iPhone Case Roundup
Not surprisingly, even before the iPhone went on sale, we began receiving press releases from companies selling cases for Apple’s latest game-changing gadget. Chris Turner was the first ATPM staffer to acquire an iPhone, having done so on that wild Friday night at the end of June. Lee Bennett succumbed to iPhone temptation two days later, and David Thompson soon after. Among other niceties of getting used to their new slices of tech heaven, they began the search for cases to hold and protect their twenty-first century communicators.
What follows is a roundup of cases the three have tested over the past three months. Researching cases for any device, but especially for a device like the iPhone, is highly subjective, and what works for Chris might not work for Lee, and what might work for both of them might not work for David. Please let us know what you think of the cases reviewed here, and what cases for which you think we should keep our eyes open.
Classic Urbano Pouch
From south of the equator comes the Vaja Classic Urbano Pouch. This Argentine product is sturdy, shaped leather in a vertical case with a belt clip. The Vaja Web site doesn’t reflect the Urbano in the vertical, however, showing a horizontal case. Mine arrived in the Midnight Blue/Birch color combo, but if I were ordering one direct from Vaja, I’d go with all black. Lee tells me when he went to the Vaja site, he easily saw the vertical cases, so your mileage may vary.
The sturdy Vaja Classic Urbano Pouch.
The Vaja is well-crafted, and features a magnetic clasp on its flap. It holds the iPhone in its leather-lined interior very well. Perhaps a little too well. My biggest gripe with the Vaja (besides the color combination), is that it’s very difficult to get the iPhone out, which is particularly frustrating when there’s an incoming call. And this was even with a couple of weeks’ worth of wear. The cut holes in the bottom corners of the case aren’t large enough to allow me to push the iPhone up enough to then grasp it from the top and pull it the rest of the way out. The horizontal version of the Urbano may prove different.
The Urbano’s rear with generic belt clip.
Crystal Jacket Set for iPhone
Developer: Power Support
I prefer a horizontal orientation for my mobile devices, especially for something as long as the iPhone. So, the Crystal Jacket from Power Supply works for me. I also prefer a strong belt clip with a security hook at the bottom that will catch my belt (or the fabric of a pocket) so I don’t drop my phone. The Crystal Jacket has that feature.
Back side of unit showing the holster and belt clip.
The belt clip of the Crystal Jacket rotates, so if you prefer a vertical carry you can have it. The clip rotates 270 degrees to accommodate both dexters and sinisters.
The crystal part is an acrylic form-fitting split case that surrounds most of the phone with impact-resistant plastic. The case is clear and provides easy access to the iPhone controls. It will not, however, fit in the dock. I also have some difficulty connecting the iPhone cable, so you’ll have to remove the case to dock your iPhone.
The case is sturdy, and mine is holding up to normal abuse quite well. One afternoon after a business meeting, I bumped my phone on a chair as I exited the meeting room. It came loose from my belt and bounced on the floor. The case separated and my iPhone hit the floor, but no damage was done. I reassembled the case and went about my afternoon business.
Front side of the cover and my favorite beverage.
I like the way the holster protects the screen. The screen faces my body when the iPhone is in the holster. Most of the screen is covered by that hard plastic of the holster when holstered. Finally, as a perk, the system comes with one of Power Support’s clear screen protectors. I installed mine, but managed to get a bit of lint under it. While the protection isn’t perfect, it should prevent minor scratching of the screen.
Developer: Griffin Technology
Griffin’s Elan Holster intrigued me, because it’s advertised as an open-top case that can be carried horizontally as well as vertically. Of the four cases I tried out, it was also the only one that came with a cleaning cloth and a screen protector (static peel) for the iPhone. Nice touches from the folks at Griffin Tech.
The Elan Holster in vertical mode.
You can switch the Elan from vertical to horizontal by moving the leather-clad belt clip from the corresponding slot on the back of the case. I carried my iPhone in both positions, and yet I could never shake the wariness I felt at having the iPhone in the horizontal plane with no cover on one end. I always felt I was one quick jolt, of some sort, away from seeing my iPhone go flying. This never happened, though I did test this theory with my hands, and while my iPhone never went flying out of the Elan, it did move out enough for me to be concerned.
The Elan’s belt clip, situated for vertical carry.
So it was vertical carry from that point on, which was fine for a while. But then I noticed, one day, as I was exiting my vehicle, that my iPhone didn’t come with me. The Elan Holster had slipped off the belt clip, and had come to nestle between my seat and the door jamb. Not good. It’s a shame, because the Elan is stylish and comfortable, and I’ve traditionally gotten good mileage out of products from Griffin.
The Elan’s belt clip, situated for horizontal carry.
