You may love the iPhone 5C case. And that’s totally fair. But I hate it.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. The iPhone 5C case looks like a Connect Four. But that’s not what I hate about it. With the iPhone 5C, Apple is trying to channel a certain casual playfulness compared with the austere beauty of the iPhone 5S. So channeling the visual design of a colorful game from the mid-’70s is a clever design stroke. The case is also spiritually faithful to iOS 7’s new look as a whole, which is all about the juxtaposition of bold complementary colors within geometric grids.
We’re sold so far. I know what Apple is going for here. I can see how Jony Ive might have been playing Connect Four with his daughter one day when, all of a sudden, inspiration hit, his eyes rolled white and colorful polypropylene started unspooling itself from his mouth until this particular iPhone 5C case had been formed like a pattern of ectoplasm, hovering in mid-air. Nice work! But here’s what I don’t understand.
Apple is known for its rigorous, iterative testing process. For every product Apple releases, it likes to brag a hundred products get thrown into the bin because some small, niggling detail was wrong. How, then, could the iPhone 5C get manufactured in bulk without anyone at Apple ever actually putting one on an iPhone 5C to see how it looked? Because that’s the only explanation that makes sense to me considering what the iPhone 5C case looks like when used with an actual iPhone 5C.
Here’s my specific complaint. On the back of every iPhone, Apple prints some text. First, the word “iPhone” is printed in big letters. Then, underneath, a box with rounded corners says how much storage the device has. Beneath, Apple’s famous “Designed by Apple in California” slogan appears. Finally, the scrawl is finished off with the device’s model number, FCC ID, and other legally mandated regulatory mumbo jumbo.
If the iPhone 5C case merely hid this text, I’d have no problem with the design. Nor would I have much of an issue if a little window had been left open for it, or at least the word “iPhone.” They could even have moved the polkadot grid to the top of the case instead of the bottom and I’d be fine. What is mystifying to me is the way the polkadot grid of the iPhone 5C case half-obscures, half-exposes all of this text. It looks terrible, like a Playskool fishnet stocking that has been sloppily pulled over a sign.
Just look at this thing. Three letters in the word “iPhone” are obscured. In addition, there wasn’t even a cursory attempt to line up the size and spacing of the case’s perforations with the size and spacing of the printed text. So when you put on an iPhone 5C case, your iPhone doesn’t say iPhone on the back. The “iP” and “e” are obscured, as is the very top of the “h.” So instead of “iPhone,” it says “non.” Which is exactly what some token Frenchman working within Apple should have said when he saw this thing actually pulled onto an iPhone 5C for the first time.
The reason Apple missed this is because Apple execs don’t besmirch their iPhones with cases. They go bareback, and think you should, too. Sure, they’ll sell you a case, because they cost pennies to make and retail for $29.99 a pop–the magic condoms of the gadget world. But in their heart of hearts, they don’t think anyone should actually be using one. What this missed detail shows is what Apple really thinks about people who buy iPhone cases: If you want to use one, you’re probably some clumsy slob who doesn’t care much about the details anyway.