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Why Apple’s iPhone 5C Case Is Pure Genius

The iPhone 5C solves one of the silliest problems in smartphone design.

You may hate the iPhone 5C case. And that’s totally fair. But I love it.

I think it’s ingenious from a business standpoint—Apple has found a way to sell us a colorful iPhone and a colorful iPhone case to cover it up. You can’t really have the whole iPhone 5C statement without the sum of each part. Apple has just created the suit and tie of the personal electronics world—an expensive base with an inexpensive-yet-overpriced accent piece.

But more important, Apple has solved one of the most perplexing industrial design problems of the smartphone era: How do you keep a product’s identity when you cover it with rubber? Because the sad fact of personal electronics is that Apple has to either build an iPhone that’s four times thicker, sporting a plastic touch screen bezeled in silly putty (while all of their competitors opt to go svelte and fragile), or it has to acknowledge the fact that its idolatrized hardware really isn’t sturdy enough to live on someone’s body for two years before breaking.

Not to mention that the public insists on wrapping cases around anything they covet, whether it’s sturdy or not. Remember car bras? Cases are a social inevitability when it comes to expensive things. I’m surprised newlyweds don’t wrap car bras around their diamond rings lest they be scratched!

So Apple has discovered a seemingly obvious compromise: Just combine the aesthetic of the case with the aesthetic of the original product. Transform the phone and the clunky companion shell into a single entity that’s something more quirky, more personalizable, and, of course, more durable for the union.

The iPhone 5C is not Apple’s venue for minimalism—that’s what the iPhone 5S is for. The 5C is Apple’s platform for too much color and overt design. As Jony Ive put it, the iPhone 5C is "beautifully, unapologetically plastic." It’s brash. It knows it should think more before making choices. It knows it’s cheap.

All of this said, I will concede, if the iPhone is going to adopt a transparent polka dot case, then it needs to rethink the typography showing under it.

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