Do I need a protective case for my iPhone 5?

This is my first smart phone. I thought one of the advantages of a modern smart phone was the Gorilla Glass and the small size and weight. It seems to me that cases add bulk and weight to the phone, so I find it odd that cases are so common.

Any people out there with an iPhone without a protective case? What has your experience been. It is rare to see a raw iPhone on the streets. Sometimes I think this is just a) security theater (i.e. makes you '''feel''' like the phone is more safe) and b) a way to personalize the now ubiquitous device.

There's an article/video that talks about the efficacy of Gorilla Glass. The summary is it is quite good but that small particulate matter (sand) can scratch the glass. Typical things like coins & keys in the pockets should not scratch the screen.

Given that I feel the glass needs no protection, what value does a case offer?

  • I hope you approve the edits, this looks night and day better to my eyes.
    – bmike
    May 8, 2013 at 21:06
  • The edits to the end of the post improved it greatly. The start felt verbose to me, so I shortened that up. Thanks!
    – stvsmth
    May 9, 2013 at 14:36
  • UPDATE: I've had the iPhone for 9 months, sans case. I've dropped the phone several times with no issues. There are a few light scratches on the screen that I only notice when the screen is dark. A friend has the LifeProof case; she likes it, but I find it annoying. I'm happy with my choice to not use a case.
    – stvsmth
    Feb 11, 2014 at 1:18

3 Answers 3


I have an iPhone 4S. Like you, I originally thought that I ought to get a protective case for my iPhone. I tried several cases, but none of them were satisfactory (too bulky, too cumbersome to open to get to the phone, too ugly).

I now have no case for the phone, and I keep it in my trouser pocket all the time. Instead of getting a case for the phone, though, I got a key case for my keys (which I keep in the same pocket) to prevent them scratching the glass! That solution has worked well - the iPhone is now over a year old but looks as good as new, and I haven't added any size or weight to it.


I can't with any degree of honesty tell you what's best for you, I can only share what I do and try to explain my reasoning.

I am on my third iPhone (original, 4, and now 4S) and have used them uncased, in a bumper-style case(original) before settling on the OtterBox Defender, (original, and another for the 4/4s).

I didn't do this because of fear of scratching. My original iPhone developed some patina during its years of use, including some minor scratches on the Gorilla Glass screen, but it wasn't so bad as to be bothersome. My real concern is dropping the phone. I have a fairly active lifestyle and the iPhone goes along for the ride. For example, I use it as a bike computer (and bicycle entertainment system), so it's clamped to the handlebars in a RAM mount and subjected to dust, moisture (short of downpour–I move it into a weatherproof pocket or bag in that event) and of course the potential of taking a tumble. I also use the phone while offroading and have on numerous occasions dropped the device to the ground from a lifted Land-Rover. (The seat belt loves to strip the phone out of the belt clip as I exit the truck. I pocket carry more often now, but my original and the 4 both hit the pavement more than once.)

I don't mind scratches per say (I like tools that look like they're used)but when I moved to the 4s I sold my 4 to cover most of the cost. The protection afforded by the case is a big plus on this count. (Note that I dislike the screen protector offered by the OtterBox and have removed it from the case, so my screen is "naked", though I could use a stick-on screen protector if I chose to do so.)

That being said, I'm allowed a subsidized replacement (5s?) in October and am rethinking the cumbersome case—it makes the sleek iPhone a little too phablety for my taste and I suspect the slimmer 5 model will sit comfortably in most of my pockets. I will get (may even have) a belt case for the times when I need to go Batman (I'll make sure it has a belt loop, not a clip, so it stays on when I jump out of the truck). The bike mount can be replaced with a stem bag that has a smart phone window on top. It remains to be seen as to whether or not I install a bumper style case or just go naked. That will probably be based on how slippery I find the phone to be. Despite the (alleged) trend preferring bigger phones, I'd like to reduce the bulk and mass of my EDC load out.

In a related note, I completely agree with David Campbell—keys, multi tools and pocket change are the scourge of the screen (and the phone case too, but those scratches are an aesthetic concern, not a potential functional problem). You want to keep these metal objects isolated somehow if you opt for naked pocket carry.

  • Not sure what phablety means, but I like it.
    – stvsmth
    May 9, 2013 at 16:15
  • Phablet is a jargony term for the larger-screen (generally Android) phone models that blur the distinction between phone and tablet.
    – jaberg
    May 9, 2013 at 16:18
  • 2
    +1 for pointing out that cases are most useful for drops. I've dropped the iphone in the 4 and 5 form factor dozens of times on various surfaces, including concrete, in lightweight cases with no damage. I've done it exactly once without a case, and the screen shattered
    – Jaydles
    May 9, 2013 at 19:38

The iPhone 4S has glass on both sides, the glass is very slippery. The primary reason for having a case on my phone is so I don't drop it when I remove it from my pocket.

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