Smartphone beauty really is only skin deep

Summary:So you bought a beautiful new iPhone 5 or a Samsung Galaxy S3. Are you planning to use it without a protective case? Then you're living dangerously.

iphone5-in-green-otterbox

Apple's aesthetics and inspired industrial design is instantly negated when the iPhone 5 is placed in a suitable protective case, such as the OtterBox Defender, shown above.

Techie work environments are always "show and tell" places for geeks to display their newly acquired toys, like the latest and greatest smartphones and tablets.

Like exotic birds showing off the wild colors of their plumage or large mammals displaying the size of their tusks in order to impress the females of their species, there seems to be an equivalent yearly ritual when the techies display their brand new smartphones to their co-workers, in order to establish their geek creds.

Because you can't get caught dead with last year's model, or God forbid, the generation previous. Oh no.  

Since the introduction of the two latest smartphone heavyweights -- the iPhone 5 last month and the Samsung Galaxy S3 earlier this summer, it seems like the "Hey! Look what I got" syndrome has swung into overdrive.

I've seen guys doing the Show and Tell thing for about two or three months now. Not a day goes by when a co-worker walks over to my desk to show me what they bought. Last week it probably happened three or four times with completely separate people.

The guy who sits next to me at my current assignment, another consultant, who I'm going to name Nick, finally got his iPhone 5 last week. 

"Cool, Nick. Nice iPhone. That's the new one, right? Can I hold it?" 

With all my co-workers that bring in their new toys, this been my latest standard response. Because if you don't want to hold it or touch it, it's like a sign of disrespect. It's kind of like refusing to look at a picture of someone's newborn child or not properly reading and then returning the business card ritual with Asian businessmen.

"Sure man, just be careful with it" Nick says. He hands over his brand new white iPhone 5 and places it on my desk. I pick it up and hold it in my hands, nervously.

The iPhone 5 is a really nice phone. Hell, I even bought one myself. I ordered it during the middle of last month shortly after it was announced and it was delivered to my house in Florida this last week.

I haven't even opened the box yet. Why not? I'll get to that in a minute.

"Geez man, this thing is really light." I said to Nick. I power on the screen, and notice the speed of the user interface and the bright colors. I then carefully hand the thing back to him.

The iPhone is thin. Like crazy thin. And it's made of aluminum. Naked, it's industrial design genius. It's like something out of freakin' Star Trek. Hell, it's more impressive than the stuff they have on freakin' Star Trek.

"So, ah, Nick, have you decided what kind of case you're gonna put on it?" I asked, sheepishly.

"Well, I dunno, if I put a case on it, it sort of defeats the purpose of how nice the phone looks and how thin it is, doesn't it?"

"Well, did you buy the phone for looks or for what it actually does?"

"I got it because the contract was up on my old iPhone. Verizon was out of accessories when I stood on line for three hours to buy the thing too."

"Okay, well, you got any kids?"

"Yeah, three, two of of them little, but what does that have to do..."

"Do you have any idea of what happens when you drop one of those phones from four feet or higher onto solid concrete or a hardwood or tile floor?"

"Um, no, but I have a good idea."

"Well, basically, on any of these new expensive smartphones, you got two areas you need to be concerned about. The first and foremost is the screen itself.

Now, smartphone vendors along with companies like Corning have improved the tensile strength of the glass since the last generation, but if it lands face down and hits any kind of portrusion, you've got a really good chance of cracking the screen.

The actual casing on the iPhone 5 is made out of anodized aluminum, so while it will do better with scratches and will not crack like the previous model which was a glass sandwich, you can still dent it and possibly chip a peice off and damage the electronics, and the forces of the impact will probably shatter the screen too."

"That doesn't sound very good. But I got the carrier insurance."

"That's only good for an actual device malfunction. If you bring that iPhone into your carrier the phone is essentially shot and the repair fee might be outrageous and the damage coverage is totally at their discretion depending on what they define as "Accidental". You need to look at Verizon's fine print.

Unless you buy Applecare+ during time of purchase, which is another $99, and will cover two incidents on your iPhone over a period of two years, each incurring a service fee at an Apple retail store of $49. If you want to buy Applecare+ after the fact, it has to be within 30 days of purchase and you need to bring the device into an Apple retail store for inspection."

If the device is found to be unrepairable and Apple or your carrier decides not to cover you, you'll have to do an in-contract unsubsidized, full retail purchase to replace it. Did you buy the phone with an AMEX Platinum card?"

"No, I got it with a Mastercard."

 "Yeah, cause if you bought it with an AMEX, you get full replacement within 90 days if you break the thing accidentally."

"So Jason, do you use a protective case on your phone?"

"Oh hells yeah." I showed him my Galaxy Nexus, which is housed in a SEIDIO Surface case.

"Holy crap, that's as big as a brick."

"Well, yeah, that's because I have a double-sized battery in mine. But I ordered an iPhone 5 myself a few weeks ago, and I'm going to put it in an OtterBox Defender when I get it."

"I've seen those kind of cases on other phones. They're really big and make the phone a lot thicker and really ugly."

"They do make it thicker and it adds weight. I currently use one on my iPad and my wife uses one on her Droid. But they are incredibly protective."

"How so?"

"Well, the entire iPhone is encased in a thick, shock-resistant polycarbonate plastic clamshell, that elevates the corners of the phone above the screen which will protect it from shattering if it goes face down. It also has built-in screen scratch protector. Then the whole thing is wrapped in a silicone rubber suit so that if the sucker hits the ground, it's gonna bounce. It's like Batman's cell phone case. Comes in a whole selection of colors now."

"What does it cost?"

"Fifty bucks, for the most protective model. They have three other models which expose more of the phone's aesthetics but of course, are less protective. So you might as well as get the best one."

"Wow, fifty bucks for a case is a lot. I only paid $200.00 for the phone."

 "An unsubsidized 32GB iPhone 5 costs about $800.00 if you break that phone, dude."

"Yeah, You've got a point. What did you say that company was called again?"

"OtterBox."

Have you sacrificed the "beauty" of your smartphone in exchange for protection and additional peace of mind? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

Topics: Smartphones, Apple, iPhone, Samsung

About

Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet is a technologist with over two decades of experience with integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer... Full Bio

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