This case is the third of three Seidio cases we have reviewed. Our review of the Rugged and Surface cases for the iPhone 4 can be found here.  The Innocase Active case is Seidio’s offering in the mid-level hybrid case category. This simple, two-part design incorporates a flexible rubber inner layer and a hard plastic outer layer. The subtle metallic-looking finish of the outer layer nicely highlights the molded design on the back of the case. The Active model we reviewed featured a dark burgandy overlay, making it a two-tone case.

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Installation was fairly easy, but slightly more difficult than the Surface or Rugged cases. The cutout for the camera and flash (which isolates those two components) mirrors the brilliant design of the Rugged and Surface cases. The cutout for the headphone and microphone also works well. The rubber underpart allows for easy operation of the volume rocker buttons, but makes for difficult operation of the sleep/wake button. For some reason, the sleep/wake button area is much less responsive, possibly due to too much rubber over that button.. The silent mode switch on the side of the phone is exposed through a cutout in both layers, but is a bit difficult to access without the help of a fingernail. If you keep your fingernails fairly short, or if your fingers aren’t narrow or dainty, you might have trouble as well. The universally undesirable feature of most two-part cases is the floppy part of rubber just below the home screen button on the botton front of the case. We found the grippy rubber would easily catch on things and pull away from the phone, temporarily exposing that area of the phone.

The Inncoase Active model I reviewed came with a belt clip holster. Personally, we’d never use or transport this case without utilizing the holster. That’s because the rubber attracts lint, grabs onto clothing, and therefore makes it very impractical for storing in a pocket. The grippy quality that protects the phone and keeps the screen from getting scratched (when lying face down on a flat surface) makes this case overly grippy for our liking. We even found the rubber on the top of the phone to be so grippy that the spring-loaded clip of the holster would often get stuck on it, requiring a little creative finger-work when inserting or removing the iphone from the holster. The Surface case (while not as protective as a two-layer design) offers enough drop protection for our daily needs and enough grip to keep it from sliding on most surfaces, yet allows easy insert-removal for pocketed use. Again, not so with the Innocase Active.

Aside from the slightly unresponsive wake/sleep button, the hard to access silent mode switch, and the floppy rubber lip on the front bottom of the case, the only glaring design issue we encountered involved the actual finish of the rubber underpart. The model we reviewed may have been a manufacturing anomaly, but after just a few days of use, the matte surface of the  rubber started to wear off along the edges of the phone, only to reveal a shiny black rubber underneath.

It’s almost as if the underpart is made of a shiny rubber with a matte rubber  treatment on top. Regardless, what resulted was a very unattractive half-shiny and half-matte effect on the edge of the case.While some may not be bothered by this, we would not use a case in this condition unless Seidio replaced it with a rubber underpart that remained matte-likewith use. We did not request a replacement underpart for this review.

Final thoughts, we originally thought we would like the Active-style case the best (of all the Seidio iPhone 4 case designs) but it turned out to be our least favorite of the three. If you aren’t bothered by the overly grippy nature of the underpart, if you have smaller fingers, and if you don’t mind pushing a little harder to sleep or wake your iPhone, then you might really like this case. One thing is for certain, this case offers exceptional camera/flash performance, wonderful excellent protection for your phone and will likely prevent any scratches or damage from your phone, even if it sustained a drop from five or six feet (based on our best guess…not from a scientific drop test).

You can buy the Seidio Innocase Active for iPhone 4 here for $29.95 (optional belt clip for $29.95 also available)

iPhone911 Rating: 3 out of 5

Maybe you’ll never have to be in a situation to use this app, but if you do, you’ll be SO glad that it’s developers have created it! RxmindMe is a wonderful solution for managing all of your prescriptions, OTC medications, vitamins, and supplements. Most importantly, if you are managing several meds (especially those that leave you a little loopy), this little free app will prove to be amazingly handy. Essentially, RxmindMe takes all of the guesswork out of what pills to take when, how many, which ones are getting low, and who to call to reorder.

Last year I had a nasty bout with kidney stones and was on about 4 different medications while being treated. Some of those meds were narcotics, and if you’ve had to endure that stuff, you know it can mess with your memory and sense of time. Unfortunately, RxmindMe hadn’t been developed yet and I was left with trying to create numerous alarms in the iPhone’s default Clock app. It wasn’t perfect nor efficient, but it got the job done.

