Review: Contour Design Hardskin for iPhone 3G
Officially less than a week old, Apple's iPhone 3G already has its first collection of protective cases, designed to shield the device against scratch and scuff damage, as well as fingerprints and smudges. Today, we're doing brief reviews of the first dozen iPhone 3G cases, some of which are modestly redesigned versions of original iPhone designs, and others completely new to this device. This review covers Contour Design's Hardskin for iPhone 3G ($30).
Similar to Contour’s iSee, Hardskin is a hard plastic shell with rubber covers for the iPhone 3G’s Sleep/Wake button and volume controls. The difference here is in coloration; whereas iSee is made from clear hard plastic, Hardskin is completely black and opaque rather than see-through, and uses soft touch rubber as an outer texture. Each of the cases comes with four pieces: a two-piece shell that covers almost all of the iPhone 3G’s back and sides, as well as part of its front, plus two rubber inserts that protect the Sleep/Wake and volume buttons. Contour leaves the headphone port, bottom, and ringer switch open, as well as a generous space to the left and right of the ear speaker, the entirety of the screen, and the Home button.
Putting protectiveness aside for the moment, we really like the designs of each of these cases. Hardskin is perfectly matched to the iPhone 3G’s curves, replacing its glossy surfaces with matte finished ones that aren’t oil-proof, but certainly don’t show fingerprints anywhere near as much as the black iPhone 3G does without a case. Unlike the glossy iSee, the soft touch rubber adds a hint of extra grip to the otherwise slippery iPhone, and you can’t see the interior mold lines or the places where the front and back shells snap firmly together on the sides.
Though the plastic is thick, Hardskin gives you the sense that the iPhone is safe against a drop while inside, and small finger indents in the centers of the left and right sides provide places to grip or rest a finger while using your other hand for the screen. You can open Hardskin with a strong finger or a coin in a small bottom right recess, and use even very large headphone plugs without an adapter. The bottom is Universal Dock compatible, and will work with all but the thickest third-party Dock Connector cables and full-width bottom-connecting accessories.
In our review of iSee, we noted that Contour has stepped down a bit in protection and pack-ins relative to what we’d expect for a $30 asking price; the same is true with Hardskin. You don’t get any form of screen protection, and Contour has also left out extras such as a belt clip, holster, Dock Connector cover, or headphone port cover, which were included in Hardskin for the original iPhone. As offsets, the stripped iPhone 3G version of Hardskin is a little less expensive than the original one for the iPhone, and what remains here is legitimately good. The Sleep/Wake and volume button covers do a great job of protecting those parts of the iPhone, and don’t fall out of their recesses in the hard plastic, but do decrease sensitivity. You can pull them out if you prefer to use the buttons without encumbrance.
Though we would strongly prefer to see Contour Design include screen protection with its iPhone cases, just as it has for years with iPod, mini, and nano cases, Hardskin is a handsome case and otherwise a fine value for the price. It anonymizes any iPhone 3G somewhat if that’s what you’re looking for, as well as reducing the black model’s tendency to look smudged and dirty. If you don’t mind taking a risk on screen protection or buying some film on your own, consider this case a good option for preserving the original plastics of the new iPhone.