Keeping your phone holstered

ADAM ROBERTS
Last updated 12:48 17/04/2012

Remember when it was popular for businessmen to attach their phones to their belts in an effort to look like a corporate Batman or an office gunslinger?

I thought those dark days were over, but I fear they are back already. Worse, I have fallen sway as well.

At the end of the 90s, when mobile phones were still futuristic and new, cellphone cases seemed to spread like ugly black barnacles around the waists of men of a certain age and occupation.

I suppose at that point owning a mobile phone was a status symbol, something you wanted to show off to your underlings.

That argument no longer made sense once we got to the point where 4-year-olds were given cellphones to take to playschool, and you could pick up a cheap Nokia in line at Countdown, so thankfully the belt-clip craze seems to have subsided.

Besides, it was a little hard to look impressive and imposing when the weight of an enormous Motorola brick was dragging your pants down.

But with the rise of smartphones, it would seem business is booming for phone case producers again.

The other day I did something I thought I would never do – I joined the ranks of the encased.

My excuse was that I dropped my iPhone struggling to turn off the alarm early in the morning, and realised I did not want the glass back to be cracked by my carelessness.

A few scratches: fine. A gouge or a crack: no thanks.

It does not feel right, covering an iconic design in a plastic brick, but I think it is probably for the best.

I chose the thinnest, most nondescript cover I could find, but others take the exercise further.

I suppose it is the quite understandable urge to stand out from the crowd.

No matter which smartphone you choose, it is basically a rectangle with a glass screen, so wanting to add a bit of personality is fair enough. Although a pink rubber sheath with a Playboy bunny logo may not be the way to do it.

I may have been flexible on the phone case issue: there is one other phone accessory I will not allow: the so-called screen protector.

These thin coatings of adhesive plastic that people rely on to protect the glass on their touchscreen from minor nicks, scratches and other punishment are entirely unnecessary.

Now, I am not against people being cautious and wanting to protect their expensive technology from damage.

I also cannot get angry at someone who has fallen victim to a shop-assistant trying to up-sell – smartphones are relatively new technology, so who can blame people for following the advice of a presumed expert?

But you do not need a plastic cover: all it will do is trap dust, accumulate air bubbles, ruin the sharpness of the graphics, and possibly lower the sensitivity of the touchscreen.

Recently I read Walter Isaacson's biography of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs (it was a Christmas present, before you cry fanboy).

Towards the end of the – quite sizeable – book, Isaacson describes a scene in 2007, a few weeks before the first iPhone is to be released, where Jobs makes a typically unreasonable demand, with typically positive results.

For weeks, Jobs had been carrying the prototype of the new phone – which at that stage had a plastic screen, in his pocket – and he angrily showed the other men the myriad of nicks and scratches on its face.

"I won't sell a product that gets scratched," he said.

The executives quickly scrambled to find a replacement, and eventually found a lightweight, strong glass suitable for the purpose – termed Gorilla Glass.

Gorilla Glass has a strength comparable to sapphire crystal, according to Apple design guru Jonathan Ive.

Fortunately, Apple isn't the only company to make use of this technology, so if you've bought a smartphone recently, and you paid more than $100, chances are your phone probably has a Gorilla Glass screen, or a screen of similar strength.

These screens are strong, and so for the typical daily use you subject your phone to, they will be all you ever need. A bit of plastic won't do more than dull the brightness of the screen – pointless.

There's a Wikipedia page which lists all the smartphones which have such a screen.

Go ahead and check – use your smartphone, even – then take pleasure in peeling off that unnecessary, ruinous addition.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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