Review: BTA Workshop/Jet Navy Collection Illusion Cases 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 BTA Workshop's Illusion Cases ($25).
This review of the Illusion Cases is somewhat of a work in progress—we have decided to cover them at this point because we really like one of them, and despite the fact that their Hong Kong-based creator’s web site is one of the more confusing ones we’ve seen. BTA Workshop, as it turns out, is also known as Jet Navy Collection, but doesn’t actually sell its own cases to the public; it ships them to other vendors you’ve never heard of. As such, you may find the Illusion cases online at varying prices on eBay or from unknown companies such as Dr. Jelly and More Thing; we can’t vouch for the reliability or quality of any of these small merchants, and would advise you to tread carefully before placing an order.
We advise caution for a reason; the Illusion case series is unfortunately limited in appeal by both its lack of screen protection, and a highly confusing naming system that will almost certainly result in some users receiving the wrong products. We received four different versions of the Illusion Case, numbered 319, 320, 321, and 342. There weren’t any details as to what these numbers meant, so we had to figure them out for ourselves. It turns out that the first three numbers are all made with a “Class 3 Hydrocarbon Polymer” that feels sticky and awful to the touch; their differing numbers indicate “small diamond markings” (319), “medium hexagonal markings” (320) and “big diamonds” (321). You can see all three in the multicolored photos here. We wouldn’t recommend them at all; they feel cheap and gummy, and will require washing to keep clean.
By contrast, BTA’s Illusion 342 case is made from “Class 2 Hydrocarbon Polymer,” which is non-sticky and has a diamond pattern, as shown in the clear and smoke two-case photographs. Exactly the same in protection—open bottom, medium-sized headphone port. ringer switch, face, and camera—this version feels like smooth plastic and doesn’t attract lint and dust like the others. Simply put, we really liked how the 342 case looked, felt, and worked in our pockets; the diamond texture and transparency do a great job of classing up the iPhone 3G while protecting most of its plastic. It’s actually one of the coolest cases we’ve yet seen for the device.
The only reason the 342 case doesn’t receive a higher recommendation is what it fails to include for its price. Sold most commonly for around $25, it comes with literally nothing save for the rubber shell, and the lack of a clear film protector means that you’ll find yourself paying around $35 before you finish covering your iPhone. We’d feel better about recommending Illusion 342 if it included screen coverage, or sold for less. But if you’re willing to take a risk on ordering it with the significant caveats noted above, this case is surprisingly cool—we just hope that BTA Workshop will step up and fix its confusing naming conventions so that users will have an easier time buying its products. No one should need a chemical engineering degree or a memory for numbers in order to understand something as simple as a rubber case purchase.