Today I returned home from back surgery and I found myself once again in the “meds maze”. Out of desperation, I scanned the app store again and, viola, I found Rxmind Me…one of the easiest to use and practical apps in the app store.

According the developer’s website:

“RxmindMe allows you to create nine types of reminders – daily, our new every “x” days, hourly, weekly, on specific dates, on a specific day of a month, and on a specific week of the month. RxmindMe allows for unlimited prescription entry. Track all your meds

using secure iOS 4!”

So, you begin by entering in everything that you need to take, one by one. If you want, you can even specify which Dr. prescribed it, which pharmacy filled it, and the phone number to call for refills. Next you set the dosage, frequency, and schedule for each one. Then, you turn on notifications, go the the “Todays” screen, and go about your day until you’re told it’s time for some pills. What could top all of that? Well, if you put in the starting quantity of pills right from the start, you’ll be prompted to call the stored Pharmacy number to order your refill when the app sees that you’re about to run out. Bravo!

The interface is quite intuitive, although it would have seemed more logical to arrange the buttons in chronological order: “RX” button first, then “Reminders”, then “More” (other settings), and end with “Today” (which is the daily calendar/checkbox view). Even so, the app remains very easy to use and navigate.

Don’t be fooled! This handy little app isn’t just for those getting up there in years, but for all of us who need a little help keeping track of all those pesky pills. My wife was extremely grateful that I found RxmindMe and am using it…it frees her up to manage all of the other tasks and responsibilities of the day, especially the ones that I cannot tend to while on the mend.  You can download the app for free by clicking here.

iPhone911 Rating: 4.5 of 5

Posted: January 14, 2011 in Apps
Tags: , , ,

The Folio case by Sena is one of several sharp-looking cases currently being offered in their iPad case lineup.  The Folio seems to target business-minded customers, but it’s simple lines and design also work well for the casual user.  The Folio is a premium leather product, available in a smooth texture (black, brown, red, orange) and a crocodile skin pattern (black, red).  The Folio featured in this review is the smooth black model.

All Folio models feature a small layer of padding sewn into the front and back covers.  Once the main closure snap is released, the Folio opens like a book, revealing an area on the left for storing your own business card (in a plastic window) along with four pockets for other business or credit cards.  While these slots are nice to have, we only felt comfortable storing paper business cards in them (we were concerned with credit cards scratching or marring the iPad’s screen when the case was closed).  There is also a large pocket for holding loose papers or a screen cleaning cloth.  On the right is a very functional sleeve for the iPad.  While the exterior surfaces are leather, the interior surface of the iPad sleeve is made of a soft velvet-like lining.

Cutout areas in the sleeve include the headphone jack and mic, wake button, audio on/off switch (formerly the landscape lock switch in IOS 4.1), volume rocker, speakers, dock connector, home button, and ambient light sensor.  The cutouts allow for full and easy access to all iPad controls and ports.  Any iPad with a screen protector or protective body film will fill nicely into the Folio.  The only unnecessary cutouts (in our opinion) are located on the top right and the bottom right corners of the iPad, leaving these two corners exposed and vulnerable to scratches and/or impact damage (which could occur if the Folio/iPad is dropped and lands on one of these corners…even while the case is closed).  Let’s face it: if you drop your iPad, it’s most likely going to land on a corner first.  A couple of weeks ago we accidentally dropped our Folio/iPad onto our concrete driveway while getting into our vehicle.   The first point of impact was the top right corner of the iPad (near the wake button), leaving the iPad with a .25″ gouge in the aluminum casing. My suggestion to Sena (for future renditions) is to keep all four corners covered and consider adding additional leather on the corners to better protect the iPad.

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Insertion and removal of the iPad is quick and easy.  The second of three snaps on the case is used to secure a leather flap that holds the iPad into the velvet/leather sleeve.  This snapping flap originates on the left side of the interior sleeve, wraps around the left side of the iPad, exits through a hole in the fold of the Folio, and secures to the back of the case.  Installation or removal takes about 10 seconds, beginning with unsnapping the leather flap, feeding it through the hole, holding up the flap while the iPad is inserted/removed, and returning the flap through the hole before snapping it into place.  Once installed, the iPad is very secure inside the case and does not move at all.  We found that the metal snap on the flap easily came into contact with our iPad’s screen during insertion and removal.  Fortunately we have a non-glare screen protector on our iPad, so only the screen protector sustained a few small scratches from the snap.  We highly recommend a screen protector or body skin (like Zagg’s Invisible Shield) for use with this case.

