The iPhone X, the most expensive smartphone Apple has ever made, is undeniably an aesthetic marvel, from the chrome-colored rounded corners and the reflective glass rear cover to the elliptical vertical camera module. Regardless of your thoughts on the pesky notch, the phone itself also feels fantastic to hold in your hand. It has a certain weighted feel to it unlike past models, giving the gadget the feel of a high-class set of poker chips or an exuberant business card made of excessively heavy stock.
The screen, stretching out to all four corners of the bezel-less display, comes to life in a way so equally pleasant and eye-popping that you can understand why user experience designers likely spent weeks, if not months, on that one, subtle activation moment. The iPhone X is extravagant and silly in all the ways a $1,000 smartphone rightfully should be.
For all those reasons, it feels like a crime to put a case on the device. And yet I’ve done just that for the past four months. I’ve owned the iPhone X since October when it first shipped. I promptly put an Apple-made brown leather case on it, which has gracefully aged from a pristine caramel color to a kind of oil paint blend of browns and blacks. By all means, it is a nice looking case and a fitting cover for the phone.
But it’s still not quite right. Because the moment I take my iPhone X out of its case, it’s instantly more elegant. With screen edges exposed and the glass back more tactile, you can easily feel the craftsmanship and quality of a device of this caliber.
Of course, arguing for the use of a $1,000 consumer electronics device without a protective safety system in place is as much an economic one as it is an emotional one. With screen replacements costing $279 and a fix for a destroyed back plate running $549, the iPhone X is a ticking time bomb ready to decimate a portion of your paycheck. With AppleCare, the prices go down significantly, to $29 for a screen replacement and $99 for everything else that can go wrong. Yet AppleCare itself costs $199 for two years.
I myself am a bit biased in this respect. I’ve purchased the iPhone X through Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Program, which costs slightly more per month than a standard telecom leasing plan but comes with AppleCare built in. But it’s not in my best interest to break this phone, both for the immense inconvenience and the sheer waste of resources involved with shattering glass and denting metal — all for what essentially amounts to a selfish preference, one only afforded to me by the privileged position of having AppleCare.
Still, there is an argument to be made that these devices, particular Apple-made smartphones, are best experienced in their out-of-the-box form. Our culture of screen crack stigma and obsessive warranty paranoia, as well as the sheer ubiquity and the marketing prowess of the mobile accessories industry has made it very easy to forget that it was someone’s job to test the aesthetics of the Phone X. So many days, weeks, and months went into these Jobs-ian pursuits of perfection, and so many times they are wasted on an increasingly shrinking portion of people who feel comfortable not encasing their phones in high-impact polycarbonate.
We use our phones all day, every day, for hours and hours and in a variety of precarious activities and environments, from bike rides to dance floors to subway tracks. So it’s become easy to think of these devices as simultaneously delicate and disposable, an object we feel we should have the liberty to be careless about and yet one we remain terrified of disabling in any way whatsoever. But it is liberating to treat your smartphone with a level of care proportional to its role in your life, and to be able to enjoy the device as it was designed and not according to the whims of OtterBox, Spigen, JETech, and into the infinite void of Amazon-surfaced brand names.
So starting this week, I’ve taken the Apple leather case off my iPhone X. I still carry it with me, and leave it on my desk or in my bag, as a safety measure against my fears of a cracked screen or scratched mic grille. I’ll see if it ultimately proves to be as dumb a decision as it can feel like to walk case-less over asphalt and risk fumbling its hard-to-grip glass back. But at the very least, I’ll put the case back on when I ride my bike. I’m not that stupid.