Review: Speck ToughSkin for iPhone 3G
Due to a huge backlog of iPhone 3G cases that have swamped our offices in the last couple of weeks, we're reviewing a whole bunch today in abbreviated fashion, starting with eight rubber designs from seven different companies. Though we've separated the reviews for their individual products, our top pick of the bunch is linked here: SwitchEasy's Colors. This review covers Speck's ToughSkin for iPhone 3G ($35).
ToughSkin cases have been around for years, a Speck innovation designed for users who want a ruggedized rubber case rather than a thin or small one. Over time, the ToughSkins have changed in shape and style, but have always had intentionally blocky, chunky designs intended to keep your device safe in the event of a drop. The iPhone 3G version is no different; it resembles a case previously released by Oakley for the original iPhone, transforming the sleek little phone into a brick-like block of reinforced rubber.
Notably, ToughSkin has improved somewhat from last year’s original iPhone version. The case is beefier, sold only in black, and no longer bulges at the iPhone’s screen. It’s also $5 more expensive.
This year, Speck has included an internal plastic frame for added support. The frame appears to be inside to keep the bottom of the case stable: like a better designed version of Uniea’s U-Skin, and harkening back to early Speck iPod 3G cases, ToughSkin’s bottom can flip open to provide complete access to the iPhone 3G’s bottom surface. This enables Toughskin to work with any conceivable accessory, including Apple’s iPhone 3G Dock; its bottom is otherwise open for speakerphone purposes and Dock Connector cable attachment, but separated from any flat surface by several millimeters of rubber. The same distance protects the uncovered camera, headphone port, and ringer switch; a little less thickness separates the screen from whatever might be underneath it if laid on a table.
As with last year’s iPhone ToughSkin, this year’s only ToughSkin pack-in is an external hard plastic combination belt clip, holster, and video stand, which has the advantages of not being built into the case’s back and leaving a hole when removed, but the disadvantage of making what is already a large case even bigger. The ratcheting clip does provide fine horizontal or vertical belt accessibility, though, as well as easily popping out to become a reclining video mount. While not the best such holster design we’ve ever seen, and bulkier than last year’s version, it does fine given that it’s dealing with such an oversized case.
Our single biggest issue with ToughSkin is one that we have continued to find completely puzzling with Speck’s recent iPhone cases: once again, it doesn’t include any active form of screen protection. Previous ToughSkins have included plastic shields, but this one just leaves the glass screen totally exposed. While we could possibly understand this at a much lower price, Speck’s $35 tag—higher than last year’s $30 asking price—and the premise that a ToughSkin is supposed to be tough, protective, and rugged, both suggest that you shouldn’t see so much of the iPhone 3G exposed. ToughSkin for iPhone 3G is a good case overall, and better in some ways than last year’s version, but it still feels a little incomplete for the price.