Review: Bodydock Cellphone Armor Sweet Spot Combo Kit for iPhone 4/4S
Since the introduction of the iPad 2, magnets have become increasingly common in cases for Apple's tablet. They're not found nearly as often in iPhone cases, but newcomer Bodydock has developed an entire solution based around them with the Cellphone Armor Sweet Spot Combo Kit for iPhone 4/4S ($80). For the price you get an unusually large box filled with quite a few pieces: a Cellphone Armor case (aka "Rhino Shield Armor"), both clear screen film and a protective bezel sticker, one "Fabric Sweet Spot," six "All Around Sweet Spot Magnets," and two tethers -- one reel-style, one lanyard. The pieces are also sold individually should you not want the entire Sweet Spot experience. Bodydock's concept is based around the ability to have one case that can attach to magnets in a variety of locations, for a variety of needs.
You can think of Rhino Shield Armor as the most heavily reinforced simple shell to date. Instead of thin plastic, it’s made of a combination of materials. The core is plastic, with rubber lining the inside and covering the side rails—the thick plastic covers just the back portion of the top and bottom edges, but leaves them otherwise fully exposed. Notably, the shell is too chunky to allow any sort of connection in Universal Dock accessories. Along the left edge is an opening for the silent switch that’s fine for the GSM iPhone 4 and just tall enough to support the CDMA iPhone 4 and the iPhone 4S, while providing coverage for the volume buttons. Because of the thickness of the rubber, it takes a noticeable amount of extra pressure to depress these buttons.
The materials alternate with a pattern of hexagons and raised ridges, adding significant shock protection but resulting in what’s sure to be a very polarizing design—one we’re not particularly fond of. Unusually, Bodydock also chose to have separate openings for the camera and flash, which thankfully didn’t exhibit flash-related issues in our photographic testing. Another distinguishing factor is the kickstand built into the bottom of the case, which supports both landscape and portrait orientations.
Between the plastic and rubber layers of the case is a sheet of magnetic metal—a rounded rectangular cutout measuring roughly 1.25” x 3” is recessed in the back.. This is how the the Fabric Sweet Spot and All Around Sweet Spots connect to the case. The first of the options is made up of two plastic pieces, each with a set of washer-shaped magnets. Our review unit came hand-marked with pink ink denoting polarity—minuses on one set of magnets, plusses on the other. The negatively charged magnets are on a piece of plastic that fits into the depression on the back of the case, while the other half is meant to go under clothing or other fabric; this gives the user the ability to wear his or her iPhone, or attach it to a bag. While we wouldn’t see ourselves actually wearing the case this way, the system does accomplish the task without damaging the material. Notably the Fabric Sweet Spot has a stronger attraction to itself than the case, meaning that when the phone is disconnected, the halves stay together through the fabric waiting to be reconnected to the case, rather than separating and falling away.
The All Around Sweet Spot Magnets are a more practical use of the system. Each of the six included magnets fits loosely into the opening on the back of the case for iPhone attachment; they all have padded adhesive strips that bond them to any flat surface, such as kitchen cabinets, bed posts, and—in Bodydock’s marketing materials—steering wheels, a potential driving distraction that may attract the eyes of law enforcement officials. In any case, the magnets work well, mounting and unmounting the case with minimal effort, though the adhesive used here to attach magnets may leave traces when pulled off. Six magnets should be plenty for most users, although a set of three can be had for an additional $10.
For those who prefer to attach an iPhone in a different fashion, there are the two tethers. Both attach to the Cellphone Armor case at either the top or bottom edge by being strung through a small opening. The reel has two metal clips; one is a carabiner that provides some extra security, while the other is attached to the plastic reel itself and rotates all the way around. Alternatively, there’s the fabric lanyard. Both accessories have plastic clips that allow the case to be detached, while the lanyard has an additional metal clasp for additional attachments. We’ve rarely seen a practical use for either type of accessory, but these are fine for what they are and integrate well into the system.
Although there are many pieces here, the Cellphone Armor Sweet Spot Combo Kit needs to be considered as a whole, and in the final analysis, it’s a good idea with so-so actual execution. While the magnetic attachment system works just as advertised and offers a variety of mounting options, the other pieces are letdowns: Bodydock’s case is reasonably protective but not particularly attractive from our perspective, and though the Fabric Sweet Spot component does what it promises to do, we can’t see ourselves or most other people actually using it. The other parts are sort of like bonus components, but you’re paying for them. Given the $80 asking price and the overall design of the parts inside, the full kit merits a C+ rating—it’s a niche product at best, but a future iteration with improved elements could be legitimately good. Since the pieces are offered individually, our advice to people who like the case design would be to go a la carte with the pieces you want, and skip the ones that are impractical for your needs.