For hands-free viewing, the case can be stood up in portrait orientation by simply opening up the case and resting the case on the bottom edges.  For hands-free viewing in landscape orientation, the Folio features a leather strap/stand on the back of the case which is secured by the case’s third snap (when not in use).  A soft piece of material (which is folded behind the strap/stand when stored) maintains a 45 degree viewing angle when the strap/stand is unsnapped and extended.  When setting the case on a non-slippery surface, we found that the grippy nature of the leather edges was enough to hold the iPad/Folio in the landscape orientation (without employing the snapping strap/stand).  While this is a great angle for viewing pictures or a movie, it is too steep for typing using the on-screen keyboard.

Most leather cases that incorporate a closure (in a Folio style) leave the user with a strap to fold back (to keep out of the way) when the case is opened up.  We found ourselves folding the Folio’s leather closure strap in between the covers of the iPad while we held the iPad for note-taking or book reading.  After a few uses we noticed that the nub of the snap began to make small indentation marks on the front cover since the closure strap was sandwiched between the covers.  This wasn’t a big deal to us, but you should be prepared for this if you use your Folio like we use ours.

Pros:

– Sleek, attractive appearance
– Beautiful, perfectly stitched premium leather
– Padded front and back covers
– Secure and durable snap closures
– The closure strap lays nicely into a recessed area of the cover
– Protective velvet-like lining in the iPad sleeve
– Handy portrait and landscape viewing options
– Convenient interior storage slots for papers and/or a cleaning cloth
– Functional cutouts for ports and controls

Cons:

– Exposed corners leave the iPad vulnerable to scratches or impact damage
– The metal snap on sleeve-securing strap can scratch an unprotected iPad screen
– There is no option for conveniently angling the Folio for typing in landscape orientation
– Price (suggested retail of $99) may limit its appeal to business users
iPhone911 Rating:  3.5 out of 5 stars

(would give it 4 stars if it protected the corners of the iPad)


To view all of the Folio’s color’s and cover options and purchase your own Folio Case by Sena, click here

I’ll just get to the point folks…Seidio’s Rugged Holster Combo is a total winner.  From the minute I opened the packaging, I was impressed and I continue to be impressed one month later.  The kit included:

  • Innocase Surface Case (slider-style, slim fit)
  • Innocase Rugged Case Add-On (two-part:  silicone + plastic frame)
  • Holster (fits the full combo setup)
  • Ultimate Screen Guard
  • Microfiber cloth
  • Instructions sheet

The price?  $49.95 (which is what you’d pay for any competitor’s rugged holster case…but the competitors’ cases don’t convert to a slim fit case, and they don’t include a cleaning cloth).  Just to put this review in context, I have tried and tested many cases from minimalistic to the heavy-duty workhorses.  While all of us would like to have an all-in-one case solution, are you aware of any company that is offering such a product?  If not, there is good news.  Seidio has nailed it, and dominates the competition in every aspect!

Like many of you, I was instantly disappointed with Apple’s Bumper (see previous post) and returned it for a refund.  However, I was unwilling to go more than a couple of weeks without a case on my glass encased iPhone 4.  It wasn’t immediately known that Apple was going to issue a free case to appease the disgruntled masses over the antenna reception issues.  So, I went out a bought a case…then another…then another.  I returned all of them, sorely disappointed with each (see previous post).  Eventually, once the Apple Free Case program launched, I ordered Speck’s Pixelskin HD and hoped that my instincts would lead me to (in the very least) a good backup case should I find it lacking in functionality or quality.  About 8 weeks later it arrived.  The case will be a decent backup, but I’ve not used it once, nor plan to…especially after reviewing the Seidio products.

For the record, there is a segment of the iPhone market (of which I’m a part) that wants a case that resists fingerprints, scratches, and resists sliding down every inclined surface upon which it rests (i.e. the arm of a chair, a car seat, or on my thigh while wearing pants).  We want a camera and flash cutout that prevents the dreaded flash flare problem that plagues so many cases.  Therefore GLOSSY cases aren’t an option.

