An Update on Apple iPhone 4 Case Program Picks, With Q + A | iLounge Backstage


An Update on Apple iPhone 4 Case Program Picks, With Q + A

Last week, we posted a look at the iPhone 4 cases Apple is offering for free to users—one case per iPhone, unless you bought one or more Bumper cases from Apple before the giveaway began. Today, we updated our iPhone 4 Case Program - Best + Worst Picks article to provide additional photographs and details on some of the case picks, and we also wanted to answer a few e-mailed reader questions here.

“Which in your opinion is the most visually striking? I love how the iPhone looks without a case, but want some protection. I am torn between the Griffin Etch and the Speck PixelSkin. I’d welcome your thoughts since you’ve seen them in person.”

- Joseph

In all honesty, the question of what’s most visually striking is very personal—what works for some people doesn’t for others. We would call the Griffin Motif, Griffin Reveal Etch, Speck Fitted, and Speck PixelSkin HD equally attractive cases, but they’re all different: Motif’s translucent gray plastic and rear diamond pattern are both eye-catching but deliberately a little understated, which we really like, while Reveal Etch’s faux carbon fiber panel looks better than what we’d expected after trying lots of faux carbon fiber cases in the past. Speck’s Fitted is one of very few cases that have successfully brought fabric into playthrough iPhone designs, and the company’s fabric patterns are always nice, while PixelSkin HD is a very sharp, clean redesign of the prior PixelSkins that has the grippiest texture of the bunch and a distinctive mixing of glossy and matte textures. If we had to pick just one on looks, PixelSkin HD would probably be it, but all of these four picks look very good to great.


“I would be concerned about access to the data port without having to remove the case, relative bulkiness of the case… ease of operating the volume controls, sleep button, and mute switch. Sure, many of these are subjective and even so, a relative ranking would be tremendously useful to the three million of us who are applying for these cases over the next month.”

- Robert

As we’ve shifted away from case reviews over the past couple of years—due incidentally to reader requests that we do so—we’ve tried to add lots of additional photos to our case galleries so that users who are interested in the minutia of case performance can focus in on those details visually. One thing that we try to do in the brief preview text is to provide a sense of the big uh-ohs we’ve discovered, which are most commonly related to the port and camera cut-outs. Cases without built-in button covers tend to have bigger “ease of operation” issues if the button holes are small; we only note problems with the covered buttons if the covers are designed really poorly.


Regarding bulk, all of the third-party cases save for the Incase Snap Cases are in the same general category of thickness, adding 2-3 millimeters per covered surface. The Snap Cases are engineered to be thinner shells, while Apple’s Bumpers bulge out just a little more than the others.


The only other iPhone 4-specific issues we would raise for your consideration are the camera and speakerphone holes. Certain cases with tightly-tailored keyhole-shaped camera and flash holes may under some conditions have photography issues when the flash is used; Griffin actually reengineered the standard version of Reflect after its initial release because of such problems. We haven’t had problems with Reveal Etch, possibly because the rear material of the case is opaque. Additionally, cases with pill-shaped individual holes for the bottom speaker and microphone might exhibit audio issues during speakerphone calls, so more open-bottomed designs (such as Griffin’s Motif and Speck’s Fitted) will likely wind up being safer over time.

“How do you think [Apple’s program] is going to affect other case makers selling product into retail where the devices are sold?”

- Andy

Our gut feeling is that it’s going to hurt companies whose products are overly similar to the designs on offer, while forcing others to market more aggressively to get their unique designs into users’ hands. Many readers have told us that the iPhone 4 Case Program selections wouldn’t be their first choices, but would work well as backups or alternatives. Others seem to be really pleased with the choices, and our view is that Apple is offering some bona-fide winners, though it seems to have selected specific cases primarily because they were available in large quantities, quickly. More distinctive cases will continue to be of interest to iPhone users, particularly when the Case Program ends in September. SwitchEasy’s Colors (below) are just one example of cases with unique looks and a lot of value for very aggressive prices.


Companies looking to distinguish themselves from Apple can do so by (a) packing in good screen film with their cases, (b) offering separate, good screen film, and (c) having cases available immediately while Apple’s 3-8 week waiting period exists. Those who merely try to mimic what Apple has done with Bumpers, or offer me-too versions of the cases that are part of the giveaway, will have problems—particularly if and when surges of unopened giveaway cases hit eBay and other reseller venues.

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I just purchased an iPhone 4 online from Apple, as it was just released in Canada today. I saw no evidence of the free case giveaway. Do you know if this deal extends to customers outside the United States, or do I have to buy my own case?

