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About an iPhone Case: A Personal Story

Let me state from the outset that I’ve never owned an iPhone that arrived in defective condition or developed a defect after heavy use. Unless heavily abused, I expect them to last a fairly long time, other than, of course, the battery. But since most of you probably swap your mobile phones every couple of years anyway, maybe longevity isn’t a deciding factor.

While I realize some of you keep your handheld gadgets in pocket or purse without the safety net provided by some sort of case, I’m sure loads of those accessories are sold. A number of manufacturers are involved in that business, and each of them provide a rich selection of cases and screen coverings.

In light of the report that Apple may be cutting out screen protectors from their retail outlets because they create their own complications if not fitted properly, I got to thinking of my recent efforts to get a slim, secure case with a belt holster, and there aren’t too many of those configurations around.

Since getting my first iPhone in early 2008, I’ve gone through several of those cases. After six or eight months of use, something invariably breaks, usually the holster assembly from the routine process of attaching to a belt, removing it, and being moved around constantly as I go about my daily business.

I can’t say that I’m necessarily more abusive of such accessories than anyone else. I’m not engaged in heavy-duty physical labor, other than my morning exercise routine, involving aerobics and weights, where I’m not running around with an iPhone. Otherwise my working life is fairly sedentary. So I expect most of those cases, other than the ones that are especially thick and heavy, aren’t designed with longevity in mind.

I do welcome your suggestions, however, as to which one to choose next.

However, the worst situation occurred a couple of weeks ago, when I visited a nearby Apple Store to purchase a new case. The selections that include a holster were limited to two or three models. I was about to purchase one of them and placed my iPhone on a table while the clerk was posting the order on her iPhone. As she moved her hands, she apparently struck my iPhone slightly and it fell to the floor. Now my iPhones have fallen to the ground before without visible consequence. This time, the screen was cracked!

When the clerk attempted to deny responsibility, I asked to speak to her manager, who didn’t want to take the blame either. The price to get a replacement iPhone or a screen repair (my choice) was $199. I attempted to appeal to the manager’s sense of logic without result, so I placed a call to Apple’s customer service people, and asked to speak to an executive in charge of support.

No, I didn’t pull rank and tell them I was a long-time tech reporter. It was just a way to get through the bureaucracy as quickly as possible. The Apple representative asked me to describe the situation, and promised to call me back within 30 minutes. Pretty much on schedule, I got that callback, with the assurance that I could return to that store and get a replacement iPhone with the exact configuration of my original.

I still had to get an appointment at the Genius Bar, but they were evidently able to squeeze me in with only a short delay in light of the situation. When I returned to the store, I noticed that the clerk who damaged my iPhone was no longer on the floor. I do hope she didn’t lose her job as the result of my complaint, and perhaps she was only being given a cooling off period or an admonition to be more careful next time. Clearly the destructive act was an unfortunate accident and nothing more.

On the other hand, the personnel at the Apple Store in question seem to have forgotten that classic motto that “the customer is always right.” Indeed, if they were willing to accept half the blame from the outset, and asked me for $99 to repair or replace the iPhone, I probably would have considered the offer, although I have far better uses for my money, as most of you know if you’ve been following my ongoing financial soap opera.

My major concern, though, is that the companies that make those iPhone cases need to work harder to develop products that better withstand the rigors of regular use. That also applies to iPod cases. My son had a few, and none of them lasted more than a few months before we had to shop for a replacement.

Perhaps Apple should be developing its own line of such accessories. Maybe they can show those other companies the way to build a case that’s not just tough, but thin, flexible and, of course, attractive. But as I said, if any of you are aware of a better solution, count me as a willing listener.