Why our phones are our most important fashion accessory

Galaxy Z Flip Black Flex Mode Lock Screen
Galaxy Z Flip Black Flex Mode Lock Screen (Image credit: iMore)

When Samsung first announced the Galaxy Z Flip, it made big waves for being a different kind of folding phone. Instead of folding vertically (the long way), it folds horizontally. It's an ingenious idea from Samsung for multiple reasons, one of them being that it's visually appealing. It's so different that it screams, "Look at this brand new tech that I'm holding!" New tech, however, is not the only reason it's such an exciting design. It is also, decidedly, a fashion statement. It looks like the compact mirror that many women carry around in our bags. Samsung is even marketing the Z Flip as a fashion accessory, saying it's "The phone that embodies fashion."

From a woman's perspective

Some of my male counterparts expressed concern that Samsung's women-centric marketing might be a little distasteful, that it assumes women are less interested in a phone's technical abilities and more in what it looks like. Yes, women are just as interested in how powerful and advanced our phones' technology is. On the other hand, however, making a phone that looks like a compact mirror is the most interesting marketing angle I've seen for a phone.

Making a phone that looks like a compact mirror is the most interesting marketing angle I've seen for a phone.

As soon as that Z Flip appeared, I was immediately drawn to it. It felt familiar — comfortable, even. Most women will agree that, even if we don't carry a compact mirror in our purse or bag, someone we know does. It's ubiquitous. Seeing a phone that reminded me of something so ordinary, so feminine, was like realizing that someone out there finally made a phone for women.

I never even thought I wanted a phone made just for me, but now that there is one, I want more.

Not just for women

Though the revelation I had when seeing the Z Flip was unique, it's not that women are the only ones for which a fashion phone is special. Years ago, when smartphones were first hitting the scene, and even before smartphones, we chose our phones based on what they looked like, not whether they had better cameras.

Of course, what's inside the phone has always counted, but there were visually unique options back then. Today, most smartphones look nearly identical. We sit around arguing over whether a camera bump should be a "squircle" or a line, or whether a front camera should be a notch or a hole. That's because the rest of the phones look so similar that it's all we have to identify ourselves with.

All of us, no matter our gender identity, are craving the option to pick a phone that fits our style.

All of us, no matter our gender identity, are craving the option to pick a phone that fits our style. That's why phone cases are so popular. Sure, they protect from scratches, but if that were the only reason, there'd only be one style of phone case. Instead, we have cases that look like cupcakes, that have floating glitter, that are made from leather, that are so thin it doesn't look like there's even a case on the phone. We're trying to make our phones fit our fashion.

Wouldn't you like to be able to show off your phone's unique style instead of showing off a case that hides your $1,000 investment?

Your phone is your most personal possession

In 2020, our phones are the most personal things we have. They know when our next appointment is, carry our most precious pictures, let us know when we should leave, remind us to get milk when we get to the store, and even turn on our lights and unlock our doors. They help us pay our bills, know every single password for every single account we have, even accounts we don't remember we have (if we're using good password managers), know our music tastes, entertain us, and can even save our lives.

The phone you choose to carry today is also a reflection of how you want to be perceived by others.

The phone you choose to carry today is also a reflection of how you want to be perceived by others. Whether you carry an iPhone, one of the many varieties of Android phones, or even if you're refusing to move into the smartphone century and are still carrying a non-smart cellular phone, these are all statements, which tell others what is important to you.

Whether we want to admit it, the phone we choose already does represent us, to some degree. It makes a statement of what we consider to be important in mobile computing.

Fashionable future

Why then, are there so few choices in what a phone looks like? I can understand that, as technology progressed, and specific phone designs captured everyone's attention, different phone makers wanted to capitalize on the popularity, but it's gotten out of control. Phones are too similar in design today. They are, across the board, a bit of a bore. Not because of what they can do. That's exciting! Technical advancements in mobile computing, however, are the only thing truly exciting about most new phones.

Phone design, across the board, has become a bit of a bore.

That's why foldable phones, and for me, the Z Flip in particular, have such an exciting future ahead. I love seeing new and different styles of phones that have become somewhat stale. It's less about the ability to fold glass (which is pretty amazing) and more about seeing how companies are solving for fashion.

Today, there are only a few foldable phones that you can buy and a few prototypes in the pipeline. There are two phones with the compact design: the Z Flip and Motorola's Razr. There are also a couple of phones that fold vertically, providing a much larger screen than any phone you could fit in your pocket right now, like the Galaxy Fold and the Huawei Mate X, the latter of which has a screen that folds outward instead of inward.

There are also phone concepts with two separate screens that work as a sort-of paired screen experience, like LG's V50 ThinkQ. There are actually quite a few prototypes and concepts for foldable phones out there.

If we're lucky, foldable phones will kickstart a new trend to make phones more fashionable and representative of our personal style.

More navigation links:

(opens in new tab)

Lory is a renaissance woman, writing news, reviews, and how-to guides for iMore. She also fancies herself a bit of a rock star in her town and spends too much time reading comic books.  If she's not typing away at her keyboard, you can probably find her at Disneyland or watching Star Wars (or both).

5 Comments
  • A phone is just a tool. No more no less. To judge a person by the type of phone they use is rather sad.
  • agreed! etad putta
  • Well, I feel the same way for the first two sentences, but if Lory and others see the phone as an extension of their identity, I mean....why should we hate on that? It's definitely not (an item of status or an extension of my identity). But honestly, I'm old, and thoroughly unstylish, and, even though I'm an iOS developer, I use the iPad a lot more than the iPhone, 'cause it's just too small (iPhone 11 Pro Max) for my old eyes, and I need a real keyboard. I mainly use my iPhone 11 Pro Max for (!) phone calls. It's too small for me, to use as a general purpose computer. But you know, obviously, all the people who consume these apps and devices that my living depends on, they perceive the world very differently. It would be self-sabotaging for me to hate on that.
  • Remember when Steve Jobs abandoned a plastic screen for a glass screen? 13 years later, he was still right.
  • I guess in these times gloves and a mask are our most important fashion accessory.