Posted by Chris Parkinson on July 30, 2010 at 8:57 PM (CDT)


“As we’ve shifted away from case reviews over the past couple of years—due incidentally to reader requests that we do so—”

Wait what? What was the reason for the readers requesting this? I know that was always the primary reason I came to this site, I loved reading all the reviews and the ratings given out. If anything, the lack of reviews and analysis on cases has led me to stop coming to this site anywhere as much as i used to. I am definitely one to vote for the reviews, especially for cases, to come back!

Posted by Kelvin on July 31, 2010 at 11:55 AM (CDT)


#1: We were under the impression it was international.

#2: We still do tons of reviews, but have shifted our focus to electronic accessories and applications, which are where most of the interest appears to be these days. Over time, it became obvious from reader comments that the detailed case reviews were primarily of interest to industry insiders, and even then, they weren’t a good use of our limited resources. There are thousands of cases, and though they may differ in ways that matter to some people, buying decisions tend to come down to “do I like how it looks, think it suits my needs, and accept the price?”

Apps may be in the same pool, incidentally. Do people really need expert help or analysis when making sub-$10 purchases? When buying pieces of rubber and plastic? I’m not so sure - convince me. My feeling recently has been that articles like this one, focusing narrowly but comparatively on cases that are really of potential interest to many people, are a better use of time than full reviews of every case under the sun.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on July 31, 2010 at 2:00 PM (CDT)


I didn’t realize the site was formally getting away from case reviews.  I have kept checking back looking for them though, being disappointed there hasn’t been a letter rating, or pro’s & cons… :(

They’re not sub-$10 purchases, if they are, don’t review them.  When they hit the $30-ish price range, more than pictures and descriptions would be much appreciated.

Reviewing anything takes a big chunk of time though, I’d imagine reviews of cases could be annoying to churn out.

Maybe $30 & above, and only ones you’d either like to steer people towards or warn them away from…?

Posted by Tamarai on August 1, 2010 at 3:42 AM (CDT)


#4: We haven’t done pros and cons for case reviews for… four or five years? In any case, we’ve mentioned the shift away quite a few times in the last year or so. But we’re talking internally about whether to change things up a little with a system we’ve never seen used before.

Re steering towards or away, the comments we make in the first looks and previews are now designed to let people know whether there’s anything glaringly great or bad about something we’ve received, without having to wait on a full review. Unfortunately the number of cases has just multiplied so much that it’s hard to devote more than a little time to each one without having to take time away from other things. We appreciate the comments as they’re helping us consider a better balance going forward.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on August 1, 2010 at 9:53 AM (CDT)


#1: You need to download the iPhone 4 Case Program app from the App Store to receive your free case.

Posted by snakegriffin on August 2, 2010 at 9:46 AM (CDT)


what about the Griffin perforated silicone cases that are now listed on the freebie Apple App?

Posted by Jen in Tenn on August 3, 2010 at 2:16 PM (CDT)


#7: They’re on the way.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on August 3, 2010 at 5:00 PM (CDT)


Understandable, your/iLounge’s reasoning. Still would like to see some ratings of cases to go along with the brief description (which is enough really), instead of seeing NR-Not Rated for most cases. As for which ones you do pick to ‘review’, maybe even just pick out the good ones worth mentioning that are personal favs/well designed cases to us case-review-lovers :). Appreciate the responses by the way.

Posted by Kelvin on August 5, 2010 at 2:34 PM (CDT)


#9: We’re working on it now and think we have something that will provide a better balance.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on August 5, 2010 at 3:32 PM (CDT)


I’m having a problem with the case app in which it goes to a blank white screen after I put in my itunes store account password. Is anybody else having this issue? I’m not having much luck finding info on it on various forums.

Posted by Woe is me on August 9, 2010 at 3:06 PM (CDT)


#11:  I’m having the same problem.  The app goes to a blank white screen after I enter my password.  What gives?

Posted by Abe Frohman on August 9, 2010 at 3:20 PM (CDT)


Yeah mine too, the screen just goes blank after the get started page??!! Any ideas??

Posted by Andy j on August 9, 2010 at 4:46 PM (CDT)


I use my itunes account to log in, but it always says"the apple ID or password was entered incorrectly”. I tried many times, but it is always like this!! really crazy!!! any ideas?

Posted by lao on August 15, 2010 at 6:49 PM (CDT)


I had the same problem…... case program screen going to white….. but I kept trying and it eventually worked.

Posted by cyberandy on September 2, 2010 at 12:54 PM (CDT)


how i get iphone 4 case free .Please give iformation
thank you

Posted by tan vu on September 2, 2010 at 12:54 PM (CDT)


Any feedback on the Griffin perforated silicone cases yet?

Posted by Melissa Robison on September 21, 2010 at 3:08 PM (CDT)

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