Company: Digital Lifestyle Outfitters (DLO)
Compatible: iPhone 3G
DLO HybridShell for iPhone 3G
When DLO released the first versions of two of its cases for iPod touch -- HybridShell and VideoShell -- we were genuinely excited. These clear hard plastic shells offered superb protection, really good looks, and very reasonable prices, the Hybrid version possessing a unique rear black rubber dot pattern, and the VideoShell replacing the dots with a very useful slide-out video stand. Now there are versions for the iPhone 3G: VideoShell still sells for $20, and HybridShell goes for $25. They're almost as good as their iPod touch predecessors.
Both cases come with the same general clear plastic face frame, which covers the iPhone 3G’s bezel but exposes the rest of the display, including the Home button. A clear film screen protector is included to cover everything except for the ear speaker and Home button, delivering nearly as much protection as the earlier iPod touch version.
They also share the same general body design. DLO previously impressed us by finding ways to cover the iPod touch’s front and top buttons with flexible hard plastic, but those covers are gone in the iPhone 3G case. Instead, the case leaves all the buttons, plus the ringer switch, headphone port, bottom speakerphone and Dock Connector port exposed. The result is a case that is Universal Dock and generally very accessory compatible, as well as compatible with even the largest headphone plugs that we test, but it’s not as protective as the best iPhone 3G designs we’ve seen.
Focusing too much on these omissions would be a mistake, however, as DLO’s plastic and film combination covers roughly 95% of the iPhone 3G, and the two cases’ added features are both nice. HybridShell’s rear dots make the slippery back of the iPhone 3G easier to grip, and they’re designed in a pattern that lets the device’s camera work without any issues, as well. VideoShell’s back preserves the same really great slide-out stand mechanism that we loved in the iPod touch case, allowing you to instantly prop the iPhone 3G up on its side for video viewing, or vertically if you want to web browse or play with other device features. This solution is substantially better-looking and more appealing in our view than a standalone belt clip holster; it’s one of DLO’s best case innovations to date.
The one serious problem we experienced with these cases appeared in the first units we—and customers—were sent by DLO back in late July. Both of them were easy to put on, but almost impossible to take off, and we actually sliced our fingers open trying to remove both of them. There was obviously a problem, and DLO has partially remedied it by redesigning the latches to be much easier to open; redesigned cases we received in September were appropriately capable of being opened and closed. Our only issue is that DLO hasn’t provided any sense to us of how customers are supposed to distinguish between old and new versions of the iPhone 3G VideoShell and HybridShell cases, and frankly, you may have no idea which one you’re buying.
As a consequence, our rating is split as follows: the updated VideoShell and HybridShell both rate a hair under the more protective iPod touch versions, while the original hard to open ones each lose a couple of letter grades for being disturbingly difficult to open. We’ll separate the ratings out in the event that DLO can guarantee that you’re receiving one of the newer versions; otherwise, average the two scores together and consider your purchase to be Russian roulette on your fingers.