Review: Griffin iClear + iClear with Belt Clip and Armband for iPhone 3G
As we're now dealing with a huge influx of hundreds of cases and other accessories, we've opted to issue abbreviated reviews of a number of late case arrivals for the iPhone 3G -- ones that are substantially similar to cases we've previously reviewed. This review looks at Griffin's new iClear cases for iPhone 3G ($20-$30), cousins to its earlier Reflect for the original iPhone.
For the first time that we can recall, the iClear case design that’s long been available for iPod models is now being sold either as a simple shell, screen protector, and cleaning cloth combination ($20) or with a detachable armband and ratcheting belt clip ($30). Both of the iClear cases have the same clear plastic front bezel, clear screen protector, and frosted clear rear shell design; the armband and belt clip portions are black.
Griffin’s philosophy with iClear cases has generally made us quite happy in the past; the prices have been attractively low, and the extent of protection they’ve offered has been relatively high. They’ve also looked nice, showing off Apple’s devices with a slightly unique style; most other companies use all-clear, all-frosted, or all-opaque parts for their hard shells. On the iPhones, however, Griffin’s cases have been a little less impressive on protection across the board, choosing to expose the top, side controls, and bottom somewhat generously, even while competitors have come up with smart ways to judiciously protect these parts.
Rather than learning from those competitors, this year’s iClear versions for iPhone 3G follow pretty much the same philosophy as before. You do get a better, full-face screen protector than last year’s Reflect included, but otherwise, the same stuff’s open. Thus iClear is highly accessory compatible—it works with big headphone plugs and Universal Docks alike—but also a little bit too open. DLO’s competing VideoShell delivers slightly better protection and more functionality for the same $20 price. The standard iClear rates a B+.
The $30 version of iClear is another story. Both the belt clip and the armband detach from each other and the case, leaving you with the ability to switch between a pocket case, a ratcheting belt clip case, and an armband holder for the iPhone 3G as you need it. Though the belt clip attachment works well, it leaves two holes in the back of the case when it’s removed, and the armband is an almost generic toss-in. The parts all work, but we’ve seen multifunction cases done a bit better for the price; armbands typically try to do more to seal the iPhone models against moisture intrusion. Consequently, this version rates a flat B. Both versions are good, but would be better for pocket and armband use if they included more protection.