Review: iSkin Fuze + Fuze SE for iPhone 4/4S
iSkin's Fuze line stretches back to 2008 and the original iPhone, with a second version coming half a year later for the iPhone 3G and 3GS. Now, in the latter half of the iPhone 4/4S's lifecycle, the Toronto-based accessory maker has introduced two new iterations of the design: Fuze ($50) and Fuze SE ($60). The former is a slightly stripped down version, while the other is what we've come to expect from the product family. Both come at a price premium over previous editions.
Fuze and Fuze SE both use the same rubber-lined plastic back, which offers significant protection for the glass and steel construction of the iPhone. The Sleep/Wake and volume buttons are covered in rubber, and there are tight cutouts for the side switch and headphone port, which has enough room to accommodate most of today’s small-tipped headphone plugs. Like previous versions, this one leaves the bottom edge a bit more exposed than the rest of the device. There’s a long opening running from speaker to microphone, with a removable flip-open Dock Connector cover providing some extra protection; when the cover’s removed, each Fuze works in Universal Docks. It’s not immediately evident that this piece of rubber is meant to come off, but iSkin packs in two extras that similarly stay attached with rear adhesive pads. Also included in the package are a wet screen cleaner and a dry cloth.
The two cases differ in their front panels, which both snap onto the back with puzzle piece-like edges. Fuze offers only a simple plastic lip around the display in your choice of blue-white, grey-white, or pink-white. Fuze SE, on the other hand, is more like the Fuze that we’re used to from the past: the core is plastic, but it’s lined with rubber on the inside and brushed metal on the outside. Instead of just running around the sides, it covers all of the bezel with a cutout for the sensors, earpiece, and FaceTime camera at the top. The Home button is covered by a matching rubber button. iSkin has completely gotten rid of the screen protection we’ve seen from the past two editions, which first arrived as a separate sheet, and then was integrated into the front cover; each Fuze leaves your iPhone’s screen open.
The first Fuze cost $40 and earned an A- rating—it was a great early iPhone case—but the second version cost $5 more and didn’t really add any new features other than a problematic screen protector, which led it to fall down to a limited recommendation. Unfortunately, the iPhone 4/4S versions of Fuze and Fuze SE are even more expensive without any added benefits. The $50 Fuze offers even less protection than the previous versions at a higher price, and the $60 Fuze SE is closer to the older models but comes at a shocking $15 premium over the last edition. Nothing in the package adds any real value. Consequently, Fuze earns a C+ rating and Fuze SE a C. While they’re reasonably protective and attractive, they’re not real standouts, and better cases can be had for less. Here’s hoping that iSkin reverses this upward trend in its pricing, which is detracting from designs that might otherwise be more competitive with rivals.