Why do we spend so much money on cases and screen protectors?

Why do we spend so much money on cases and screen protectors?

Summary: A piece by Ryan Block over on gdgt about how the iPhone 4 "Antennagate" has now become "Glassgate" got me thinking about a related topic - Why do we spend so much money on cases and screen protectors?

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A piece by Ryan Block over on gdgt about how the iPhone 4 "Antennagate" has now become "Glassgate" got me thinking about a related topic - Why do we spend so much money on cases and screen protectors?

First, a disclaimer. I protect my cellphone with cases and screen protectors. I have done so for years. But I'm not sure why I do it.

Here's the deal. We buy a shiny new gadget (for sake of argument. say a cellphone). We hold it. Caress it. We admire it. Then, moments later we take our new "precious" and slap adhesive film on it and shove it into a case.

Why?

Note: OK, no iPhone 4 jokes about how the case stops you from holding it the wrong way!

See, the case and screen protector industry is huge. As a rule margins are low and profits are high. All these makers need to do is convince you that your handset will be in bits before the weekend if you don't buy a case and screen protector.

Just take a look at the staggering array of silicone cases available for handsets such as the iPhone. Most of these cases are cheap rubbish. Cheap to make, made of cheap material and badly finished, but none of that matters. All the company needs to do is convince a tiny fraction of the market that they need the case, and it can make a tidy profit. This business model allows even small no-name companies to horn in on massive markets such as those created by the iPhone. Most of these cases offer little in the way of real protection for the phone, but I'd say that some 80% of iPhones I see in the wild is nestled inside a silicone suit.

Then there are screen protectors. Expensive film that you stick over the top of the screen to protect it. Protect it from what exactly? Most screen protectors pick up scratches and scuffs like they're made of cheese and require changing regularly. Compare that to the material that screen are made of, which seems like pretty tough stuff on the whole. I had my first-generation iPod touch for years sans-screen protector and it never got scratched, so why does my iPhone need one? Even the best screen protectors out there aren't 100% transparent so sticking these things on the screen immediately makes a good screen crappier.

Why? Why am I paying to make a good product worse? It doesn't make sense.

Some people I've spoke to say that they protect their handsets so it maintains a high resale value down the line. This doesn't make much sense to me either. It means that you're spending money on cases and screen protectors in order to keep the phone looking good for someone else, someone who is in reality going to pay peanuts for the phone no matter what it looks like.

So, who here spends money on cases and screen protectors? What are your real-world experiences?

Topics: Hardware, iPhone, Mobility, Smartphones

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59 comments
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  • RE: Why do we spend so much money on cases and screen protectors?

    In my case (no pun intended), having a case is a great and simple way to differentiate my phone from others. In a household with 4 iPhones, it definitely helps us keep them sorted!
    bengregg
    • I think most people get them because they are careless.

      They buy what amounts to a $700 pocket computer and then throw it around and abuse it. They stick in a purse or a pocket next to their keys. So they buy ugly rubber cases and cheap plastic screen covers to protect the phone from their own carelessness.

      I buy cases for my phones, but I always get durable leather cases. They look nicer than the rubber monstrosities, protect the phone much better, and when I take the phone out of the case, I'm holding and using it the way the designers intended it to be used.

      I will never understand why anyone (people who need ruggedized cases for specific environments aside) would take a modern smartphone, with hundreds or thousands of hours put into its industrial design, and cover it up with some cheap, garish piece of rubber.
      RationalGuy
      • RE: Why do we spend so much money on cases and screen protectors?

        @RationalGuy

        "I will never understand why anyone (people who need ruggedized cases for specific environments aside) would take a modern smartphone, with hundreds or thousands of hours put into its industrial design, and cover it up with some cheap, garish piece of rubber."

        The key word is DESIGN. The iPhone puts design ahead of usability and reliability. A smartphone needs to function as a phone and be as reliable as a phone first, and a pocket computer second. Any device that is designed to be exclusively used as a handheld needs to put physical strength and reliability behind functionality and ahead of pretty design. I like my feature phone that flips open to see the big screen. Yes, it is thicker than an iPhone, but the screen has ZERO damage after over a year of living in my pocket.
        aep528
      • RE: Why do we spend so much money on cases and screen protectors?

        @RationalGuy
        For a rational guy, your statement is really irrational ... a silicon or rubber skin makes perfect sense. My cell phone goes in my pocket which at any given moment in time can contain keys, change, toy cars, small rocks and twigs or other random junk. If I pay a few hundred bux for a device, I don't want it getting all scratched up. I mean, if you are so enamored with your 'modern smartphone's thousands of hours of industrial design' are you saying you don't care if it gets scratched, scuffed, or otherwise damaged? I have not yet seen anybody with a brand new iPhone or other expensive device that they don't protect it with a case or skin of some sort. Using a skin means you don't have to fart around with geeky looking and inconvenient holster case like a poseur trying to impress techno-bob in the next cubicle over. :-D
        Gravyboat McGee
      • Not sure what your point is.

        @aep528 Let's set aside the fact that design is a crucial element to usability and reliability for the moment.

        You are drawing a false dichotomy, i.e., you can have either stylish design or reliability, but not both. This is nonsense. I protect my iPhone with a case, but I enjoy the great design while I'm using it. I don't have to ruin the design with a cheap rubber case.
        RationalGuy
      • Please read my posts before responding to them.

