company says. And more people would rather be safe than sorry. Roughly 80% of smartphone users have cases, says Jason Siciliano, SquareTrade’s global creative director and intermittent case user.
Apple Inc. says the iPhone 11 line has “the toughest glass ever shipped in the smartphone industry on front and back.” Its devices go “through rigorous real-world testing and are designed to be durable, but not indestructible,” the company says.
But the case-less crowd may have a point. Of the broken-phone claims—mostly cracked screens, cracked backs—about 80% were encased, Mr. Siciliano says.
Like many people, Jackie Kalister, 27, didn’t bother trying to fix her last phone after she broke it. She bought a new one and says she thought about getting a case. But, nah.
“When people see your phone, they say, ‘You’re so brave!’ That’s what’s going on right now,” she says.
Little to no research has been conducted to pinpoint what personality traits define the case vs. case-less phone user, according to psychologists. Some hypothesize it could be related to thrill-seeking behavior, like skydiving. Others speculate something about perfectionist tendencies.
“We tend to over-psychologize things. When it comes down to it, it’s going to be an issue of practicality…and personal style,” said Jeff Temple, a professor and psychologist at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas.
Some case haters say they don’t like how cases hide the sleek lines of smartphones. Encased phones don’t easily slip into jean or pants pockets, they say.
“The useful ones look like your phone is in Tupperware, and the less clunky ones don’t protect your phone,” says Will Nevius, head of communications at venture-capital firm Canaan in Menlo Park, Calif. “They don’t fit in my jeans, which probably says more about my jeans than cases.”
Sometimes aesthetics and protection find a middle ground.
Ashish Jha, a Harvard University public health professor, says he sometimes takes months to settle on a new case for a new phone. He has kept his new iPhone Pro Max uncovered while he hunts for one.
“iPhones are gorgeous, and to ruin it with a case—you have to get the right case—so I take my time,” he says.
He compromised on one that afforded protection, wasn’t too bulky and was clear, allowing the iPhone’s midnight green color to show. Plus, it was only $10.
“I found that it preserved the beauty of the phone,” he says. “It’s probably not as protective as one of those big, bulky cases, and I will deal with that trade-off.”