Next we want our “everyday case” to resist lint, dirt, and dust and allow easy pocket insertion and removal.  Therefore, all NON-HOLSTERED SILICONE cases are out of the question.

Next, we’d really like it if the case protects our iPhone’s glass finish, feels good in the hand, and allows easy access to all buttons and ports.  Finally, we’d like to have a case setup that offers us the flexibility to be thin and minimal when pocketing our case, but can convert to a rugged case when attached to a belt for outdoor work and/or recreation.  Oh, and a free screen protector would be appreciated.

Therefore, for those of us looking for a case that meets all of those needs, we’d need to find a really special case…and seemingly one that can’t be found on retail store shelves (because I’ve scoured many-a-store leaving with nothing but disappointment).

After countless hours of research, purchases, returns, and frustration, I could hardly believe what I finally found at seidio.com.  Finally a line of cases that is scalable, offering interchangeable parts, and lots of options.  Excellent!  Now, all that was left was acquiring the cases and extensively testing them in the course of daily life.  For my needs, I began with the Innocase Rugged Holster Combo.

For a pocketed phone scenario, all I need is the slider-style Surface case portion of the kit (or combo as they call it).  It is THE best slider style soft-matte case that I’ve found to date.  Here’s why:

INNOCASE ‘SURFACE’ CASE

  1. Unlike the next best case in this class (the Incipio Slider), the Innocase Surface has an invisible locking mechanism that keeps the two parts together.  This is really nifty.  It also sort of “child-proofs” the case against curious little fingers.
  2. Unlike the Incipio Slider (which only has a small strip of soft fabric along the inside back of the case), the Innocase Surface features soft fabric that covers the entire back of the case, offering superior protection for the back glass.
  3. Unlike the iFrog slider (which has an unattractive button release locking mechanism on the back…preventing a nice lay-flat property on a table), the Innocase Surface lays flat on every side of the case.
  4. Unlike any other case manufacturer, Seidio has created the ideal solution to prevent the dreaded flash flare interference problem…a divided window.  That’s right, one opening for the camera and, on the other side of a small plastic divider, an opening for the flash.  This brilliant design element isolates the two and insures perfect flash performance.
  5. It comes with a screen shield (called the Ultimate Screen Guard).  For the most part, this is a great screen guard, but it doesn’t come with an adhesive lint removal panel (like other screen protectors), so you have to be really thorough in cleaning the front of the iPhone before applying the guard.  I was 98% successful, with one tiny lint/air bubble near the edge that is hardly noticeable but is present.  This case is definitely designed to be used with a screen shield or with Zagg’s full-body shield.  The naked iPhone (without any guard/shield) will fit a bit loosely in the case.
  6. The soft-touch matte finish feels great in the hand (very similar to the finish on other soft-touch cases).
  7. Unlike several other cases that I tried out, the dock/sync/charge port cutout is large enough to work with every charger and dock cradle I own.
  8. The back of the case has a simple yet attractive design pattern that makes it more interesting than other plain back cases.
  9. This case fits perfectly in the leather belt pouch I own and used with other slim iphone cases.
  10. Conveniently, Seidio also makes an nice adjustable belt holster ($29.95, and not included in the Rugged Holster Combo) which I later added, giving me another great wearing option.  The Surface case holster is the best holster case I’ve seen to date.  It is easy for one finger to release the clip   and for your other fingers to remove the phone.  The phone returns just as easily and firmly clicks into place once full returned to the case.  The holster features a full adjustable, 7-position ratcheting belt clip.  This holster is a lighter duty model than the Rugged’s holster, but it allows for easy use with any waistband and most  2″ belts.  Finally, the interior face of the holster is completely covered in the same soft material that is on the inside of the Surface case.  The iPhone is intended to be stored with the screen facing into this material.
  11. After a month’s worth of use, there is virtually no lint or dirt inside the Surface case, which is exceptional (especially after having tried out many other “comparable” cases).

Now, here is where things get really exciting…converting the Innocase Surface to the Rugged Case.

