Choice is a wonderful thing, for many of us it’s probably the primary reason we own an Android phone in the first place. Speaking of which, it’s hard to beat that initial feeling when you get a brand new device. You remove it carefully from the box, peel off the plastic screen protector and admire it as it gleams spotlessly in your hands. Keeping your phone in such pristine condition throughout its life isn’t easy; however there are numerous solutions on the market that can help. The question is which solution works best? A quick search on the website of any mainstream tech retailer will bring up hundreds of sleeves, pouches, wallets, skins, cases and films. Would you prefer leather, suede, neoprene, plastic, rubber or even “invisible”? I’ve tried various solutions over the years with mixed results.
I’ve been a mobile phone connoisseur since the mid 90’s when Nokia ruled the roost. My trusty 3330 would be thrown in my pocket alongside my keys, coins and wallet without a care in the world. The one and only time I dropped it, I simply popped into town and bought a new exchangeable cover; job done. It was one of my early ventures into the smartphone world that made me re-evaluate the benefits of phone protectors. Back in 2004 I bought a sim-free iMate Jam (HTC Magician) and paid £500 cold hard cash. The store I purchased it from suggested a leather case for protection, which I decided to go for as I could definitely see the benefits. The case in question was a classic design which anyone who has been using phones or PDA’s for a number of years will definitely be familiar with. A couple of pieces of black leather on the front and back, joined by a few strips of black, elastic material with a leather ‘lid’ that folds over the top and sticks in place by way of some velcro tabs. If my memory serves me right, I think it even had a belt clip on the back (did anyone actually use those?). There was no question that this case would protect the phone. The problem was that the iMate Jam was a hefty old device. It was made of metal, as thick as a yellow pages directory and could probably have been used to anchor a small boat. Putting this phone in such a rugged case made it virtually impossible to pocket. It didn’t take long before I ditched the case and it also didn’t take long for me to regret that decision. On a visit to my parents’ house, the iMate was sitting in my shirt pocket. I bent down to pick something up and out it flew dropping a few feet onto the slate finished kitchen floor. I’d gained a sizable dent on the bottom corner and clearly some kind of loose connection somewhere as the device would perform a master reset every time I pressed the top half of the screen. Lesson learned.
For my next few phones I trialled numerous different cases, wallets and screen protectors and was never really entirely happy with any of them. Regardless of how discrete they claim to be, I find that screen protectors dull the screen and take away some of the responsiveness of a touch screen. Now perhaps it’s just in my mind but I definitely don’t find the experience as satisfying as using a ‘naked’ screen. This solution may be great for design however it’s not so great for function.
My next solution was the wallet type case where your phone clips into a plastic cradle and you close a cover over it like a book. This was slightly preferable to a screen film as once you open the cover you can use your device as nature intended. The trade-off here is that your phone lives permanently in the holder within the case. The hardware manufacturers spend millions on design teams to make your phone as aesthetically pleasing and ergonomically functional as possible, it seems ludicrous that we should then proceed to bolt it into an ugly plastic cradle and close a wallet over it? Although I don’t believe in style over substance (I’d probably own an iPhone if I did) I still like my phone to look smart. We have the opposite problem to the screen films here; a wallet will protect your phone whilst allowing you to interact with the touch screen unhindered however your phone loses its physical identity as it becomes a screen buried in a case.
It was completely by chance that I stumbled across a solution that I’ve stuck with ever since. I bought a Nexus One direct from Google on launch day and was pleasantly surprised to discover a soft neoprene pouch as part of the package. I’d already been contemplating which kind of case to use and had never considered trying a pouch previously. It seemed silly not to try it out seeing as it was ready and waiting. It didn’t take long for me to deduce that, although not perfect, this was the ideal solution for me. The case protects the phone nicely whilst it’s in your pocket, in a bag etc. It’s small enough and light enough not to be overly intrusive although padded enough to protect the phone from drops and bumps. When you need to use the phone you simply slide it out of the pouch and use it free from any obtrusive cases or protectors. The obvious pitfall here is dropping the phone whilst it’s in use but I’ve never had such an accident in the past so the risk is worth it when considering the probability.
My trusty Nexus One case lived on to protect my Galaxy S and I bought a new one for my Nexus S once the original became worn and tatty. Finding a solution for my Galaxy Nexus was a little trickier at first because I picked mine up on launch day and initially I could not find a pouch big enough, the curse of the early adopter. Eventually I found a suede pouch that was up to the job and I’m pleased to report that my Galaxy Nexus looks just as good today as it did the day I bought it.
I’m interested in hearing what the rest of you are using out there. Is your beloved smartphone currently ‘au naturel’ or have you managed to find a solution that works for you? Let me know in the comments below.