iPhone cases are only for poor people

A consumer psychologist believes those who keep their iPhones naked are merely showing how rich they are. Is that what it is?

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Naked as the day it was born

As the divide between the haves and the wish-they-hads gets ever wider, does this include their technology habits?

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I only ask because I've been bathing in an analysis that has made me consider the true meaning of our existence.

Or, rather, the true meaning of the phone case.

Many swear by them for their alleged utility. Just as many, I suspect, glory in their ability to wrap their expensive devices in rubber protectors that enjoy NFL logos, turquoise sparkles, or even images of their favorite politician.

I confess I find phone cases as aesthetically pleasing as cockroach art.

So, in my constantly dimming mind, I've assumed that there are merely phone-case people and there are tasteful people.

Now, though, my eyes have been opened by consumer psychologist Kit Yarrow.

Speaking to Vox, she painted a far darker picture -- darker than even cockroach art -- of why some people buy phone cases and others don't.

She embraces the idea that Apple and its fellow phone manufacturers want our devices to break down fairly quickly, so that we have to buy another one.

However, when it comes to phone cases, she said the lack of a case sends this message: "I'm above the possibility of damaging my phone, and if I do, no big deal because I can shell out for a new screen."

In essence, then, a naked iPhone says: "I'm loaded." A case-wrapped iPhone says: "This is costing me 60 bucks a month, you know. That's almost as much as I spend on clothes."

Indeed, Yarrow seems to believe that phones are clothes. Or even limbs. As the article quotes her: "The phone really is, for a lot of people, an extension of themselves."

So much so, she insists, that people crave slimness in phones just as they crave slimness in their own bodies.

Is it, though, really a rich versus poor thing?

One could just as easily argue it's a self-confidence versus self-doubt thing.

I know I'm going to drop my phone at some point, so this yes, I know, ugly fat case is merely an expression of my lack of faith in my ability to not be a klutz. I hate myself.

Equally, the lack of an iPhone case could offer other, deeper psychological insights.

For example: I'm the sort of person who casts caution to the winds. I know the world makes no sense, so I get up every day and scream through my window: "Come on world! Give me what you've got! I can take it." I even leave my car open all night, you know.

There's a dangerous tendency these days to divide technology always along rich versus poor lines.

I still haven't quite suppressed my fascination at hearing Google CEO Sundar Pichai claim that Apple's commitment to privacy is somehow elitist. He insisted that privacy should be for everyone and not a "luxury good."

Oh, so that's why Google has never offered it? Because the company is dedicated to the poor and all its phones are cheap? (Clue: they're not.) 

Or could it be because Google has made so much money ensuring that both rich and poor don't enjoy any privacy at all?

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Unquestionably, some people do buy the latest gadgets -- and, indeed, invest in the latest software and apps -- to enhance their self-image. Phones, too, have a tendency to be shiny and slippery.

There is, though, something just a little strange about people spending (sometimes large amounts of) money for precisely that shininess and then hiding it in a piece of rubber that cost $10 on Amazon.

Or, just as painful, those little leather wallets. 

Every time I see someone talking on their phone while it's still in that little wallet, I can't help but stare as the cover of the wallet constantly slaps them as they talk.

There's another peculiar aspect to all this. If it's all about showing off how rich you are, why not buy a designer iPhone case?

Why, here's a painful Burberry one for $190. Here's a quite grotesque one from YSL for, what, $395.

If they don't say (utterly tasteless) bling, what does?

Could it be, in fact, that at least some people don't buy phone cases because they simply like the look of their phones?

And yes, they take the risk that these phones might smash.

But we all take risks every day, don't we?

Crossing the road when we're glued to our phones, for example.