The Accidental Accessory

For the majority of consumers, the smartphone case is a fashion statement. My daughter, for example, bought several cases within weeks of buying the iPhone 5S to avoid any potential fashion faux pas. As such, for many people the case can be considered as an extension of the clothing that we wear. But there’s a dark side to what we wear: ask any young child who has been forced into a ghastly velvet suit, dress, or the like to attend a grown-up function. The scarring is permanent; trust me.

The smartphone case equivalent is the “case of shame”, the indestructible case that some kinds are subjected to as part of the agreement that allows them to have the latest and greatest smartphone. Take one sweet-looking phone, wrap it in an indestructible case and send the kids off, smug in the knowledge that the phone will survive, even if the child’s self-esteem may take a little beating (cue evil parental laughter).

But sometimes, the kids can get revenge. Take my colleague “S” (name withheld to protect from total ridicule). S had a very nice iPhone until (allegedly) her six year old “bumped into” her, missing her, but sending the iPhone out of her hands and onto the cold hard kitchen floor. The phone was replaced, and just three weeks later was discovered in a parking lot having been mysteriously tossed out of the stroller. The phone had (just) survived being dragged under a car by the looks of things. The net result is that this phone is now encased in an indestructible box the size of a small brick (cue evil cackling laughter from the children). To make matters worse, the iPad was also wrapped up in a preventative measure. 

So what does this tell us? Firstly, while many of us would like to believe that we are “Fashionistas”, as defined by NPD’s Case Segmentation Report, reality and children sometimes come between us and our ideal personas. Once a fashionista, “S” is now firmly a “quality protector” whether she likes it or not.  Perhaps as the children grow older – and are given their own devices to abuse – she can slowly unpeel the layers of protection encasing her phone.

But the example also highlights that many phones are hardly the durable devices that they really need to be in order to survive the daily rough-and-tumble. Phones used to be the eye-candy of the wireless world – the very device that we lusted after and dreamed of carrying. Perhaps instead, we should look for the ideal case first, and then find the phone best suited to fit into it. And as for “S, perhaps the threat of an occasional velvet sports jacket will quickly help the kids to realize who is in charge… at least for now.