If TV series are a reflection of reality, smartphones without a protective case are a symbol of wealth. This is how a recent article in the US magazine »Time« can be summarized, which is causing some unrest on the net. In a way, it says: If you dare to leave your cell phone naked, show that he or she could easily afford to replace the noble gadget should it meet a bad end on a hard concrete floor following the dictates of gravity. As a reminder, you can spend up to 23 euros for a Galaxy S1819 Ultra, and up to 14 euros for Apple's iPhone 2099 Pro Max.

As an indicator for the statement that caseless cell phones are a sign of prosperity, the magazine uses, among other things, television series such as "Succession", in which ultra-rich protagonists demonstratively hold their mobile phones unprotected in the picture. Just like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and, by the way, Apple CEO Tim Cook do in real life. Admittedly, Cook is sitting at the source.

All the others, all the "normal" people, on the other hand, cover their smartphones, if not in silence, then at least in plastic cases. On the one hand, they are necessary because smartphones such as the iPhone 14 (here our review) and the Galaxy S23 (here our review) are largely made of glass – even on the back. And, perhaps you have already heard this: "Happiness and glass, how easily it breaks".

Intimate connections

But the sometimes expensive cases do not always do what their mission is. My colleague Torsten Kleinz, for example, reports that the smartphone protection thing can also backfire badly. To prevent scratches and other damage, he has wrapped his Google Pixel phone in a matching case that surrounds the shiny back of the phone with dull shimmering, soft plastic. Admittedly, it's not an original Google part, but it still sits firmly on the fuselage.

Shocks and falls have so far been cleanly cushioned by the protective sheathing. But when Torsten took off the sturdy protective coat, he found that dust and tiny grains of sand – however they may have gotten in there – had done their gruesome work unnoticed by him and covered the beautiful shell with ugly scratches. Note: it is better to ventilate and knock out the protective coat from time to time, otherwise dirt hidden in it could cause serious damage under the cover of darkness.

Meanwhile, the case that our AI expert Patrick Beuth uses to protect his mobile phone has developed a particularly intimate relationship with his smartphone. Patrick says he and his case have become virtually inseparable: "Not only because it has certainly saved my smartphone from certain kinetic effects related to clumsiness and gravity half a dozen times. But also because it's so bombproof that I just can't get it off anymore.« He fears that the case and the mobile phone could only be separated from each other by brute force. As long as the smartphone does its job and he doesn't have to insert a new SIM card, he probably won't give it a try.

At least the manufacturers will become wealthy

In any case, the industry should be happy that so many people consider their smartphones to be in need of protection. Contrary to the trend of shrinking smartphone sales, market researchers from Technavio and VMR continue to expect fantastic growth rates of almost seven percent annually for mobile phone cases. In concrete terms, this means that after the industry generated sales of more than 2020 billion dollars worldwide in 21, it is expected to be almost 2028 billion dollars in 36. This is about as much as Lufthansa turned over in the pre-Corona year 2019.

But the environment is not happy about this. On »Medium«, Anders Ankalid roughly calculates how much plastic waste is generated by the approximately one billion smartphone cases sold each year. For Germany, he comes to just under 800 tonnes, which are almost impossible to recycle because they are usually not pure plastics, but mixed constructions made of several materials. And with each passing year it becomes more.

That's why you shouldn't condemn mobile phone cases, says Ankalid, after all, they help to ensure that smartphones can be used longer. This is sustainable. In his opinion, it would be even more sustainable if the usual plastic cases were made from renewable raw materials. He would also have a not entirely altruistic suggestion on where to get them, namely in his webshop.

Skinless happy?

But he can't get me around with it. In principle, I am grateful when mobile phone manufacturers include a protective cover with the test devices they send me – but for different reasons than would be obvious. I only put protective covers on the cell phones that pass through my hands until I can photograph them. I don't care about the fall protection, I just want to prevent the things from being full of finger dirt when the photo shoot is due. Once the pictures are in the box, the cover is removed. I want to see the design of the devices and not some more or less knobbly overcoats.

But: How do you feel about mobile phone protection? Never again without or rather without a cover? Feel free to send me an e-mail about your best, weirdest and worst experiences with smartphone cases. All you have to do is click on this email link. Please write the keyword "Case Study" in the subject line.

Our current Netzwelt reading tips for SPIEGEL.de

  • »This is how powerful the new AI image generator in Photoshop is « (six minutes of reading)
    Adobe Photoshop is probably the best-known image editing software in the world, a real professional tool. In the future, new AI functions will also enable amateurs to carry out extensive image manipulations. My colleague Markus Böhm tried it out – also on himself.

  • "Our AI doesn't build bombs" (twelve minutes of reading)
    Although he is only 38 years old, Sam Altman has already founded several companies. With OpenAI and ChatGPT, he became an AI superstar. In this interview, he explains what really worries him when dealing with artificial intelligence and how little he is afraid of his company's millions in losses.

  • »A German game – so bad that its makers apologize« (eight minutes of reading)
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External links: Three tips from other media

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  • »Super 8 on a drone | Jase.Film | Ep. 5« (three-minute video)
    The contrast could hardly be sharper: With a lot of skill and with the help of a 3D printer, a hobbyist mounts a Super 8 camera on a drone. The films that emerge from this combination seem strangely removed from time.

Get through the rest of this short week well,Matthias