You can get a smartphone case that’s thin, thick, durable, and pretty, but can you get one that will make you feel safe in these troubled times?
Germs. People typically don’t like them, and in times like this, the constant washing of our hands is making us more aware of germs as a whole.
Our phones tend to be a haven for them, thanks in part to their proximity to our mouth, spit, ears, face, fingers, and the outside world in general. Even in a self-isolation environment, phones can be one of those things that when you think about it, can sound pretty gross.
Fortunately, if you have one of those new water resistant phones, you can ease the eww by washing it, and even if you don’t, you can clean a phone.
Or you can turn to something a little different, and let the case do the hard work keeping germs at bay, keeping bacteria away.
It’s something you can find in a technology that exists in select phone cases and screen protection, and it’s called antimicrobial protection, though also gets called “antibacterial”, as well. Technically, it’s a level of protection for a device not unlike water resistance, except for bacteria.
We’ve seen it from OtterBox and Tech21, and depending on who you get it from, it typically means a layer of antimicrobial protection has been applied to reduce odours and stains, though may also mean bacterial reductions overall.
But will an antimicrobial case affect the coronavirus?
Antimicrobial vs antiviral
If you’re hoping screen and phone protection with properties that can affect the microscopic life that is a virus like the coronavirus or even the common flu, think again. The two concepts sound similar, but come across as different things altogether, and work on different scales.
Simply put, bacteria and viruses aren’t the same, and so while antibacterial treatments are developed for bacteria, antivirals are for viruses, which means they target different things. In terms of materials that can make a different, silver can be used to impact and reduce bacteria, so antimicrobial protection may have silver ions to damage the bacteria.
In this area, there are a few around, with Tech21’s EvoCheck, PureClear, and PureShimmer cases, as well as OtterBox’s Defender Series Pro, cases that provide antibacterial protection alongside drop resistance, which could well make you feel a little at ease at the moment.
They’re good for bacteria, sure, but as comforting as it is, that does no good for a virus, though, and you have to turn to a different material altogether: copper.
Copper can kill a virus
Similar to an antimicrobial, copper is a microbicidal material, which can break down microbes upon exposure. Using copper on surfaces can actually affect viruses, and while other materials can leave viruses like the coronavirus on the surface, copper breaks it down much more quickly by comparison, with as little as four hours of exposure, according to Insider.
In theory, that could mean that the use of copper in a case could reduce viral exposure, though it may not be something on the cards, at least not yet.
One phone case provider, OtterBox, checked in with Pickr to say it had no “near term plans for cases that include copper”, suggesting instead cleaning phone cases with soap and water, and/or sanitising wipes.
That’s not to say case makers won’t use copper in their case designs, though, with some appearing on crowd funding websites already. They may not kill viruses completely on your phone, mind you, as you still have to deal with the fact that a phone has glass on the front.
There is a possibility, however, that local manufacturers could try building, or even printing something.
In Australia, a 3D printing firm producing metal components, Spee3d, has found a way to coat existing metal parts with activated copper, which has been shown to kill 96 percent of the coronavirus in two hours. While Spee3d suggests this would likely apply to door handles and push plates for workplaces, hospitals, and other locations, though theoretically, there’s nothing preventing this from rolling out onto other metal parts, too. That might mean a metal case could be coated in activated copper to reduce viral infection.
For now, copper isn’t a likely material to have cases made from, while cases aren’t likely overall to prevent coronavirus or any other virus as a whole. Instead, just make sure to keep your phone out of reach of other people, and clean your hands regularly and your phone with a soapy cloth and water, or even isopropyl wipes.