Review: Uniea U-Feel for iPhone + iPod touch
As enthusiastic as we may be regarding the use of mirrored surfaces in some iPod cases, the iPhone and iPod touch have not yet received truly excellent reflective enclosures. Uniea's new U-Feel cases for iPhone and iPod touch ($30 each) continue this trend, offering a combination of hard plastic shell and mirror coating that tends to cheapen the devices' looks rather than improving them.
Of the semi-mirrored cases we’ve seen for iPhones and iPod touches over the past few months, Pacific Rim’s iShield Mirror offered the most reflectivity and the least inspired looks, covering almost the entire face of each device with a mirrored surface, while Griffin’s Reflect had the least reflectivity and the classiest looks. U-Feel is somewhere in-between. Like Reflect, it only frames the iPhone or iPod touch’s face with mirroring, rather than completely covering it, but thanks to an extremely plain front design, it also manages to look almost as cheap as iShield Mirror. The iPod touch gets an odd oval shape around its proximity sensor, and the iPhone an open mouth around its ear speaker; both cases’ fronts just look boring.
It should be noted that Uniea’s design bears more than a passing resemblance to an earlier Artwizz case design, SeeJacket Crystal, which has also recently turned up under the name Ivyskin Xylo T2. The only major differences between Uniea’s case and Artwizz’s are the mirror framing, which SeeJacket left out, and a couple of differences in their rear shells. Uniea offers U-Feel in both clear and smoke black shell colors, and includes a detachable belt clip; Artwizz only offers a single clear, non-clip version.
Just like SeeJacket Crystal and iShield Mirror, U-Feel uses a thin layer of flat plastic to cover the entire screen of each device, rather than having an elevated ridge of hard plastic above either a completely exposed iPod/iPhone touchscreen, or one that’s been covered with a layer of adhesive film, the common approach of otherwise hard plastic cases such as Reflect. Uniea’s plastic piece is completely see-through and play-through, still enabling you to use each device’s controls; it doesn’t attract as many smears or smudges as Pacific Rim’s design, and appears completely flat, rather than wavy. Unfortunately, there’s a fairly significant negative with this face cover: it’s not sufficiently bonded to U-Feel’s harder front/side plastic shell, so flexing the faceplace leads to the front shield separating partially from the sides. In our non-abusive testing, the case stayed together, but it wouldn’t take a lot of abuse to make the front piece come off entirely. Better glue or a more reinforced design would have helped a lot.
Both of the cases offer typical rather than aggressive protection of the iPhone and iPod touch. The iPhone version exposes the bottom speaker and microphone completely, as well as the Dock Connector between them, while the iPod touch version exposes the Dock Connector and headphone port on bottom. Each case is compatible with Universal Docks, and offers full unprotected access to the Sleep/Wake button, as well as modest access to the headphone port. This isn’t an issue with the iPhone, but in the iPod touch, you’ll find that only Apple-sized headphone plugs or similarly narrow adapters fit; large bottom-connecting accessories other than docks may also experience issues. U-Feel for iPhone also has openings for the rear camera and side controls, rather than attempting to cover them.
The only other twists in these cases are small ones. As previously noted, you can choose from smoke black or completely clear side and rear coloration, and though this doesn’t make a lot of difference from the front, the darker version does obscure the iPod touch’s odd rear antenna cover; both versions have a Uniea logo covering whatever engraving your iPod touch may have. Then there’s the belt clip, which is color-matched to the case’s black or clear plastic. On a positive note, these belt clips ratchet through 180 degrees of freedom, but they’re not rubber-coated for the scuff-proof safety of the device inside, and when removed, they leave two additional holes in the back of each case. We always prefer that cases be dirt-sealed rather than unnecessarily open, but belt clip users mightn’t mind this design.
Overall, the U-Feel cases for iPhone and iPod touch would have rated in our B range except for a few little touches that undermine our confidence in their overall quality: the ease with which their screen covers can be separated from their harder plastic shells, combined with their so-so aesthetics and belt clip designs, suggest that Uniea has some work ahead to become a strong producer of plastic enclosures. That said, putting the rookie mistakes aside, it’s obvious that next-generation U-Feel cases could actually be pretty good options for iPod and iPhone users, so we’re looking forward to seeing Uniea improve on these cases for the next go-around.