There's nothing exciting about smartphone cases. The prophylactics of the gadget world, they cost literally pennies to make; go to any consumer electronics trade show, and they will be thrust into your hands by dealers with the same imploring quality used by volunteers trying to get sex workers to accept handfuls of latex condoms.
But there is still innovation in case design. Case in point (ahem), the one for the HTC One M8, which manages to make one of the major drawbacks of a case—that it obscures the design of your smartphone in the name of protection—into an actual feature, thanks to some clever software.
As the design of smartphones has increasingly been taken over by their front displays, one thing we've lost from the clamshell days of cell phone yore is the ability to check alerts without turning on our devices. What makes the HTC One M8's Dot View case so clever is that it uses a SmartCover-like design to show you alerts without ever waking up the display.
It works kind of like a Lite-Brite. Working in coordination with the HTC One M8— which can tell when the Dot View case is closed—the display lights up only enough pixels to display a low-resolution grid of dots. This keeps power usage down but also allows your smartphone to show the time, weather, caller ID, and other missed event notifications through the case, even when the phone is in standby mode.
It's a great idea: If you're going to cover up a beautiful smartphone design, at least add functionality. Unfortunately, it's only available for one smartphone right now, but if you're buying an HTC One M8, the case can be purchased for $50.