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How the Pandemic Brought Me Back Around to the Hard Phone Case

It’s a protective suit of rubber and plastic armor that makes it easy to basically dunk my whole handset directly in bleach.


Live in New York City long enough, and you’ll collected a mental database of disease vectors. Subway poles touched by ten thousand hands a day, many of which stopped by a mouth or nose on the way there. Sidewalks coated with decaying food and other assorted filth — particles of which make their way onto the soles of your shoes and onto the floor of your apartment. It’s nine million people bouncing off one another like atoms in an A-bomb that gives New York its energy, but that also makes it a great place for germs to get around.

I have long made sure to wash my hands after riding on the subway or bus, especially before eating; and I’ve long tried to keep from wearing my shoes inside as much as possible. So when the coronavirus pandemic slammed into society a few months back and the CDC began instructing everyone on the importance of scrubbing their hands like they were surgeons about to perform a heart transplant, I felt like I already was prepared.

But then came the concerns over everything else the virus might cling on to. Amazon packages. Clothes. And most worrying, the little auxiliary brain in my pocket: my iPhone. Your cell phone is already one of the dirtiest objects you own. Could my little iPhone companion be unwittingly carrying a nasty dose of novel coronavirus that could put me on my back? Into the ICU? Worse yet, one of those white refrigerated trucks?

So I started scrubbing my phone down. A lot. I don’t have any UV-based solutions so instead I began taking a bleach-based cleaning solution to it, gently misting it on all sides before wiping it down with microfiber cloth and paper towel once a day, ideally once my excursions into the outside world were done. It only took one round of spray for me to abandon my iPhone’s leather case; it wouldn’t have manages much past  a second, and besides, its porous surface was much harder to clean.

And so I went back to an older companion: the OtterBox Defender. My first iPhone, back in 2009, went straight from the pristine Apple packaging into the embrace of one a decade ago, and turned me into That Guy who like to drop his phone on concrete as a party trick. Today’s Defender is a little different from its ancestor, with no built-in screen cover to protect (or obscure) a modern iPhone’s flashy OLED screen. (Though I’ve added an aftermarket one myself.) And now that iPhone’s are so much larger than they were ten years ago, a hefty protective case is that much larger.

Still, it’s three-piece suit of rubber and plastic armor for my smartphone, with a rubber cover over the Lightning port — one that makes it easy to more or less dunk my whole handset directly in bleach. It’s helped set my mind at ease, but maybe not much else; the CDC now says the novel coronavirus doesn’t seem to spread readily via surfaces. And that’s nice to know. But it won’t stop me from giving this guy a wash.

OtterBox Defender Series: $51+


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