Uncase that iPhone!

Nick Statt argues that the iPhone X is just too nice to ruin with a plastic case.

Nick Statt argues that the iPhone X is just too nice to ruin with a plastic case.

[T]hese devices, particular Apple-made smartphones, are best experienced in their out-of-the-box form. Our culture of screen crack stigma and obsessive warranty paranoia, as well as the sheer ubiquity and the marketing prowess of the mobile accessories industry has made it very easy to forget that it was someone’s job to test the aesthetics of the Phone X. So many days, weeks, and months went into these Jobs-ian pursuits of perfection, and so many times they are wasted on an increasingly shrinking portion of people who feel comfortable not encasing their phones in high impact polycarbonate.

We use our phones all day every day, for hours and hours and in a variety of precarious activities and environments, from bike rides to dance floors to subway tracks. So it’s become easy to think of these devices as simultaneously delicate and disposable, an object we feel we should have the liberty to be careless about and yet one we remain terrified of disabling in any way whatsoever. But it is liberating to treat your smartphone with a level of care proportional to its role in your life, and to be able to enjoy the device as it was designed and not according to the whims of OtterBox, Spigen, JETech, and into the infinite void of Amazon-surfaced brand names.

The reason most of us—including, until recently, Statt—encase our smart phones is because they’re very easy to break and very expensive and inconvenient to get fixed when they do. But Statt contends that, since he can get a screen repaired for $29 and anything else fixed for $99 with AppleCare, it’s a risk worth taking to maximize his aesthetic enjoyment of an object that’s constantly in his hand.

FILED UNDER: Science & Technology, , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. I went for years without breaking an iPhone (I started with the 3GS). However, a couple of years ago I went with a case that was basically a skin. It looked nice, but I dropped the phone on my hardwood floor and the results were not pretty. A screen replacement later (that cost far more than $29) I managed to drop it again (this time in a case) which resulted in a bad crack, but nothing catastrophic. But a second drop a while later led to new cracks that killed parts of the screen (and to a new phone).

    My current phone has a case which I researched pretty heavily and has extra screen protection. I have even gone pop-socket to make it easier to hold.

    All of those drops were in my bedroom, come to think of it. So no: I am not fooling with a naked phone, even if they are cooler looking, to a point, that a phone in a case.

  2. James Joyner says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Yeah, same. I’ve dropped my phone many, many times and only cracked the screen once—and that was in a car accident where the phone was thrown from the car (hazards of a convertible). Even then, the phone was usable for months but eventually shattered and had to be replaced. The kids also broke the screen on my iPad a couple years back. But, yes, I’ve pretty much always had mine in a case; an Otterbox Commuter series the last several phones.

  3. gVOR08 says:

    My Otterbox makes my iPhone big and ugly. But the phone works the same. And it’s easier to hold onto. The aesthetics are there to sell it. I already bought it. I suppose I’m missing out on looking cool when I use it, but I’m way too old to care.

    And I’m still getting the ‘congratulations’ popup on OTB on it.

  4. James Joyner says:


    And I’m still getting the ‘congratulations’ popup on OTB on it.

    That’s really bizarre. We’re literally running no ads at the moment and even the ones that we’re trying to run wouldn’t show up on the phone. Can you send a screenshot?

  5. Hal_10000 says:

    Yeah, I’m with you. The iPhone X and similar devices look cool with their glass sides and all that. But the minute you drop one, you’re looking at an expensive repair (and a major inconvenience if, like me, your job kind of requires you to have a smartphone at all times). And if you have kids, the likelihood that your phone will be dropped, thrown in water, slobbered on, spilled on or otherwise defaced approaches unity.

  6. Gustopher says:

    After the iPhone 4, which was a beautiful slab of glass that could be balanced on the edges, all the other iPhone designs have been a step down.

    The iPhone 5 replaced the glass back with metal, and then they started making them thinner and lighter with curved edges that don’t poke so much. They are much more practical, but nowhere near as beautiful.

    I have my iPhone 8 in a case to hide how ugly it is.

  7. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    All of those drops were in my bedroom, come to think of it.

    Dude, humankind invented rugs millenia ago. Highly recommended — keeps your toes warm, too.

  8. Andy says:

    I always get the most bombproof case I can – and with three kids, an active outdoor lifestyle, I’ve yet to break a phone.

  9. gVOR08 says:

    @James Joyner: Nope, can’t forward. Had trouble this morning so I tried a Chrome Incognito tab and got a popup. The popup is still up in that tab, but it’s locked up. I can’t do anything with it except hit OK, which I’m not going to do. To clear the page out of Chrome I’m going to have to reboot, and I don’t think I’ll be able to fwd a screen dump. But I can do the home button, go to Safari and now OTB is normal. Also normal on the iPad now. If it happens again I’ll try to find a way to fwd. Until then, I’m going to regard it as over.