Too close for comfort: how phones are changing pants

100% human

Phones are getting bigger, challenging tablets for space in our lives and taking over because smartphones are a necessity and can do more for us. But as devices get bigger, are our clothes doing anything to tolerate these new sizes, or will we all have to start carrying around hand luggage to accommodate the big phone?

I have a confession: I need to buy new pants.

This isn’t a call out for anyone to give me free jeans, because that would just be weird. No, I have to buy new pants because phones are killing my pants in ways I’ve never seen.

Before the smartphone was something you had to carry around, the mobile was smaller. It didn’t do as much as it does now — mostly phone calls, text and picture messaging, and the odd game or two — so it could be smaller, and your clothing didn’t suffer for it.

But the new modern individual doesn’t want a phone that just makes phone calls, that just sends and receives messages, and just plays the odd game or two. The modern smartphone-owning individual desires and needs a smartphone that can surf the web, read the news, stream video, listen to music and replace that iPod, take pictures, capture video, and even replaces the need for you to bring a computer where ever you go.

And that’s because the modern smartphone-owning individual actually wants a computer in their pocket, allowing them to do whatever they want, where ever they are, and when ever they want.

It’s quite liberating to know you have this much power in your pants, no pun intended.

The edges of a phone start to show on jeans. You can thank big phones for that.

But your pants are taking more of a beating than you could ever expect, and we’re seeing it here with more reviews. For the past few years, we’ve seen our jeans get stretched out and more faded on one side due to the phones held in the pockets.

The bigger the handset, the more clothing seems particularly against them, especially when you consider it needs to move with you, clothing your body and storing things you keep in your pockets. As you move, the phone is being forced up against the limits of the fabric provided, pushing the phone out against it and wearing it in.

With this in mind, you have to wonder if clothing makers are thinking about these sizes, now that their customers are carrying bigger phones. The answer to this one can be a little complicated, though, because everyone holds their phone differently.

For instance, while I use my left pocket to store my phone, I know others who use their rear pocket, and others again who will rely on a coat or jacket pocket, and then plenty of people who prefer a handbag or backpack to take the handset away from their person.

But location isn’t the only problem, with model choice and availability cited as one of the concerns.

“We do not take sizes of cellphones into consideration when [we] make garments,” said Nudie’s Peter Frank, adding that “there are too many models to be able to make a design for them.”

Not all clothing makers have this attitude, though.

Locally, Australia’s Nobody Denim told of a different approach, with Design Manager Rebekah McQuoid telling us that design was especially important when it came to phones and their products, namely jeans and jackets.

“Pocket placement for phones [is] definitely considered especially with jackets, with the addition of extra pockets inside for easy phone or general tech storing,” said McQuoid in regards to how clothing for men is thought of at Nobody.

“With women’s clothing, our biggest selling jean fit is the skinny,” said McQuoid. “With its sleek silhouette, there is no room for hidden pockets, but all fabrics have amazing stretch and recovery, so it is definitely possible to get your phone in any of the pockets if desired.”

Perhaps that’s part of the problem, and maybe we’re not buying the right sort of pants, but if fabric can repair itself, ever so slightly, perhaps the quality of the clothing will be the thing that determines whether your clothing will survive a persistent daily encounter with an oversized smartphone.

Your clothes aren’t all to blame, either. While designers will need to adapt to the changing standards in smartphone sizes, substituting fabric types and blends to better accommodate the larger form-factors, the phones should also be tested so as not to leave your wardrobe feeling more broken rather than just merely “broken in.”

It’s something that goes with the design, because different designs change what they’ll do to clothing, with more angular shapes damaging fabric than softer circular and smoother shapes.

Imagine shoving a bulky camera in your pocket and walking with it, the tight fabric pressing against your thigh and leg and bulky camera, tearing the fibres asunder as you move. It’s that sort of logic that we’re working with here, and some of the blame lays at the feet of device manufacturers.

See the outlines? And the holes? That's what a phone can do to pants.

But how many smartphone makers are thinking about this? Unfortunately, the answer is not many, as the companies in charge of devices seem to leave this part of the product cycle to the makers of the garments.

We asked everyone — just like we did on the firmware story a few weeks ago — and once again, very few companies wanted to comment. All of the companies we asked have a big phone, and yet at the time of publishing, neither Sony, Samsung, Nokia, and HTC returned with a comment on the matter.

LG also declined to comment, but cited that it was mostly due to a lack of research on the matter. Perhaps we’re the first to ask.

Huawei did say something, though, with a representative for the company telling us that it “takes consumer needs very seriously, and understands that consumers deserve alternatives and choices, which is why our smartphones come in all sizes, at a price that fits every pocket, or bag.”

What all of this seems to point to is that there will be no perfect pair of pants for every phone, and when you’re picking a phone that suits your life, also make sure the clothes you’re planning to keep the phone in have enough space and flexibility to make this happen without impacting your wardrobe or wallet severely.

If that means going in store and requesting a dummy of the phone for you to walk around with in your pants, so be it, just make sure to do something, because the last thing you want is to ruin a perfectly good pair of pants just for that big phone you had your eye on.