The iPhone 5 isn't the biggest or fastest, but it's held up to physical standards of perfection that make the immaculate womb of Mary look like amateur hour. The phone is supposed to be a consummate beauty. But after two months of constant use, it's already showing wear and tear. Scratch-phobes, beware.
Below are two phones with very different lifestyles. One is a bit scratched up since launch day, one isn't. There's my phone, which was purchased on launch day, and has never known the touch of a case. I carry it in my pocket, or sometimes toss it in a bag with other stuff, every single day. The other (control) phone belongs to a coworker whose phone has been locked in a case from the day it was picked up at the end of September.
So let's take a very close look. Just how vulnerable is the iPhone 5?
With a case...
...an iPhone 5 looks like it did the day you took it out of the box, of course.
Note the pristine bezel, the unblemished chamfers.
The entire perimeter of the phone is without a single, even slight scratch.
But without a case...
Yeah, there are scratches. Scratches deep enough to dig through the iPhone 5's matte black treatment and reveal the silver aluminum beneath. Compare the two phones above.
Almost all of the corners show at least slight wearing or a little chipping.
Some worse than others.
And there's that drop bump.
And another dink.
Again, the slight wearing of the material can be seen all the way around.
Does it really matter?
Every iPhone has accumulated wear and tear over the years. Nothing looks like new after it's out in the world day after day—not smartphones, not iPods, not humans. And if you live in constant fear of scratching your devices, you're probably going to have an extremely anxious and unhappy existence. Shit happens, and things fall on the ground. You can't let worrying about a thing stop you from enjoying the thing.
And yet, we do pay extra for the iPhone because of its looks. It's a shallow premium that we've bought into, and one we expect to cash out on. There's nothing wrong with wanting your phone to look good after a year when that's what you've paid for. And there's a distinct difference between damage and aging—while leather shoes take on character as they decay a bit, a chipped smartphone might not exactly acquire a patina.
Maybe this will haunt you. Maybe this is what we get for an iPhone whose back isn't made out of shatter-prone glass, but scratch-prone aluminum. Maybe you should get a far more durable Galaxy SIII or Lumia 920 if you're worried about cosmetic longevity. Or maybe you don't give a shit about your smartphone's paint job.
Either way, this is how much the iPhone 5 has been worn down by normal use after two months. Extrapolating forward a year or so from now doesn't take that much imagination. It's going to chip more. I'm sorry, but it's true.