Strength vs. Beauty: Which is more important in a smartphone?

Anna Scantlin
Contributing Editor from  Kansas City, MO
| Published: May 7, 2014


Smartphones today seem to come in two main flavors when it comes to overall design: thin and beautifully designed, or thick but widely considered to be unsightly. The two serve completely different purposes, with the bigger one generally being much more durable when it comes to surviving drops, liquid damage, and other unfortunate trials and tribulations that our smartphones often have to endure; the thinner one, on the other hand, is treated more as eye candy rather than an expensive piece of technology. When it all comes down to it, which one is really more important?


It does seem like OEMs are getting closer to finding the perfect compromise between the two designs, but they’re still not quite where either should be, ideally. More flagship phones, such as the Samsung Galaxy S5 or the Sony Xperia phones, are starting to show the importance of having at least some water and dust resistance, which is a great thing; but there’s still that annoying trend where phones are getting thinner and thinner with each release. It’s like taking a phone and running it over with a rolling pin every year. Every year phones get larger, but thinner. While I’m not saying that a thin phone is going to snap in half just by looking at it, I am saying that the rolling pin effect, much the same as it is with dough, has a similar effect on other materials. It’s thin, so it’s not as hard to break through it. As long as the phone looks good though, right?


Then you have the flip side of the coin: the durable smartphones. They’re big, they’re bad, and most of the time they’re kind of an eyesore if you’re into having something more modern - but it’s not all for naught. It might be an eyesore, but at least you have a much higher chance of protecting all of those precious innards that make a smartphone tick.



And perhaps “eyesore” is a bit of a stretch; not all tougher phones look gruesome. Just look at the differences between the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the Galaxy S4 Active. The Active is noticeably bulkier than the S4, but it’s not that much different; then again, the Active also isn’t quite as built for endurance as, say, the new Cat B15 Smartphone, which is the phone that initially got me to start thinking about which was really more important to have in a smartphone.


Although the Cat B15 isn’t exactly built for more than a niche market, when watching the new promotional video for the phone I couldn’t help but watch in awe at just how much that phone could handle. Just look at this thing!



“’Gravity’ puts one of the newest Cat® products, the Cat B15 Smartphone, to the test to see if it's as rugged as our much larger products. Gravity opens with a Cat MH3049 Material Handler dropping a phone into a pool of water from 35 feet. Then, a Cat 277D Multi Terrain Loader runs over 600 phones placed on the ground. Watch the video to see how the phones fared. #BuiltForIt”


Yeah, that’s right. Some big honkin’ tank truck thing just ran over 600 of those puppies and they’re all perfectly fine. That’s not normal, but it’s awesome. I mean, I want to be able to see that beastly machine run over my phone and have the confidence to react as such:



So here I am thinking to myself, “Dang, I wish my phone could do that,” quickly followed by, “But man, that phone is ugly.” And that’s when I realized that I really had my priorities mixed up.


Ideally, it would be great if beautiful phones could exhibit that kind of brute strength. I imagine one day they will, but for now, most of the time, we have to make the decision to go with beautiful or strong (unless you’re one of the lucky ones that thinks a phone like the Cat B15 is a beautiful phone, in which case, lucky you!) I just find it fascinating that I’m concerned about how my phone looks rather than how well it can function, but it’s true. I do find that I am very conscious about how good a phone looks to me, although I do try to pick phones that have some strong qualities about it (I will never buy a phone with a glass back again).


Which brings me to the point where I ask you, dear reader, which is more important to you in a phone right now? Would you rather have a beautiful phone, or a phone with strength that can take on just about any obstacle? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!


Images via Mashable, Mobile Phones