Buying A New Case for my Smartphone

Robin Baum
4 min readAug 16, 2023

A Consumer’s Stream of Consciousness

Recently, I had to buy a new smartphone case; the old silicone type seemed to be still functioning, but it was broken and frayed in several places, which didn’t look good to anyone anymore; additionally, I started imagining that the other functions were not as reliable as originally intended by me and the product.

I didn’t have to buy the case, of course, the phone worked without it, and it even looked better — after almost 2 years, I saw more than just its transparent screen again; during that brief moment of changing the case, a nice surprise; however, the cost of something breaking isn’t just about money; it involves the consumption of resources like energy, rare minerals, cheap labor, etc., which self-evidently, or then not, should be avoided, and the third option, not buying one at all, which would be the best solution anyway (saving resources, time, psychological well-being) — well, I’m not strong enough for that, so I decided to get a replacement.

In a rather old-fashioned way, I went to a store that featured a shelf dedicated to displaying various cases for numerous phone models from various manufacturers, it felt great to have so many options, but that feeling diminished as I had to approach closely to read the packaging and identify the truly suitable products for the extensive range of choices became less visible, the whole process wasn’t easy since I couldn’t use a search term and I hadn’t done proper research.

On my first attempt, I messed up and bought an incompatible item but luckily, I noticed this as I was leaving while changing the case, but all in all the initial result of the endeavor was mainly embarrassment and a disgusted-looking saleswoman who had to take the item back, operate her computer, and refund me in cash.

Standing in front of the shelf, I was confused, as the model names that had appeared over the years were quite similar in reading, I responded carelessly by not paying enough attention to the name suffixes and as a consequence, I chose the wrong product, which I later returned, clearly misunderstanding the seriousness of the situation, I hadn’t approached this task, which could indeed be called “work,” with necessary professional focus.

I was mostly unfamiliar with the manufacturers’ names, which suited me, it meant giving my money to some unknown company and, essentially, entrusting the store with my purchase; it was a large chain, so they should be able to assess the quality of what they offer and not stock the worst products.

However, since I had been to electronics stores before, I had vague memories of some brand names, which led me to exclude a case from a company I’d really never heard of before — “Ideal of Sweden” — even though its design, a gradient from orange to purple labeled as “Ombré,” looked quite stylish, but the idea of a smartphone drawing too much attention to itself dampened my enthusiasm for it.

I didn’t have a clear image of how my future case, something I would frequently see and touch, should look; my sister-in-law had a transparent case, but the one I had from a few years ago turned dirtily yellow within months, but hers was already 2 years old and still clear; unfortunately, she couldn’t remember the manufacturer, but that was enough for me to opt for a transparent case initially, but since I didn’t like how it looked when I tried it, I looked for other options on my second attempt.

“Military Grade” isn’t a term one usually encounters outside of the news, but in the context of phone cases, it’s a quality promise related to drop protection, which ultimately is reassuring for institutionalized force remains the most reliable in terms of violence, where is the police anyway, so other products without this label instantly looked weaker, even though some claimed to absorb falls from 1.80 meters, which is actually pretty good I thought, leading me to project that ability onto every other case, a move that helped me quickly discard the notion of needing a “Military Grade” case.

I had mentally prepared myself for plastic — some synthetic material that isn’t too thick, that tends to be dark and inconspicuous, but I couldn’t find anything in that category; there were only inconsistent hybrids, like transparent parts combined with black or carbon featuring patterns made to look like microscopic views of materials, ridiculous.

Leather remained an option, but this specific one here looks and feels like dressed-up plastic — not very convincing, so after a series of disappointing options, how could I resolve this situation; visually, black leather looked the best, but it didn’t feel comfortable in hand; still the natural oil (or moisture?) from my fingers should eventually patinate the material, but when exactly, furthermore: animal skin, well… but vegan leather — a silly term, but I get it, for dismissing the value that is attached to the word would mean risk in terms of a replacement ‘s connectivity to the imagination of customers — wasn’t in the options, only this presumably cow-based material was available, which should be okay as it’s essentially just steak leftovers, I’ve read about that, okay, let’s get to it and head to the cashier.

Originally published at https://diedinge.net on August 16, 2023.

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Robin Baum

Design practitioner with a background in media/culture theory.