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iPhone Protection: Because Who's Got an Extra $600 Lying Around?

The iPhone 5 is just around the corner, with most rumor sites pegging release sometime in late September or early October, so who cares if you drop your iPhone ans shatter the screen, right? Well, given that we’re just barely climbing out of a major recession, and unemployment still hovers at just north of 9%, I would wager to say most people. Most of us simply don’t have the $600 lying around to ditch our current phone and switch over to the hot new thing from Apple every year. Most of us have to sit and wait patiently for our contract to run out so we can be eligible for the discounted handset price. So what do we do in the meantime to make sure we’re not stuck walking around with a mashed-up back-plate and a cracked screen (like a certain laptop repair blogger is currently doing)? Why, get some good protection, of course.

There are several things you can do to protect your smartphone investment, with the options mostly arrayed between proactive and reactive. Proactive means some sort of mechanism, usually a case, to prevent damage from happening in the first place. Reactive protection includes things like warranties and service plans that make repairs cheaper if something does happen to your phone.

When it comes to proactive protection, there are two ways you can go: cases and screen protectors. Both represent tremendously high returns on investment. Think about it: a top of the line case for an iPhone 4 like the OtterBox Defender will run you about $50 with tax. If that case prevents just one broken screen, it has paid for itself twice, since at best you’d be looking at just over $100 for a screen repair. And every drop that it prevents after that is an extra $100 in your pocket. Even simple jelly cases like the kind you can pick up from mall kiosks and chinatown street vendors will help when it comes to preventing dings and dents.

There are some things to keep in mind when choosing a case, though. Shopping for cases always involves trade-offs and compromises. Generally, these trade-offs involve sacrificing protection for looks and thinness, and to a lesser extent protection, looks, and thinness for money. The better your case protects, the bulkier and, let’s face it, uglier it will be, and the more it will run you.

The other major downside of cases and screen protectors is that oftentimes they give iPhone users a false sense of security. A lot of people will automatically treat their phones with less care if they think that their case will protect it. A good example of this is tossing the phone carelessly into your pocket without thinking twice about what else may be in there or how easily the phone can fall out. Things like keys, lighters, and lose change can quickly do a number on your phones screen, and there is always a risk of you bumping into something or sitting on your phone by accident, or simply having it fall out. Much safer than simply tossing a phone into your jean or jacket pocket is putting it onto a good belt clip with a hard case. And when I say “good”, I don’t mean a $5 part from chinatown that looks like it was made out of slightly used cardboard. Make sure you get a belt clip with a good, solid spring and a strong clipping mechanism.

An important thing to keep in mind is that proactive protection doesn’t start and end with buying a case or screen protector. There are all sorts of things you can do to actively prevent your phone from being damaged in the first place. As mentioned above, be careful about where you keep your phone. Your pocket might not be such a great idea. If you carry your iPhone in your purse, make sure you’re not also lugging around scrap metal, or your car keys, where they can scratch up the glass. It’s also important to keep in mind also that to date there is not a single iPhone case that is waterproof, and most aren’t even water-resistant, so no matter how nice your case, you will always have to beware of spills and other liquid damage. Avoid water like the plague. If you go to a pool party, leave your phone somewhere far away from the water so you don’t accidentally drop it in or fall in with it in your pocket. It sounds a little silly, I know, but if I had a dollar for every person who’s walked through these doors with a soggy iPhone and a story of jumping into a pool or being thrown in by friends with a $600 toy in their pocket, I would be a rich man. Don’t take your phone to the beach, or if you do leave it in the car. Besides the fact that nothing will destroy sensitive electronics faster than sea water, you also have to worry about sand and other particles that can not only scratch your iPhones screen but make a mess inside the case and play havoc with delicate circuits.

Another important point that people often forget is that your iPhone is no longer just your phone. It’s also your music library, your rolodex, your personal file storage device, your camera, and a thousand and one other important devices rolled in to one. The big thing to note here is that often times the data we store on our phones is almost more valuable than the phone itself. That’s why one of the most important ways you can protect yourself is to backup your phone regularly. Connect your phone to iTunes every day, if you can, and have it make local copies of your documents and files overnight. Or if for some reason your phone won’t sync with iTunes, like if you’ve jailbroken it, you can use this handy method to backup files that iTunes doesn’t want to have anything to do with. Back up your files regularly and even if the worst happens, you won’t loose all your files and apps.

Protecting your iPhone is no trivial feat. It’s a fragile animal with a lot of predators, and it doesn’t take much to break it. However, if you follow these couple of simple precautions and take care, you should have no problem with your iPhone lasting long past your two year contract.

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