The Two Pocket Problem: How My iPhone Survived a Year Riding in a Pocket With My Keys

Put this in the category of “first world problems”.

Back in the days before cell phones, men generally had two things on them at all times: a wallet and a set of keys. Since most men don’t consider it socially acceptable to carry a purse, this mean carrying the wallet and keys in your pocket.  Most pairs of pants had two front pockets, so this worked out pretty well.

Once cell phones became popular, a problem arose. You now had to carry three items (wallet, keys and cellphone), but you still only had two pockets. Wallets tend to be fairly bulky and take up most of the space in a pocket, so if you put your keys in their with them, it gets very hard to fish out your keys without doing a little dance squeeze your hand in past your wallet. If you put your cell phone in with your wallet, they take up so much space that you look like you are carrying a softball around in your pants. The remaining choice is to put your cellphone in the same pocket as your keys. Back when I had an old clamshell style phone, I did this for a few years. It worked well enough, but the keys were constantly scraping against the phone. After about six months, the phone looked like it had been chewed by a dog. While not great for the aesthetics of the phone, it didn’t matter much since the clamshell style protected the vital areas of the screen and keys.

Now some people will point out that their are more than two pockets on pants – namely, the back pockets. Personally, I’ve never understood the idea of storing any of these items in your back pockets. Sitting on your phone doesn’t seem like a great way to keep it operating, and sitting on your keys is painful. I know that many people sit on their wallets, but this still doesn’t strike me as comfortable, and it seems like an open invitation for pickpockets.

When I upgraded to a smartphone (a Treo 650), I didn’t want to take the risk. If the screen got scratched, my several hundred dollar phone would be pretty much shot. I decided that since being a software engineer already put me firmly in the dork category, it wouldn’t be too bad to to start wearing my phone on my belt. I wan’t happy about it as a fashion decision, but I tried to compensate for it by finding nice, designer belt cases that would at least try to dress it up a little bit. For my Treo, I was quite happy with a french designed case from Covertec.

When I finally upgraded to an iPhone, I was never able to find a belt case as nice or as functional. The iPhone belt cases tended to be of much shoddier construction, and I found myself constantly wearing them out after a few months and searching for a new one. Their latches were not well designed, leading to unfortunate scratches when my phone slipped out while running across a street. And they were just ugly – it seemed like all of the smart designers were making slider or bumper cases.

After much unhappiness, one year ago I decided to take the plunge and put my iPhone back in my pocket with my keys. I figured that I would be replacing it in a year anyways when the new models came out (this was back when we expected another summer release for the iPhone 5), and if worst came to worst and I seriously damaged it, I would use it as an excuse for an early upgrade to an iPhone 4. I bought a slider case for the phone to protect the plastic parts, held my breath, and slipped the phone into my pocket with my keys.

Now, one year later, the iPhone itself is in pristine condition. There isn’t a single scratch on the glass:


The case itself looks like it has been chewed by a dog, but it just slides off and can be replaced for $20. The iPhone underneath is just fine.


While I have been careful to keep the glass of the phone front facing the pocket fabric, away from they keys, I cannot imagine that it has not periodically gone in backwards or been jumbled around when running after my kids. I can only conclude that the glass of the iPhone is indeed made of very strong stuff.

Based on this success, when the iPhone 5 comes out in a few months, I am definitely going to keep it in my pocket, with my keys. The phone survives just fine

And apologies to those of you who wear your phones on your belts and may find this post insulting :-).

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1 Response to The Two Pocket Problem: How My iPhone Survived a Year Riding in a Pocket With My Keys

  1. Jen says:

    Nice post. I have the same 3 items and only use 2 front pockets.

    I put my keys and wallet in front right pocket, phone in front right pocket. It is ok but only need to worry if I have accidentally pulled out the keys when I am pulling out the wallet.

    I guess you could buy a leather key holder and button up the keys inside the leather so it will not scratch your phone.

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