Dear Lifehacker, I'm getting a new phone this week, and I've been debating whether or not to get a case. Most of my friends have cases on their phones, but a few people are also telling me not to get one because it "ruins the phone". I need an outside opinion. Convince me: Should I get a case or not?
Sincerely, Scared of Scatches
This is one of those arguments that will probably continue as long as smartphones are in existence. A lot of it is personal preference, something that you'll realise after you use the phone for a while both with and without a case. However, there are a few indisputable pros and cons for each side -- both obvious ones and the not-so-obvious. Here's a quick look at the arguments for and against using a case.
Bundle Up: Reasons to Protect Your Phone
You might think that cases are only for the anal retentive that care about keeping their phone pristine, but there's more to it than that. Things you want to think about include:
Drop Protection: Look, no matter how careful you are, gravity is just stronger than you. You'll probably drop your phone at least once or twice in the years that you own it. How much protection you need, though, depends on your phone: lots of Android phones are built a bit tougher, and are more likely to survive the occasional drop (I'm speaking from lots of experience here). The iPhone 4 or 4S, on the other hand, while blessed with gorgeous looks, are a lot more likely to break when you drop them, so the argument for using a case becomes much stronger.
It's also worth mentioning that even cheap cases can give you drop protection by preventing you from dropping the phone in the first place. A lot of phones have particularly slippery backs, and a good case can add a bit of grip to keep it from sliding out of your hand and onto the concrete. It still isn't as good as getting a quality case, but it's better than going naked.
Protection for More Than Just Cosmetics: Even if you don't care about the occasional scratch or even shattered back, there's more to your phone than that. Some phones (like the iPhone) have a camera lens flush with the back, meaning it's much more prone to scratches and other damage -- which can make your photos look pretty awful. You could also damage one of the buttons on your phone, which would make it much more of a hassle to use than just a few scratches.
Resale Value: That said, even if you aren't obsessive about the little scratches on your phone, many people are -- and while dropping your phone without a case may not break it, it will create little nicks and scratches on your phone that will lower the resale value. Putting a case on your phone is one of the best ways to upgrade to your next phone and recoup your costs -- so if you sell your phones instead of keeping them around, a case can be a great idea.
Stand Out in a Crowd: While there's always an argument to make for "individuality", a case can also make you stand out in a practical way. Next time you're at a social gathering, count the number of people with the same phone as you in the room. Now imagine none of those people had cases on their phones and left them on the table or counter (as so many people do). Have fun finding your phone in a sea of identical iPhones. Photo by FreshFiber.
Go Naked: Reasons to Skip the Case
Conversely, lots of people are heavily anti-case. Popular reasons include:
Added Bulk: This is the most obvious reason and doesn't really require a lot of explanation. A case is going to add more bulk to your phone, plain and simple. Silicone ones make it harder to slip into your pocket, and a lot of people think they cover up the design of the phone, which is often one of the reasons you buy the phone you do.
A Case Won't Save You From Every Drop: It's a bit of a weak argument, but it's true: a case isn't going to miraculously save your phone from ever being broken. Just because you have a case and an unbroken phone doesn't mean the two are directly linked. A soft case will protect you from breakage better than a hard case, and no case is completely immune from damage -- it just depends on how your phone hits the ground. It will certainly protect your phone better than no case at all, but whether that's worth the other cons is up to you.
They Get Dirty Very Easily: When you put a case on your phone, you're adding a bunch of extra nooks and crannies for dirt to get in. And, while it's easy to clean off, it's a bit of a hassle. If you're too lazy to clean it, you're going to end up with a dirty-looking phone.
Cost: You can get a simple case pretty cheaply, but the more you spend, the better protection you get. Once you start getting into quality case territory, you could end up spending upwards of $50.
Heat: Nothing will kill your battery, slow down your phone or burn a hole in your pocket quite like an overheating device, and a case is only going to exacerbate that issue. If your phone is prone to getting a little warm, wrapping it in a non-breathable case is not such a great idea. Photo by Justus Bluemer.
Can I Protect My Phone WIthout a Case?
If you decide you don't want to use a case, there are other things you can do to keep your phone safe. The best thing, obviously, is to get some insurance. It's a good idea if you're particularly accident-prone, but it may be more cost effective to just repair the phone yourself or stash that money away in your own "extended warranty" fund.
You can also give your phone a bit of extra protection without applying a full case. Screen protectors may not be necessary for screens anymore, but they can protect the back of your phone from scratches, as well as keep it from shattering completely (since the protector will keep it all together if it breaks). As well, they'll add a bit of grip to the back of your phone to keep you from dropping it. And if you still want to give your phone a bit of individuality as well as grip, you can get a skin for your phone as well. Photo by Brian nairB.
Again, in the end, it all comes down to personal preference, how accident prone you are and what phone you have, not to mention how you're using it. If you regularly play sports or impress your friends with your iPhone juggling skills, you might want to take a closer look at a case. If you're particularly careful, you might be OK with a less intense form of protection. Our recommendation: try out a case and see how you like it. You can always take it off and try both ways to see which method you prefer.
PS Many of you probably already have strong opinions on this subject, so share your thoughts on the case debate in the comments below.