RUGGED CASE & HOLSTER

  1. Unlike the insanely complicated design of the Otterbox Defender iPhone 4 case, and the uncomfortable and chunky feel of the Ballistic HC case, the Seidio Rugged case is by far the most attractive and easy to assemble.  In fact, it fits right over the top of the Surface case.  With a simple adding of the Silicone Overlay, then a quick clicking in of the hard plastic back/corner overlay, the 15 second transformation makes this THE most attractive, comfortable, and versatile Rugged case on the market…bar none!  The leading competitor (Otterbox’s Defender) doesn’t even hold a candle to this case.    Here is what makes the Rugged Case, and its accompanying holster, far superior to the Defender (I’m not even going to take the time to contrast it with the inferior Ballistic HC):
  2. Unlike the cumbersome headphone and dock connector cover flaps of the Defender, the Seidio Rugged covers easily pull back and, when not in use, quickly return to lie flush with the rest of the case.
  3. Unlike the Defender, the Seidio Rugged has a camera and flash cover that easily pulls back and stores out of the way while the camera/flash are in use.  Like the ingenious divided camera/flash opening of the Surface, the Rugged’s camera/flash cover solution is flawlessly conceived.
  4. Unlike the awkward location of the Defender’s holster release clip (which makes for less than easy one-hand removal), the Seidio Rugged is not only easier, but it also features a locking mechanism (if you so choose to engage it), thus preventing an accidental release of the phone if the release clip should be hit or catch on something.  Again, brilliant.
  5. The dock connector cover is large enough to allow it to take all of my charging/sync cables
  6. Unlike the Defender (which has an entirely silicone exterior), if I have to pocket the Rugged case, the hard plastic skeleton overlay makes it much easier to insert and remove from a pocket.
  7. Since the Surface case (which is layer #1 of the Rugged setup) is meant to be used with the Ultimate Screen Guard, you won’t need to experience the unfortunate mishap that plagues the Defender’s integrated screen shield (which will very easily detach from the case body, leaving you with a precision glue job or no screen protector at all.  You’ll also enjoy a much better screen shield experience since Seidio’s Screen Guard adheres to the face of the screen and avoids the oil-slick effect known among Defender users.
  8. The holster features a fully adjustable, 7-position ratcheting belt clip.
  9. The Rugged’s holster is more robust than the Surface case holster and features a larger belt clip which would work well with a construction/electrical work belt or a law enforcement officer’s duty belt.  Finally, the interior face of the holster is completely covered in the same soft material that is on the inside of the Surface case.  The iPhone is intended to be stored with the screen facing in, as with the Surface case holster.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The craftsmanship and quality is superb on all of the included components of this kit.  The packaging was superb, clean, and won points with me for including the screen guard, guard installation squeegee (which doubles as an the guard’s installation instruction card), and the microfiber cleaning cloth.

As of the writing of this review, the Innocase Surface case is my favorite case to pocket, use in a leather belt pouch (not included; I owned one prior), or in the Seidio Surface Case Holster (not included in the Rugged Holster Combo; I got one later).  It feels great in the hand, keeps the two parts of the slider locked (invisibly), and the back design makes it the most stylish looking case of it’s type.  The Surface case (if purchased separately) is very competitively priced in the market, but an even better bargain as an included component of the Innocase Rugged Combo Holster setup.

As to the Rugged setup, there is no other Rugged case that I would want to use.  Being that the Rugged case incorporates a silicone layer (as do all Rugged case designs), it will attract the normal dust and dirt.  However, this will not translate into lint and dust on the phone since the Surface case underneath it is always protecting the phone.  The hard plastic back/corner overlay reduces the exposed silicone surface area, reducing the amount of cleaning you’ll need to do.  If or when you want to clean the silicone layer, it will only take a few seconds to remove the back/corner overlay, then another couple of seconds to slip the silicone layer off of the Surface case.  Once cleaned, the reassembly only takes 10-15 seconds.  The design and style of the complete Rugged Combo is easily the most attractive Rugged case on the market.  Finally, why would anyone spend $49.99 on one of the other inferior rugged cases on the market?  Not only is Seidio’s Rugged Holster case a better value by itself, you also get the best slider case available (the Innocase Surface) as a bonus!

Well there you have it.  I’m totally sold on these two models of iphone 4 cases.  If you relate to me (just one guy in “that market segment” that really appreciates quality, flexibility, and expandability), then you cannot go wrong with the Innocase Rugged Holster Combo.  This product deserves to be recognized as “Best in Class”, both as individual components and as a complete case solution.

iPhone 911 Rating:  5 out of 5 stars

To purchase the Seidio Innocase Rugged Holster Combo for the iPhone 4, click here

B O N U S  !!

Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, (and forgive me if this was an intentionally designed and documented feature) I found a way to use the Rugged Holster Combo to as a perfect night stand clock/alarm (using an app like Night Stand HD) and charging station.  Here’s how:

Option #1 – With the Rugged Case & Holster

  1. Insert the iPhone into the holster, facing it OUT, with the dock port located on the non-clip end
  2. Turn the belt clip to the vertical position (parallel to the holster)
  3. Plug your charging cable into the phone
  4. Use an clock/alarm app that works in landscape mode
  5. If your app allows, tell it disable the phone’s auto-lock feature during the night
  6. Choose your favorite clock and alarm settings
  7. Now, lay the phone/case/holster down on your night stand, making sure that the belt clip is in the vertical belt position, and it will put the phone/clock at a perfect viewing angle
  8. Once the alarm goes off (or if you’re woken by a call or text), the accessible screen and/or button controls can be used to serve as a snooze, or even to answer the phone.

Option #2 – With the Surface case and Rugged holster

  1. Follow all of the steps above
  2. While the Surface case will sit loosely in the Rugged holster, it still works

Option #3 – With the Surface case alone, no holster

  1. Start with step 3 in scenario #1
  2. Because the Surface case has a flat edge, stand up the phone/clock on the non-volume rocker side of the Surface case (keeping the volume controls available in case you want to use the snooze feature
SEIDIO’S MID-SIZE CASE SOLUTION – Innocase Active Review now complete

Comprehensive Password App Review

Posted: September 18, 2010 in Apps, Uncategorized

Well, the results are in.  Many were invited, some joined the race, but few survived the guantlet.  In the end, only a couple of these password and data managers merited our recommendation.  Here is the summary chart, followed by some detailed comments at the bottom of the review.

Click below to view the results

== >Password-Manager-Review-2010-09-18 (9/18/10)

It may come as no surprise, but

Agile Software’s 1Password emerged as the clear winner.

That is, if you’re like me and want a one-stop shop for all of your secure-data storage needs, want quick wifi syncing, the option for using the app on multiple devices, and the option for dropbox synchronization (which is the wave of the future).  Yes, it’s pricey, but you get what you pay for.  It was the ONLY solution that accurately captured new website login information, retrieved it at login, flawlessly synchronized with multiple devices, and gave enough custom options in the iPhone menu to layout the buttons to our liking.  It’s clear that the Agile team is listening to their customers, have dedicated considerable resources/personnel, and time to making this a “best in class” solution.  Our top award goes to 1Password with 5 stars.

Next is Ascendo’s Datavault.

While it doesn’t have the breadth and refinement of 1Password, it does pack a serious punch in getting the job done.  While we actually prefer the look and feel of SplashID’s desktop interface to all of the others (including 1Password’s) Datavault beat out SplashID in the bug-free syntonization category. What good is a program if it looks good but can’t deliver the goods…right?  With a little more work, especially in the area of login id/password management and UI refinement, Ascendo could certainly give Agile a run for their money.  Maybe give the same multiple viewing options (such as SplashID’s desktop approach) if you want to gain the edge.  We give Datavault 4 stars.

Rounding out the top three is Zetetic’s Strip Sync

Even without a true desktop companion, Strip does offer the dedicated mobile user a rock-solid solution that is safe, secure, and extremely reliable.  In this case, less was more.  Their approach layout and methodology is intuitive, beautiful, and offers much promise for future releases.  We give Strip 4 stars (not for outshining the desktop competition) but for doing what it does the best!

Thanks to all of the vendors who supplied demo copies of their software and to all of you who are expressing a growing interest in these types of reviews.  If we could offer one bit of advice to you, the developers, it would be this:  Zero in on one or two products that you can really refine, test, and polish…and then release them when you are ready and staffed to support them fully.  Find your niche, stick to it, and ultimately that will serve your customers the best.  Trying to be all things to all platforms/people will result in frustration, lower ratings, and an ultimate tarnishing of your brand.  Agile, Ascendo, and Zetetic are onto something!

Please feel free to subscribe to our feed and request any apps or accessories that you’d like to see reviewed on iphone911!  Thanks for stopping by!

