Cell phones today are all about style. They come with huge touch screens, slim bodies and high-tech voice responses. Because of this, many cell phone manufacturers have placed very little importance on durability. Touch screen phones are a few hard landings away from being useless, slim phones are cracking in the pockets of their owners and, as smart as Siri is, it hasn’t figured out how to make the iphone work underwater.
But there are some manufacturers that are doing the opposite. They’re foregoing style and developing the ultimate communication machines for construction workers, outdoors-men and soldiers. So while most people consider their cell phone to be their most delicate possession, the following technological advances are making other phones (almost) indestructible.
Advances in plastic manufacturing have allowed cell phone makers to create phone casings that can absorb enormous amounts of damage. From high-tech thermoplastic polymers to re-purposed natural materials, manufacturers are using anything they can to increase the durability of their latest models.
• Rubber – Rubber is the original damage-resistant material. From light padding to whole encasement, rubber is a huge part of durable cell phone development.
• Polystyrene – A strong, foam-like plastic polymer that helps a unit distribute the force of impacts evenly, polystyrene has become the go-to material for ultra-durable phones.
• Metals – Various phones are now being constructed with solid metal frameworks or “skeletons” that can take some of the pressure off of the plastic casing when it comes to resisting serious impacts.
No matter how advanced of all types electronics may be, they’re still susceptible to their mortal enemy – water. As anyone who’s ever gotten caught in a bad storm, dropped their phone in the sink or forgotten it in the laundry cycle knows, cell phones simply cannot get wet. Even worse, many cell phone companies use evidence of water damage to deny equipment insurance claims, leaving the customer high and dry with a sopping wet phone.
The durable phones market, on the other hand, has become virtually obsessed with waterproofing cell phones. Companies are competing ferociously to see who can make the model that will go the deepest for the longest time and still come up working. Most companies are using combinations of rubber and plastic to achieve this goal, while others are using a revolutionary process called Nano-Coating.
In Nano-Coating, a super-thin layer of polymer is applied to the electronics, making them virtually impenetrable to liquids. Still, the technology isn’t perfect yet, as no phone has been able to claim complete resistance to long-term submersion. There are more than a few that can be plunged for 30 minutes at a time and still work fine. Some of the top models have even been recorded making and receiving calls while submerged. One reviewer commented that he’d taken a $500 outdoor phone and frozen it overnight in a pan of water, then thawed it out the next day and went right on making phone calls.
Even if a phone can be submerged in water and run over by a car, it’s still nothing more than an expensive paperweight if the user can’t read the screen. Countless otherwise-operable phones have seen early retirement because of cracked displays, and – even worse – most cellphone users will tell you that this vital component is often the easiest to break.
However, rugged cell phone manufacturers are making headway in that area as well. A new compound called Gorilla Glass – a lightweight and ultra-damage-resistant material – has been shown to match durability with regular glass at 1/20th the thickness. Most screens made from Gorilla Glass can take a few hard blows with a hammer before they even begin to crack – making the material the most durable option by far.
And for users who really plan to punish their phones, there’s some upcoming technology that might finally make cracked screens a problem of the past. A company paired with Nokia is working on flexible, bendable displays that may someday allow cell phone users to roll their phones up like a newspaper!
Whether one is an outdoor enthusiast, a hiker, a jogger or just a klutz, there is no reason for to suffer the financial and social pains of a broken cell phone. Thanks to some technological inventiveness, there will soon be a phone out there for every fall, tumble, slip, flood, dive and tussle. And while it may take a slight sacrifice of style, there’s no beating the feeling of getting a $400 phone from the bottom of the pool just in time to answer a phone call.