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Musing #55: The Case for Patina

It is natural to be protective of an iPhone purchased at launch, especially if it is your first one. However, after running through a number of options[1][2][3][4][5][6][7], I have come to observe the following:

1. Tempered glass introduces an air gap defeating the benefit of having a bonded cover glass.

2. Consequently, the screen response (especially 3D Touch) is poorer and the colour accuracy is worse. The more expensive glasses minimise the impact, but none can eliminate what they introduce.

3. Most tempered glasses are fingerprint magnets as the oleophobic coating doesn’t last long.

4. The probability of cracking the screen is pretty low and hence worth living with. In a decade of using touch-screen phones, I have only once cracked the front, which ironically was a tempered glass. However, considering the tempered glass was of much lower quality compared to the cover glass, it is difficult to determine if the actual phone display would have cracked.

5. Micro-scratches are inevitable on even Gorilla Glass when using the screen “naked”, but they are practically invisible on daily use.

6. Tempered glasses are not so much of an insurance as protection. Insurance is supposed to enable enjoyment of the present while tempered glass do the opposite by ruining the experience of using the device. They are rather like armed guys restricting your movement and limiting your freedom.

7. Silicone cases are an abhorrence. If ruining the aesthetics with their cheapness is not enough, they double up as a lint magnet.

8. Transparent TPU cases are as attractive as tooth whiteners. They inevitably discolour and attract your fingers.

9. Unless you are a survivalist, rugged cases are a bad joke.

With this knowledge, I came to the conclusion that the best iPhone case, unsurprisingly, comes from Apple. It has been nearly six months since I started using the Apple Leather case and the best aspect of using it has been seeing the patina develop over time. It is minimalist in the sense that the lip at the front is just enough to keep the phone face down on a table and the back does its job of scratch protection. The price is unjustifiable for the most part, especially as I ended up spending $60 for it after purchasing it for $20 at Walmart. However, there is something endearing about watching a case evolve with time and that experience certainly compensates for the cost.

P.S.: For those curious to see the patina develop, I had taken shots of the case on purchase and subsequently on completion of the first and second month. Unfortunately, the shots were taken using a Redmi Note 3 under different lighting conditions and hence are absolutely unreliable, without balance adjustment. For what it’s worth, the original shots have been included below.

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