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!

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