Review: Belkin Silicone Sleeve 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 Belkin's Silicone Sleeve for iPhone 3G ($25).
A recent trend, and one that we haven’t liked, is the rise of the overpriced minimalist silicone rubber iPhone case: 50 cents worth of rubber molded into a $30 case with too little protection for the device inside. Incase started the trend with its Protective Cover for iPhone, and now Belkin has released its own version in the Silicone Sleeve, which is spared the Incase version’s C+ rating on account of its lower price and slight novelty.
When Incase released the Protective Cover for iPhone, the only thing it added to the rubber Apple case genre was a heavily molded back, featuring topographical lines in an interesting pattern with the Incase logo centered below the iPhone’s camera. It’s obvious that Belkin saw this design as an inspiration, as the rear of Silicone Sleeve features a similarly organic stripe-style pattern, here accentuated by the use of both molding and color. Incase’s design gave each case a single color; Belkin’s fuses two colors, one translucent, into the design.
Consequently, you can choose between three different color schemes: black with infrared, gray with grapefruit, and bright pink with cool gray. None of the colors has the neutrality of Incase’s flat versions, but the pink and cool gray version offers a unique twist on the typical pink iPhone case, with the “cool gray” actually more of a frosted clear color that lets the iPhone 3G’s natural white or black body peek through. The gray and grapefruit version is primarily gray with yellowish stripes, and the black case has red stripes. Each fits the iPhone 3G exactly as it’s supposed to, though the soft rubber does provide room for little bits of dust and dirt to get inside—it’s not as firm as Speck’s PixelSkin or the similarly plasticy Incase covers.
Coverage of the iPhone 3G’s various components is a bit below par for the first crop of play-through cases we’ve seen. The volume and Sleep/Wake buttons are covered, but the Home button isn’t, and everything else—headphone port, bottom, ringer switch, camera, and complete face—are open. Accessories are completely compatible, and the screen is fully accessible, but Belkin hasn’t taken the simple step of including a screen protector to cover the device’s face. Some people, including us, really care about this. Other people don’t.
Protectivity for the price is our biggest objection to the Silicone Sleeve design. Companies such as Marware sell comparatively much more protective cases such as SportGrip for lower prices, including added face and bottom coverage, and the only thing you’re giving up is the rear aesthetic tweaks Belkin has included. If looks alone are enough of a draw to warrant a price premium and big compromise on front protection, we wouldn’t discourage you from considering Silicone Sleeve, but our feeling is that Belkin should bring its great design techniques into cases with more comprehensive iPhone 3G coverage.