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Thin smartphones and thick cases actually make a pretty good combo

By Hayato Huseman July 24, 2015, 5:37 am

The topic of cases is always somewhat of a polarizing one among smartphone users. Whether or not they’re necessary, or if they even help protect your phone (spoiler: they do). The vast majority of people are happy to put a case on their phone, because they’d rather have the piece of mind that their expensive purchase is protected in some way, than have to deal with a shattered screen or scuffed up chassis later. Other people, myself included, tend to shy away from cases, usually citing a reluctance to cover the finely crafted design of their smartphone (or using the silly argument “I never drop my phone!”). Many in this camp carry their phones without any layers of protection, and others apply skins and decals that augment the design rather than cover it completely.

Otterbox testimonies
They seem happy enough with their OtterBox cases.
LG G4 case
Spigen’s Slim Armor case for the LG G4

No matter which side you fall under, excessively thick cases seem to be the least fashionable — the OtterBox Defender is plenty popular with those living active lifestyles rock climbing or working in construction, but it’s almost always treated as a necessary annoyance; precautionary rather than stylish or enjoyable. Most people tend to favor cases with enough material to protect their phone in case of a drop, but not too much thickness that the phone becomes a hassle to fit into a pocket or hold during use. Something like Spigen’s dual-layer Slim Armor case seems to be the sweet spot. Even amongst case advocates, though, there’s another topic of debate: thin smartphones.

“Why would anyone need an ultra-thin smartphone? You’re just gonna put a case on it anyway.” You’ve undoubtedly heard that one before, especially more recently with newer phones like the iPhone 6, Galaxy S6, and Oppo R7 pushing the boundaries of thin design. It’s a reasonable argument; in making phones so thin, manufacturers are forced to cut corners in other aspects of the design or hardware. Camera modules can’t fit fully into smartphone bodies anymore, hence the bulge in a lot of thin phones, and there’s less internal room for the battery, meaning smaller capacity batteries often have to be used. So if so many compromises have to be made just for the sake of thinness, why would manufacturers even bother making such thin smartphones, and why would shoppers consider them when shopping around? Well, thin smartphones are impressive. Say what you will about their efficiency, but any time a new record is set for “thinnest smartphone ever,” it’s an engineering marvel, and you just can’t help but want to see it for yourself – which is when OEMs hope that you’ll fall for the phone.

Vivo Air Ultra Thin design

For as many compromises that have to be made to achieve ultra-thin smartphones, they can be pretty great in a lot of ways, too. A thin phone can be much easier to slip into a pocket (just don’t let it bend in there), and a slim profile just makes a phone look and feel more futuristic. Then again, a common complaint about such thin devices is that they start to become uncomfortable to hold after a certain point. There’s not much room for ergonomic curves or contouring on a 6mm-thick sheet of metal and glass … and that’s where cases come in. In the OtterBox referenced before, comfort is one of the last considerations of the case, instead prioritizing ruggedness and durability, but not all cases have to be that way. I’ve been carrying an iPhone 6 and a Galaxy S6 off and on lately, and for the first time in years, I opted to put cases on both phones — not necessarily for protection, but to make them more comfortable to hold. They’re both beautiful devices, but because of their slim design, holding them for an extended period starts to get a bit uncomfortable for me, and adding a reasonably sized case eliminates that entirely. Since there’s so little to cover, even thicker cases like the OtterBox Commuter feel quite good on the Galaxy S6 — something I never thought I’d say. For someone that avoids cases specifically because of the added thickness, it’s a great change that using a case is not only tolerable, but preferable.

The combination of thin smartphones and thick cases finally allows for the perfect trifecta of comfort, protection, and thinness. But what do you think? Do you have a thin smartphone? Have you been using a case with it that you normally wouldn’t on thicker phones?

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