Review: Case-Mate Pop! for iPhone 4/4S
Rubber and plastic can do great things together in iPhone cases, and Case-Mate's new line of Pop! cases offers impressive examples of how the materials can work in harmony. Pop! ($30), Pop! ID ($40), and Pop! With Stand ($40) for the iPhone 4/4S all share the same basic structure, with the latter two incorporating special features indicated by their names. While they're clearly inspired by Speck's groundbreaking CandyShell and its progeny, we give Case-Mate credit for adding unique touches to its take on the genre.
Of the three cases, Pop! is the most basic. The core of the case is glossy, hard plastic, while soft, shock-absorbent rubber lines the inside, extending over the sides to the back, and covering the buttons. Unlike Speck, which went with a flat matte rubber on the outside and dot texture on the inside, Case-Mate chose a tiny dot texture, concave on the outside and convex on the inside around the friendly greeting, “Hola.” Although the rubber over the Sleep/Wake and volume buttons is actually slightly smaller than the buttons themselves, all three maintain a very nice tactility. Inserting and removing an iPhone is very easy, although this ease partially comes at the expense of a protective lip. There is one, but it doesn’t extend as far as the ones on CandyShells, or many competitors’ similar cases. While the opening for the headphone port hole is rather tight and will limit the use of some top-mounting accessories, the Dock Connector hole is wide enough to support most third party plugs as well as Universal Dock accessories.
Pop! ID and Pop! With Stand have essentially the same setup as Pop!, though the two more complex models share a few small differences. The shape and size of the buttons covers and holes are slightly different, most notably switching to oval-shaped and slightly wider headphone openings, and larger, pill-shaped volume button protectors. Another small difference the cases share is the shape and pattern of the rubber. It has a wave-grid pattern around the back and sides, losing the dots. Both models are also slightly, but noticeably, thicker, taller, and wider than Pop!. Unfortunately, this blocks iPhones in Pop! With Stand from making an electronic connection with Universal Docks; Pop! ID was still able to work with the Universal Dock accessories we tested.
As its name implies, Pop! ID is designed to hold ID or credit cards. Built into the back of the case is a slot that can hold up to two cards, covering them almost completely save for scoops on the top and bottom. The bottom scoop combines with an inclined edge at the bottom to make it easy to push cards out when they’re needed; two regular plastic credit cards fit snugly together in the slot. Pop! With Stand, on the other hand, has a thin kickstand integrated into the plastic. A small divot underneath it allows you to pull the stand up; it clicks into place at about an 80° angle. The stand will support the iPhone 4 or 4S in landscape or portrait orientation, and it’s pretty sturdy too.
In having to choose between the rather similar CandyShell and Pop!, we’d give the slight advantage to Speck’s offering, but it’s also more expensive. Consequently, Pop! is as good of a case for $30 as CandyShell is for $35, and equally worthy of a B+ rating; the question is how much you want to spend. By comparison, Pop! With Stand strikes us as a bit too expensive for what it is. The stand is a nice touch, especially of those who watch a lot of video on the iPhone, but it comes at a price premium, is thicker, and doesn’t connect to Universal Docks. It earns a general recommendation and B rating. Similarly, Pop! ID is a little pricey given the real-world value of its design, but it’s one of the better credit card-holding plastic cases we’ve tested, and the Universal Dock compatibility makes up somewhat for its minor omissions. It also receives a B rating, and our general recommendation.