HipCase For iPhone
I’ll make no secret that I prefer horizontal cases over vertical ones, and for me, the HipCase is the best there is for the iPhone. The black leather is stylish, and suitable for nearly every occasion. If black leather’s not your style, the HipCase is also available in brown leather or black nylon.
The HipCase in black leather.
The HipCase doesn’t completely enclose the iPhone, and trust me, this is a good thing. For one, it makes it really easy to push on the iPhone from the open section on the bottom of the case with a finger or two, then grab the iPhone from the top with the rest of your hand. The openings on the ends of the HipCase allow you to plug in your earbuds while the iPhone rides in the case, and also be able to hear the phone ring, since on the opposite end the iPhone’s speakers are exposed.
The HipCase’s built-in belt clip. Even the leather on the clip is stitched.
I do have two druthers with the HipCase. One, I’m unsure of the long-term reliability of the hook-and-loop fastener flap. That material can wear out over time, and if this is your main iPhone case, depending on your personal usage, you could be opening and closing this flap a lot. One thing you won’t have to worry about, however, is either side of the material coming off your HipCase, as it is stitched in underneath the leather. Second, one corner of the leather-covered metal belt clip has become unstitched, and the edge of the belt clip is poking through. I’ll chalk this up to having a case from among those first to roll off the assembly line, and I hope DLO reinforces future versions.
The opened flap on the HipCase, where you can see the two halves of the hook-and-loop fastener.
Jam Jacket For iPhone
DLO’s Jam Jacket, juxtaposed with the HipCase, is a silicone sleeve that encases your iPhone in no-slip goodness. Unlike the HipCase, you can use all of your iPhone functions while the iPhone is still inside the Jam Jacket, even the camera.
The Jam Jacket in Frost, a nice contrast with the iPhone’s home screen.
I do like the grippiness one gets with the Jam Jacket, thanks to the dimpled sides of the case. I was never worried about the iPhone slipping out of my hand when it was in the Jam Jacket. Another prime feature of the case is the ability to wrap your earbuds around DLO’s integrated “Headphone Management System.” I wasn’t too sure of this at first, but I grew to really like having my earbuds easily accessible all the time, right there on the case.
My earbuds wrapped around the Jam Jacket’s “Headphone Management System.”
My main gripe with the Jam Jacket is that it’s really difficult to work the ring silencer switch on the side of the iPhone while it’s in the case. All of the other external switches and buttons were easily accessible. Also, it would be nice if the Jam Jacket could be attached to one’s belt, but it’s designed foremost as a sleeve-style case. This wasn’t that big of a druther for me, as I routinely wear cargo shorts, and the Jam Jacket-encased iPhone simply rode in one of the cargo pockets.
iPhone Smart Case
Developer: WaterField Designs
Price: $35 (Slip style); $39 (Flap or Clip style)
Each of the iPhone Smart Case styles are identical in regard to how the phone is carried. The clip style case simply adds a plastic swivel belt clip assembly, and the flap style includes straps with hook-and-loop fastener material that will wrap around things such as a belt or a tote bag strap.
Left: flap style Smart Case. Middle: clip style Smart Case. Right: basic Smart Case with iPhone inside.
One nice little touch about the clip style case is that it must be rotated horizontally before it can be removed from the clip. This helps ensure the case is not accidentally removed since gravity will generally keep it hanging vertically.
The flap style case was something I originally thought would work as an arm strap. However, the straps are not long enough, and once I received the cases, I knew right away it wasn’t the type of case I’d want to wear against my arm anyway.
All three cases snugly hold an iPhone inside. None of them, as you might suspect, make it super easy to remove the phone. I don’t see much point to any phone case that requires even a small amount of effort to remove the phone. I might have said that some people simply don’t need to remove their cell phone very often and that these cases provide a wonderful amount of padding to protect an iPhone’s screen—but what iPhone owner doesn’t care about removing the phone from the case often?
iPhone Suede Jacket Case
Developer: WaterField Designs
Admittedly, I’m not in the market for this type of case. Yet, for someone who simply wants a slip sleeve, this one fits the bill. Its size is perfect. An iPhone easily slides in and out with hardly any effort, yet the sleeve is just snug enough to keep the phone from jostling around inside.
The iPhone Suede Jacket Case. WaterField offers similar cases sized for various iPods.
It may not be something I would use. But it is what it is, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it. For comparison, consider Apple’s iPod Sock. You might think it, too, is what it is, but I skim points off the iPod Sock just accounting for the “good grief” factor. WaterField’s Suede Jacket Case has no “good grief” factor.
iPhone Travel Case
Developer: WaterField Designs
Price: $35 (small); $37 (medium); $39 (large)
WaterField’s iPhone Travel Cases are somewhat of the odd man out in this case round-up. They’re all identified by WaterField as iPhone/iPod Travel Cases and would actually make splendid containers for most any small collection of electronic gadgets you’d want to tote with you.
