Are cell phone cases a protective shell or a design faux pas?

We have all seen them: the masses of iPhone 5 users who purchase their elegantly designed phones and then wrap them in thick OtterBox cases. The idea of taking a phone designed with so much precision and concealing it in layers of rubber and silicon begs us to question why we even bother to design good looking phones in the first place.

Most of us would say that we purchase a case to protect the device from scratches or from fatal drops. When we think about dropping our phone, the biggest concern is usually the screen cracking, and in most situations – unless you have a phone case with bulky screen side protection like seen in the OtterBox series – it won’t be much help. Picking up a thin silicon case or a rubber back cover will keep the scratches away, but won’t serve as your biggest defense against a cracked screen.

So if we aren’t bulking up with thick shock absorbing cases to protect against screen damage, then what’s the point of using a case at all? If it doesn’t protect the screen and only protects against scratching, is it worth it?

You may be thinking, “Well duh! That’s what a case is for!” But what’s the point of protecting something we will never see? What is the point of keeping your phone’s back “scratch free” if, in the two years of owning that phone, you will never see it because the case is on? We have a paradox here; the idea is: let’s protect something against scratches so it doesn’t look bad, but by doing so we will never see it.

Is there a way to protect our phones from scratching while still being able to admire the great design? There are two top answers here.

The first would be to purchase an invisible skin that surrounds the device and keeps it scratch free; the company Zagg makes a giant collection of these thin protective shields that promise to do just that. If you are an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy S3 user you’ll be happy to know that Zagg produces what it calls an “EXTREME invisibleShield” that promises to not only protect your phone from scratches, but also protect your screen from hammer bashes, bowling ball drops, firecracker explosions, flying arrows and more (seriously, check out the video below).

The second option would be to skip any sort of “physical protection” and opt for an accidental damage plan instead. These can usually be purchased through your carrier or a third party warranty services like SquareTrade for around $6.99 a month or $99 in one payment. In this instance, if you drop your phone and happen to crack it, they will simply send out a brand new one to you.

In the end, I ask users to drop the bulky case unless they are working on a construction site or have hands made of butter. If you are looking for phone protection, grab a protective shield or put your money into a protection plan. Months and sometimes even years of design went into your device; don’t kill it with a case.

What do you think? Do you use a case for your device?

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Michael Archambault

Michael Archambault was an associate editor at Pocketables. He is a coder, a thinker, and a dreamer who lives on the "Microsoft side of life." His current gadget arsenal includes a Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon with Windows 8, Nokia Lumia 900 with Windows Phone 7.8 OS, and a Microsoft Surface RT.