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Our $1,000 phones deserve better cases
For as long as phones have existed, case makers have been trying to capitalize on that market by offering protection and personalization. You buy a new phone, you buy a new case, the two go together hand in hand. But as smartphones slowly got out of their proverbial shell; dusted off their boring white and black plastic from the early 2010s; and donned new shiny, matte, metallic, glassy, colorful, or elegant attire; cases have been stuck in the same mold.
Brands pop up left and right, but the ideas are the same recycled ones: hard shell or soft case, plastic or leather or thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), black or transparent. Compared to smartphones, very little imagination goes into case making, and there’s a certain status quo that many brands seem to be content with. I’ve reached a point where I feel bad about spending close to a thousand dollars on an expensive phone (such as my newly acquired Pixel 6 Pro) only to carry it around in a case that shows none of its polished design elements.
Modern flagships deserve better cases made of more refined materials, with classier designs, and more color options. And that is even more true specifically for Android flagships because case options are remarkably more limited for them compared to their Apple counterparts.
The case for better cases
Whenever Google, Samsung, Apple, or any other smartphone manufacturer makes a big show on stage about its latest flagship and the thousands of hours — and probably millions of dollars — that went into designing it and picking the best materials and colors to showcase it, I can’t help but wince, because I know the majority of those purchased phones will likely end up stuck in a generic clear or black blob. One that clearly wasn’t born of the same passion or research.
There’s a point where you start wondering: Why bother? Why does Google or Apple or any other company put in that much effort? And why do we insist on buying the nicest color variants when most of us will eventually just get a case to put our multi-hundred-dollar investment in, just so it doesn’t crack or break at the smallest fall?
Also read: Great Pixel 6 Pro cases you can buy
Then there’s the other side of the argument. Why can’t we have nicer cases? If so much money and effort get spent in order to put beautiful smartphones in our hands, why can’t case makers put in a little bit of effort to give us a similar experience?
More of the same
Looking at the wider case market, there’s very little innovation right now. You have your skins, which might offer some nice patterns and colors, but fail severely in the protection department. I know I wouldn’t trust my clumsy hands to carry a phone if it’s only wrapped in a skin; I drop my phone twice a week so it’s not a risk I’m willing to take.
Then there are hard cases, regardless of their material (plain plastic or covered with fabric, leather, or wood), which look nice too but also have trouble absorbing shock and dissipating it. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve seen phones with cracked glass in my surroundings, only to discover that the person had chosen a hard case to “protect” their device.
We asked, you told us: Spigen is your favorite case brand
However, the most protective material out there, TPU, isn’t the sexiest to touch or look at. It’s a big step forward from the old generation of silicone cases, which attracted dust and lint like crazy, but it still feels somehow cheap and unnatural. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been buying nothing but TPU cases for the better part of a decade, but I usually have to spend days researching them to find one option that’s a step above the rest.
Every year or two, I decide to try a new clear TPU case, hoping it will be the perfect solution for showing off my phone while still protecting it, but alas. It always attracts fingerprints and grease, it always gets a yellowish tint with time, and eventually, it makes the phone look slimy and cheap, not more expensive.
I look for a fresh design and new colors each time, otherwise, it just feels like I haven't switched to a new phone.
I’ve also looked at Spigen, Caseology, Ringke, Otterbox, and many other known brands. But after you’ve bought the first Liquid Air or Vault case, you realize they’re all the same. Every year, you get the same exact design in the same exact colors — mainly black and… black. Or grey if you’re lucky. Some people will find solace in this consistency; they’ll buy the same case for every phone and they know exactly what they’re getting. I find boredom in this. I look for a fresh design and new colors each time, otherwise, it just feels like I haven’t switched to a new phone.
Exceptions, but not the rule
My quest for better cases has led me to the deepest nooks of Amazon. Page 30 of search results? I’ve been there a few times. It’s a terrifying place to go, for sure, but you might stumble upon that gem that the mighty algorithms didn’t deem worthy of surfacing earlier.
That’s how I ended up discovering brands like Cyrill (a Spigen sub-brand, I should add) and Gviewin. Far from providing a boring, stale take on cases, they have another approach. Yes, some of it is repetitive too, year after year, but at least there’s a bit of originality there. I’m especially fond of the marble effect on Gviewin’s cases and the different patterns and colors they offer. I also really like the cream Cyrill case I just got for my Pixel 6 Pro.
Another approach I’m starting to appreciate is Dbrand’s Grip case, which mixes a relatively bland TPU case with the cool customization factor of skins, for a more unique look. There’s also Moment with its TPU and wood combination cases, some of which also offer MagSafe compatibility. A few other companies are starting to pop up, but alas, many of them only focus on the iPhone line-up, thus neglecting the vast Android market.
See more: The best magnetic cases to buy
A multi-billion dollar opportunity
The mobile case market is currently valued at over $20 billion according to multiple reports and is expected to surpass the $30 billion mark by 2027. That’s a gigantic opportunity that’s waiting for more challengers and more innovation.
The current players are well established, but given the opportunity at hand, I don’t doubt that more rivals will be knocking at their door pretty soon. With people getting tired of the same ol’ same ol’, there’ll be a growing need for new materials that provide the much-needed protection without feeling tacky. For more unique designs and more attractive colors too. You can’t convince me that a tacky spray-painted silver or rose gold TPU case looks good enough on a phone that has that proper shiny metallic hue.
Are you satisfied with currently available case options?
It would be a shame if our smartphones kept getting prettier and more sophisticated, while our cases trudged in the same safe zones. They deserve better and so do our hands and eyes.