This weekend, I brought the Nokia 4.2 to Hollywood Studios with me while spending the weekend with my twin and cousin. When my twin saw the naked Nokia, she immediately asked, "You don't have a case for that?" "No, I'm literally sending this off to a coworker the day I'm done reviewing it." "Isn't that dangerous, though?"
Her confusion made sense: I've bought cases for just about every phone I've been sent by Android Central, and it felt foreign to carry a phone around the parks — in sweaty hands and sweatier pockets — without the grip and drop protection of a case. Cases are a foregone conclusion for flagship phones like a Galaxy S10 and a OnePlus 7 Pro, but even for a $189 phone like the Nokia 4.2, cases are all but necessary thanks to a confluence of design trends and the simple need to protect the most important device in most users' lives.
Smartphones have never really reached the legendary durability of the old Nokia 3310 and Moto DynaTac bricks — unless you count specialized rugged phones like the CAT S61 — but as more and more phones migrate to glass backs, curved screens, and thinner profiles, they get more unruly to hold and easier to break. This extends beyond premium phones to even mid-range phones like the Moto G7, which has a sculpted Gorilla Glass 3 back. Even budget phones with polycarbonate backs are being designed to feel and act like glass: shiny and slippery.
It's a recipe for disaster, and once you've bought the phone, the only answer is a case.
This isn't helped by the fact that 6-inch phones are now the norm rather than the super-sized oddity. While some phones are still chasing after the pursuit of a lighter phone, most phones instead are trying to fit in more screen and more battery without adding width, which has led to devices like the 206g OnePlus 7 Pro, which is heavy, tall, and glass-backed. That phone is so desperately in need of protection, it comes with a case in the box.
Protection and grip are the two paramount features of a case, and with phones that a more slippery and more prone to damage, cases are needed now more than ever, especially once you factor in the other accessories that are becoming more common — and more needed — with these bigger, slicker phones.
Meet the PopSocket, the most popular phone grip on the market. When I'm people-watching, PopSockets outnumber other phone grips 20:1, but I seldom see one stuck directly to the back of a phone. PopSockets adhesive base can have trouble grabbing hold of some glass-backed phones — and curved-back phones — and more importantly, no one wants to risk the adhesive messing up the back of the phone if it has some unexpected reaction or doesn't come off cleanly. Cases to the rescue!
Case in point: I've been testing Speck's GrabTab grips, which are the size of a credit card and have adhesive across the entire base. There was no way in hell I was sticking that directly to my new Purple-ish Pixel 3a, but if I can't unstick it from the clear Cimo case I did stick it to, I'm only out 8 bucks.
The second reason for adhering accessories to a case rather than to the phone directly is so they won't interfere with wireless charging. Magnetic car mounts — which are the best car mounts — require a magnetic plate to be adhered to your phone or your phone case to have a magnetic plate built into it. The happy compromise most people use instead is to slip the magnetic plate between their case and their phone, something I did for three years before getting a car with Android Auto.
Some users still try to make excuses to run naked. "Cases are too bulky." Buy a Totallee. Why would I want to cover up my phone's beauty? Clear cases to the rescue! "I don't need one." Gravity says otherwise. "Cases are ugly." Say that again. I dare you. Call this case ugly one more time! I dare you!! I double dare you!!!
I've written dozens of case roundups for this site in the last year — they're some of the most fun articles to research because I can go hunting for cases that are beautiful but off the beaten path, like these Nimbus9 cases users have been raving about in our forums — and through thin cases, heavy duty cases, clear cases, colorful cases, and the awesome selection of Pride cases I've looked through this year, I'm more certain of my little mantra than ever.
No matter your taste, your phone needs a case!
- Best Pixel 3a cases
- Best Galaxy S10 cases
- Best OnePlus 7 Pro cases
- Best Pixel 3 cases
- Best Nokia 4.2 cases
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