How do you protect your Android phone?

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.

About the Author: Chris Stewart

Originally from Inverness in the Highlands of Scotland, I'm now living in the UK's second city, Birmingham. I've had a passion for gadgets from a very young age, it all started with my Commodore 64 at the tender age of 2 years old. I purchased my first mobile phone aged 17 and it was from there the obsession began. Having now gone through 33 phones in 13 years it's safe to say my passion for phones is alive and well! My current phone is the Galaxy Nexus as I'm a big fan of the pure Android experience. I've been working in the Banking industry for the past 10 years and I'm currently working in Human Resources for one of the World's largest Retail Banks. I spend my spare time with my wonderful wife and young family and when I'm not fiddling with phones and tablets I can be found playing football (soccer for you guys in the States!), watching Mixed Martial Arts, tinkering with cars or listening to music.

  • Gibosi

    I also owned a Nexus One and now the Galaxy Nexus, but I haven’t found a neoprene pouch as good as the Nexus One’s.    Which suede pouch did you get?

    • lolo

      I use diztronic cases on my tmobile sgs2, cruzer lite androidified cases on my GNote and GNex….I wouldn’t dream of not using a case on my phones since I pay full price for them….but the Cruzer Lite Androidified cases are my fave! Tpu, great quality, great fit, and Andy adorned on the back :) They sell them on amazon, buy 2 get 1 free…total with shipping comes to $19.90. Great colors too.

  • 20legend

    I am currently sporting a Samsung Galaxy W which has the obligatory screen protector on and resides, when not in use, in an iPhone 3g leather slip case which has no crappy pull tab, no bulky belt clip and is a remarkably good fit and offers very good protection against knock and scrapes.

    My last phone (N95 8Gb – brilliant handset) also had a screen protector but lived in a leather Hama camera case for some model of Nikon, which again was practically a perfect fit, no gimmicks or excess bulk and absolute protection with the exception of not being watertight.

    Weird how stuff designed for something else fits the requirements better than any i’ve found which are made specifically for the job!

  • Mattdmngt

    Galaxy s2 with a Ballistic Case. Only one to have

  • Work4crown

    I have tried a couple different self healing screen protector films (Invisible Shield, Ghost armor) on my Original Droid Incredible and they do a great job protecting the screen but I agree that they dull the image and take away from the screen’s sensitivity. 

    I really like the TPU cases that can be had via Ebay, AMazon for $2.99 for my phone. They are cheap, thin, and the rubberized feeling gives them a tad bit more shock protection than a hard case. I was using a hybrid clear plastic/tpu case because I thought it looked cool to be able to see the back of the phone through the clear plastic but within a week the clear plastic was severely scratched up and looked terrible. Like it was a few years old instead of a few weeks old. Then the rubber tpu material pulled away from the plastic material after about 6 months.

    I am currently using a Seidio plastic case. It is a dull grey color that makes my phone look pretty boring. However the fit is wonderful and it seems to do a pretty good job protecting the phone. I like that the case extends a little past the camera lens and a little past the screen on the front so when I set the phone down the camera lens and screen aren’t getting scratched. 

    I have decided a case is enough and that I don’t need a screen protector. I am careful with my stuff and have never had an accident. I enjoy using my phone much better without the screen protector I think it is worth the risk for me. 

    So my opinion is a TPU case for $2.99 is all I need. 

  • Rich@Minneapolis

    I use an Otter Box on my EVO 3D phone. I have dropped the phone, 3 times this week, on the concrete. No breaks or scratches. I love it!!

  • gopadge

    I’ve used everything from a leather cover with belt clip for a SE T306, an iFrogz case for an original iPhone (required minor mod to fit the 3G cover to 2G phone…), 
    and an Otter Box and a silicone cover for an iPhone 3GS.  Then I went all minimalist, and stopped using any cover at all.  

    I used the iPhone 3GS for a year, a Garminfone for a year, a MyTouch 3G Slide for six months and now I’m using a MyTouch 4G Slide without any protection.  I did drop the phones on occasion, but so far, I haven’t had any issues with damage other than some minor dings on the finish of the phones.

  • Dad

    i work in construction. i protect my droid x with a trident kraken. used to have a otterbox defender.

  • Didge3

    My Desire HD, almost 2 years old now, never worn a case, metal body, covered in dents and scratches. But the phone is big and quite thick for a smart phone of this era and all the cases for it look and feel awful, I’d rather have the dents quite frankly.

  • Bennett E Todd

    Last fall, my N1 slipped out of my shirt pocket, cracked the screen though everything including the digitizer kept working until I got my Gnex. That went straight into an Otterbox Defender, where it’s staying until I replace the phone.

  • Emil Johansson

    I don’t and I dont plan on it either.  I like the clean, as is, experience.

  • oneofthenewguys

    I’ve tried a few different cases but always go back to an Otterbox Commuter for my Droid RAZR.

  • PYB Comment

    In full disclosure, my name is Alyssa and I work for a company called Protect Your Bubble.
    New to the US earlier this year, Protect Your Bubble is one of the top insurers of mobile devices worldwide. We are passionate about providing consumer tips are regarding smartphone protection and wanted to contribute to the conversation.
    In addition to protecting your phone with a case, consumers should consider insurance. A phone case won’t necessarily protect against Loss & Theft, which are major reasons to protect your device. For Protect Your Bubble, Loss and Theft made up 75% of all of our claims – essentially you are 3 times more likely for your device to be lost or stolen than damaged, especially if you have a case.
    At $7.99 a month, it is worth a look if you are concerned about losing your new device.