        @Tivolier No, I don't want my phone to be damaged, which is I put it in a leather case. I keep it in my pocket, not on a holster.<br><br>Why, if you cared about your phone, would you put it in the same pocket as your keys? Why are you carrying around toy cars, rocks and twigs? You are describing exactly the sort of carelessness that I was talking about.<br><br>So, I suppose thanks for proving my point.
        RationalGuy
      • RE: Why do we spend so much money on cases and screen protectors?

        @RationalGuy Thanks for sharing. i really appreciate it that you shared with us such a informative post..
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        disturbforce
      • RE: Why do we spend so much money on cases and screen protectors?

        @RationalGuy The difference between the right word and the almost right word is really a large matter ? it's the difference between a lightning bug and the lightning.
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        disturbforce
  • Simple...

    I don't.
    Scubajrr
    • RE: Why do we spend so much money on cases and screen protectors?

      @Scubajrr I don't on my iPhone...but I have to admit. I have a nice scratch in the top of the screen. Took a year to get it but I do. A case/screen protector may have stopped that..?
      ItsTheBottomLine
  • Dunno why you do

    But I haven't had screen protectors on a device of mine since my iPaq. My touch screen Samsung Impression does fine without one. I do have an acrylic case for it however. Scratches or scuff marks are a big pet peeve of mine, and I have no quarrel using one.
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
  • I laugh at myself because I've fallen for it too

    While I did use a screen protector for my HTC Touch Diamond, I didn't use any sort of protective case. After nearly 2 years, it was a little scratched up but still worked just fine.<br><br>With my iPhone 4, I immediately threw it into a plain looking black silicon case. Why? Because the iPhone 4 chassis is beautiful and smooth and sleek and very nice looking. So I want to protect something that looks so nice. How do I do that? I put it in an ugly black case that makes the iPhone twice as thick and hides everything about the chassis that made it nicer than my Diamond. So I end up with something that is now about 3 times bigger than my Diamond and doesn't look any nicer.<br><br>Stupid, stupid, stupid. :) <br><br>To be honest though, the case actually does serve 2 purposes:<br><br>1. It mitigates the horrible antenna design of the iPhone 4. The first call I made from my iPhone failed (it wasn't in the case yet).<br><br>2. The iPhone is so slippery and thin that I found it was difficult to pick up from a table. Also, the case stops it from sliding around in my car.
    NonZealot
  • Better grip

    Being a little clumsy, I've launched several cell phones, both pre and post iPhone, getting out of the car or trying to get it out of my pocket while it's ringing. Never actually had one break though. I have a silicon one from Icipio now for my iPhone, I like it, not one drop since.

    It works with the twins are well, they have never dropped moms or dads iPhone with the case on. But they love to pull the case off after which we usually have about 30 seconds before an iPhone goes flying.

    The screen protectors I just like, I know they are not doing much but it's a little less concern over what I put in my pocket.
    oncall
  • Simple Reason

    My silicone case on my iPod Touch keeps it from falling out of my grip. Those things are slippery.
    jgoers
    • Classic Apple

      Form over function. Always.
      NonZealot
      • RE: Why do we spend so much money on cases and screen protectors?

        @NonZealot - They why did you buy an iPhone4 ?
        The Danger is Microsoft
    • RE: Why do we spend so much money on cases and screen protectors?

      @jgoers Exactly, in Apples case (no pun intended) it is bad design that has demanded a case be used. I have never had one on a phone, my HTC Desire doesn't have one, but my iPod and iPad do. They have designed products that are awkward to hold, purely for cosmetic reasons... that's poor design choices.

      If my phone is in my pocket, then it is the only thing in that pocket. I sold my N95 recently, that was 2 years old and it looked as new.
      LeeC
  • I believe I have perfectly valid reasons for having cases on my devices

    My job involves a lot of physical labor and getting into rougher areas of the buildings and as such my Otterbox Defender cases have worked wonders for taking the abuse of my environment so that my iPhone and BB Curve do not have to...

    When I'm off from work a simple holster for my BB and a case and screen protector (which I keep on it even while in the Otterbox) for my iPhone help - the holster so I'm not carrying a bunch of stuff in my pockets, the case to protect my iPhone from things I might have in my pocket such as car keys. Or I use two holsters one for each phone. I'd use a Zagg protector but I'm not so good as putting those things on - I lack the patience... LOL

    As I see it these devices are in the way of minor investments - ones that when I get the urge to upgrade I can take from their cases in practically mint condition and resell them on eBay... I did the same thing with my Nextel devices - as I kept getting their latest and greatest I'd sell the previous model on eBay (including accessories that I'm not using with the new one) and manage to break even.
    athynz
    • Using the phone while doing a task

      in which a substance on your hand may be inadvertentlly transfered to the phone (grease, paint, dirt).

      If this happens, simply wash the case, and replace the screen protector.

      It is not much different then placing a protective wax on your vehicle, or a place setting on your table to protect the wood.

      In many cases people place protective coverings over items, why would anyone be critical of doing the same for an expensive communications device?
      Tim Cook
  • RE: Why do we spend so much money on cases and screen protectors?

    You are damn right. I wanted to use a screen protector on my (2nd gen) iPod touch but somehow I never got around to it. And guess what? After more than a year, the screen is free of noticeable scratches. It has survived my rucksack (I take care not to put it in a compartment with hard stuff like keys or so, but apart from that, no special precautions), pants and jacket pockets, lots of use, and my brother dropping it half a meter on concrete when it was less than two weeks old. Screen is good as new. The back side of the case, however, scratches so easily that you can barely touch it without scratching it. That annoys me a bit. But since it doesn't impair functionality and doesn't really look worse than those stupid silicone cases, I decided to just live with it.
    Annika1984