Update 9/19/10:

We have just spoken with SplashData regarding the trouble we encountered during testing.  There were some bug fixes what were available that we did not know about.  We will be reinstalling their software and sample data to do a full desktop/iPhone sync test again.  Results will be forthcoming in the next few days.  It’s possible that these fixes might resolve our issues, greatly help their ranking, and alter our “conclusive” results!

Ongoing iPhone Case Quest

Posted: September 13, 2010 in Accessories

Over the past six weeks (while waiting for our free case from Apple), we have frantically researched case options. This is due to the fact that the iPhone 4 is too vulnerable to damage without a case.

The following cases have been tried and placed into the “unsatisfactory” category:

1.  Speck Fitted Candy Shell

While the fit was nice and tight, the glossy back was full of unattractive scratches within hours. The camera cutout was so glossy that it messed up the flash function. The areas on the back that were not scratched showed lots of fingerprints, which was a total turn-off. It also did little to add grip and prevent slipping out of hand or off of the lap. Additionally, the rubber bumper material on the exterior corners was very easily roughed-up, inspiring little confidence in it’s long term ability to absorb shock. Finally, the dock cutout was too small to work with my car mount or stereo dock. 2 stars.

2. AGF premium Red Shell & Holster

Without Holster:
With Holster:

This case was our next case to review. It has a harder plastic shell which nicely slides/clicks together (slider style). The red portion on the back feels like small, flat nubs from a basketball. This offered decent grip without making it hard to get in and out of a pocket. It didn’t have the same rubberized liner of the Speck Candy Shell, so it likely wouldn’t protect from a drop as well. The real negatives relate to the holster design. It was quite difficult to re-insert the case into the holster, especially one-handed. Also, the top of the case started to show significant signs of wear from rubbing against the overly-tight securing tab. Worst of all was the design of the cutout near the dock connector. Because this holster offers a nifty landscape-mode stand, we thought we might be able to use the case as a charging stand. However, the cutout didn’t allow for the apple dock cord to easily plug in without pushing it in hard at an angle (potentially damaging the dock port), and it definitely wouldn’t allow connectivity with bigger non-Apple cords like the Griffin charger. These factors made the holster useless in our opinion. Without a holster, I could mount this in my car and dock it to my stereo. So, for that I give it 4.5 stars. Considering the holster woes, 1.5 stars.

3. Otterbox Defender

Bulky (obviously) but much nicer fit into the holster, and a really nice tactile feel of the push-through button protectors. However, several downsides quickly emerged: 1) When I removed the case from the holster, the silicone seal around the screen would pull away and need re-insertion. 2) The included screen protector performed horribly in my car, making it nearly impossible to see details on the screen unless I bumped up the brightness to 60% or more. In only hours the underside of the screen protector started to show signs of the oil-slick look which has plagued Otterbox Defenders historically. The death-knell of the screen protector came as I removed my phone from the case to repackage it and, as I pushed the case into the holster (facing it out as it it arrived), the screen protector’s glue gave way and it separated from the case itself. What a disaster. 3) The decision to have the exterior layer be entirely silicone is unfortunate, being that it attracts massive lint and dirt…especially around the nooks and crannies of the phone like the camera/flash window. One could never pocket this case without picking up tons of lint and turning one’s pocket inside out in the process. Verdict: 3 stars.

4. Incipio Slider

What a refreshing difference. In fact, this case has proved to be nearly impeccable. While I was hesitant to try another slider design, this is very well conceived. It’s the first case whose shell feels protective without bulk, and very nice in the hand. The satin matte finish is the ideal material to give grip while still allowing easy insert and removal with a pant’s pocket. This matte quality also insures great flash performance with the camera. The bottom dock cutout is big enough to work with every cord, mount, and dock that I own. While I have not tried this case with a screen protector, I’ve been told it will work if I’m careful when sliding the case onto the phone. The nicest surprise was the included desktop stand which works rather well while charging or when using the phone as an alarm clock on the nightstand. The only case feature I miss is a cover for the wake and volume buttons, but the case cutouts provide sufficient access to the controls and do not impede their operation. This case works nicely in the premium leather HTC pouch for belt access. However, the total price for the case ($35) is a bit high since it doesn’t include a holster or a screen shield. To add this functionality would bring the total to $75 which is excessive, in my opinion. Function, 4.5 stars. Price, 3 stars.

Next up: Seidio’s line of iPhone 4 cases. Let’s keep our fingers crossed!

