Why your smartphone case should not be black

by Nate Hoffelder

Nate has been blogging about gadgets for over a decade, first at the online forum MobileRead, and later at his blog, The Digital Reader. He prefers Android over iOS. Windows over MacOS, and is annoyed by redundant product names like Apple's Apple Watch.

May 6, 2023

Most smartphone cases serve a simple and obvious purpose: they keep your phone from getting destroyed. As a rule, they are pretty good at this, so much so that just about any of the cases recommended when buying the phone will do what you need.

Unfortunately, a lot of smartphone cases are black (this seems to be the default option), which means they also inadvertently serve a less desirable purpose: they’re difficult to find in poor lighting conditions.

I had to find this out the hard way. Late last year I misplaced my last smartphone, and had to replace it. About 2 months later, I was cleaning out my car and found the phone under my seat.

You’re probably wondering why I didn’t search my car, because after all that is one of the more likely places to lose a phone. I actually had checked, but did not spot the phone. The black case made it harder to find in the shadows under my seat (a flashlight might have helped here).

I had also tried to use Google’s Find my Device service. It did help me find my phone the last time I lost it, but it didn’t help this time because the battery had died. (Coincidentally, the last time I lost that phone it was under the other car seat.)

Oh, and FYI: Apple has a similar service.

Now, when I first mentioned this issue on Twitter, someone quite reasonably pointed out that  I could always have bought a case in a different color, so what was the big deal? The thing is, I bought the case that the store clerk handed to me. Black is the default color for a lot of electronics, so it didn’t even occur to me to ask for a different color case.

When you buy your next smartphone, try to avoid my mistake. Get a case that stands out; while it might be gaudy, at least you will be able to find it. 

And if you already have a black case, or if you need a more rugged case which is only available in black, you can make it easier to spot by customizing it with reflective tape or paint. You might also use fingernail polish or some other enamel paint to add detail. I would actually tend to avoid this because if I painted my smartphone case, the result would look sloppy.

Your mileage may vary, however.

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