The insides are lined with a soft material that won’t scratch the contents of the case. All three sizes have various dividers. To me, this has less to do with organization and more to do with preventing the metal earbud jack or the power adapter from banging against the iPhone’s screen. The large Travel Case, in addition to the inside dividers, has a zipper pocket on the exterior, also with divided pockets inside.
The small Travel Case holding an iPhone and USB sync cable. There is a third compartment divided into two half-size pockets, and I initially thought I could put the iPhone’s power adapter in, but it felt a bit too tight a squeeze. Earbuds, on the other hand, would slip in nicely.
The medium Travel Case easily accommodates my iPhone, USB cable, power adapter, and my iPod. The small Travel Case is above, for size comparison.
The large Travel Case (with small and medium cases above for size comparison) happily accepted the contents listed for the medium case in the photo above, plus my Garmin handheld GPS and the iPhone dock. A few additional small cables or tiny gadgets would likely have no problem living inside as well.
Two specific reasons kept me from rating these cases as Excellent. First, the price distribution seems a smidgen too tight. The small case is well-suited for someone who wants to pack extremely light, but $35 doesn’t quite feel like a good value when just $4 more buys a much roomier, yet still relatively compact case. Consequently, I feel the large case is the best value for the money and, if it weren’t for that second reason, the large case alone might have rated Excellent.
The large Travel Case is not the type of thing I’d want to carry around as-is. It either needs some sort of handle grip, or just plan on using it to keep your gadgets in one place while the entire case rides in something bigger.
The second reason is the lack of a handle or usable grip on all three cases. Each has a very small loop of material that could be used to attach the case to something the loop can clip on, and the small case is small enough that you might simply carry it in your hand anyway. But the large case is just large enough to be a little cumbersome to carry as-is. All three are best-suited to pack your gadgets within, and then pack the case into whatever larger tote you might be using. If that’s the type of case you’ve sought, the Travel Case will do well for you. The large case would perhaps benefit well by replacing the loop with a strap of the same material, running from one top corner to the other, providing something to grip and carry with your hand.
Like the Jam Jacket, the iSkin Revo also encases your iPhone in a tight silicone sleeve and grips well in your hand. Also like the Jam Jacket, however, the ring silencer switch is a bit tricky to access while the iPhone is in the case. I also found it a little difficult to keep the flap covering the headphone jack open while trying to insert a cord.
The iSkin Revo with included plastic screen cover and silicone dock connector cover.
The Revo does not include any means to carry your earbuds, but it does include a clear plastic cover that fits over the case. In spite of my fears that the cover would fall off regularly, it actually doesn’t. It grips the sides of the case rather well. The back of the Revo is slotted so you have a place to put the cover while using the phone. Though the cover does register a blip on my arbitrary “how quickly can I get it off to answer a call” scale, it’s only a blip.
The Revo’s recessed access to the ring silencer makes switching it on and off a bit difficult.
Also included is a small piece made from the same silicone material intended to press into the dock connector port on the bottom of the iPhone. Its purpose, I presume, is to keep dirt out of the port when not in use. Unlike the plastic screen cover, this piece has fallen out on me more than once. It’s small, so when it’s not attached, it’s a prime candidate for getting lost. Indeed, I did lose track of it for a time, but found it on the floor behind the night stand from which it fell.
The plastic screen cover and tiny dock connector cover removed.
The final component that ships with the Revo is a privacy film that clings to your iPhone screen.
Interestingly, even though the privacy film did completely black out the screen at an angle, a photograph from the same angle is still able to make out a general idea of what is being displayed.
If this thing was an integral component of the Revo, I would not have given it a Very Nice rating. I hated the privacy film and was quite relieved that it easily came off without leaving any residue on the screen. For starters, you practically have to apply the film in a sterile environment and ensure your iPhone screen is equally sterile. Even the tiniest piece of dust or lint on the screen will cause an air pocket to form underneath the film. Since the film is slightly sticky, once the lint is on the film, you’re not likely to be able to get it off.
The reason my privacy film produced this many air pockets is because I failed to properly read the instructions and peeled off the sticky side’s shipping protector first. Plus, it dropped to my sofa before I had the chance to position it. So, your results probably won’t be this bad, yet it’s still fairly obvious that just one small piece of lint will produce one very distracting bubble.
Even if you do manage to affix the film smoothly, the nature of the film that produces the privacy also creates a grid of lines that dramatically reduces clarity in the iPhone screen. Suffice to say, even though I like the Revo itself, the privacy film will never touch my iPhone again.
Close-up of the iPhone screen with the privacy film attached.