Count me in as part of the growing throng of those experiencing antenna woes on my iPhone 4…and whoahs!

First the WOE (insert your own sad emoticon here):

Because I live in the Minneapolis metro, reception is very strong everywhere you go, for the most part.  However, in my place of employment (just across the street from the new Apple store in Uptown – see pic) it’s been spotty.  Granted, I work in a brick building, flanked by a concrete parking garage immediately to the east and a newly opened LA Fitness above our store.  I had been chalking up many of my recent reception issues in the store to the added concrete, steel, etc.  That’s when I heard about the iPhone 4 antenna issue.

I’m also spending a few weeks as a guest in a friends basement while my family waits to move into a rental house that’s not quite available.  My friends live in a southern suburb and we have decent AT&T reception while in their home.  Some of my wife’s calls (made on a Samsung phone) don’t reach her during the day and go straight to voicemail.  So, clearly the basement isn’t great for reception.  However, my iPhone 4 registers 4 bars (when it’s laying flat on a desk in their basement).  Then I pick up the iPhone and it drops to 1 or no bars.

So, I tried to conduct an experiment to see if I could hold the phone in a way that didn’t require me to touch the metal band around the edge.  It’s next to impossible.  That’s because I can’t touch the touch-screen without causing the phone to suspect that I’m trying to interface with the phone app.  Next I tried holding it at the very top next to the earpiece speaker.  I nearly dropped the phone.  The highly polished glass makes it too slippery to hold this way.  But wait, before the phone slipped out of my hand, my “4 bars down to 1 bar” iPhone 4 jumped back up to 4 bars.  Splendid.  Now all I have to do is get a pair of those rubber finger tip things that the banker uses to count money…then I’ll be able to hold my phone…until I have to use one of those fingers to touch the screen.  The most embarrassing part is that casual onlookers look at me holding my 3-week old phone and wonder why I’m contorting myself to use this beautiful piece of erratic functionality.

Sure, I could take the advice of Apple and buy and install a “Bumper” (to insulate me from my own phone…and doesn’t this sound ridiculous…for a new piece of cutting edge technology?), but I already bought and returned my Bumper since it interfered with headphone and dock connector (see my previous iPhone 4 Bumper review).  I’m just waiting (somewhat impatiently) for the release of more cases like the Otterbox Commuter so I can protect my phone and still have full functionality of all the phone’s ports.

Now for the WHOAH (insert happy emoticon here):

Guess what?  The quirky antenna (when not impeded by contact with my skin) delivers much stronger WIFI reception.  At my store I used to be able to pick up the mall’s WIFI signal when in the back of our store (closer to the mall’s center…or wherever the wireless router is located) which is off of the sales floor.  However, now I can be anywhere in my store and still get great WIFI reception (adding at least 30 feet to the range).  I also noticed (before we moved out of our apartment) that I was able to pick up a WIFI signal in our storage garage which frankly blew me away.  It was at least 100 feet from my apartment.   This is a bit of good news for those who hope to eventually be able to hold their phone while using WIFI and other antenna-reliant features.

CONCLUSION:

Without a Bumper or case, the iPhone 4 antenna performance is flawed and frustrating…most of the time.  I don’t know how most people hold their phone, but I often hold mine while touching the “trouble area” of the antenna.  I’d like to think that a recall will be conducted, but I seriously doubt it.  While Apple’s image is largely built upon slick advertising, I don’t see how issuing a recall could be spun positively by them.  And if they can’t spin it positively, I don’t think they’ll do it.  My guess is that Apple will continue to downplay concerns, perform a clever “smoke and mirrors” distraction, and hope that everybody goes out and buys a Bumper or a real case.  Then, and only then, will people start to forget about how Apple stepped in the “oopsy daisies” in 2010.  Once people get past the antenna flaw, they’ll most likely be overwhelmingly supportive of the iPhone 4.  In my 3 weeks of using one, I’ve been very impressed with every other function of it…just not the phone reception.  Ouch.

As to the Bumper, let me reiterate that I do not advise buying one if you hope to use the dock & jack.  Furthermore, if you hope to keep the glass from shattering when you drop your iPhone 4 (since it’s largely exposed and vulnerable to impact, even with a Bumper installed), don’t buy the Bumper.

And the antenna’s rating…