In praise of imperfect phones

In praise of imperfect phones

My old Moto Z2 Play has seen better days. The glass has a little spiderweb of fine cracks around the earpiece. The screen is scuffed. There’s a deep chunk gouged from the top of the aluminium frame.

And I love it. I love the way it wears all its battered, imperfect history.

I can throw it in my pocket without worrying about it getting scratched, because it’s already scratched. I can use it without a case and enjoy the ludicrously slim metal design just as its creators intended. Not using a case also means there’s nothing in the way when I want to snap on a Moto Mod, which I do several times a day, alternating between the Hasselblad camera and the JBL speaker.

Moto Z2 Play with Hasselblad camera and JBL speaker Moto Mods

I rely on my phone as my main camera when I’m walking, kayaking and sailing. It keeps me company as a music or podcast player when I’m doing dusty, dirty jobs in the garden, the garage or at the allotment. It lives in a world of sawdust and mud and salty air.

Living by the beach, my pockets are almost always full of sand. I don’t put it there, but it finds a way. If you live on the coast you’ll know what I mean. Sand has a mind of its own. You can’t fight it. You can’t hide from it. It will find you.

I have other phones. They live on my desk. They have gloriously curved screens with perfect glass. I tried to take one out on a walk yesterday to shoot some photos. When I pulled it out of my pocket, it was covered in little grains of sand and grit. They were trapped between the plastic of the case and those delicate, beautiful curves at the edge of the screen. It took me a few minutes to carefully brush them off. I wrapped the phone in a plastic bag and stuffed it deep in my inside pocket, cocooned from harm, and there it stayed for the rest of the hike.

The curious thing is, I don’t want a rugged phone. I know they exist. ‘Mil spec’ and camo paint. Big chunky plastic accents. It’s not for me. No, what I want is not a rugged phone but rather a phone that’s rugged. A phone which was designed to be used in the real world, without needing to be hidden in a big case and without needing to be coddled. To me, that means some basic things:

  • Hard wearing materials, which age elegantly as they inevitably pick up bumps and scrapes.
  • A shape and texture which is inherently grippable and ergonomic.
  • A frame designed to minimise weakness and pressure points when dropped.
  • Priced low enough that, if the worst happens and I smash it beyond repair, I’m not going to be adding insult to injury by swallowing a significant financial hit.

I wonder how much of a minority I’m in with this? If I’m not alone, perhaps you would like to share a photo or story of your own beautifully imperfect phone?

Moto Z2 Play with dented side

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