Review: Griffin Elan Form Hard-Shell Leather Case 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.
Two of Griffin’s iPhone 3G cases are basically identical to one another except for one thing—external materials. This review covers Griffin’s Elan Form for iPhone 3G ($30), a hybrid hard plastic and leather case, while a separate review covers Nu Form for iPhone 3G, which sells for less and omits the leather.
Unlike last year’s Griffin cases, which snapped together and came apart vertically on the sides, both of these cases appear to have been inspired by Incase’s line of Slider cases for the iPhone and iPod touch, and now separate horizontally at around the 3/5 points on their backs. For Elan Form, this means a noticeable decrease in the amount of leather on the case—it’s basically invisible from the front, as plastic dominates the iPhone 3G’s front bezel—though the case is otherwise improved cosmetically for the change, looking smoother and better contoured. The new top-and-bottom design lets the bottom piece slide off so that you can dock the iPhone in Apple’s device-specific iPhone 3G Dock—a part that’s no longer included in the iPhone’s box, and therefore less likely to be in a given user’s arsenal of accessories.
Regardless, each case is designed with an open bottom, providing full access to the speaker, microphone, and Dock Connector down there, as well as full compatibility with Apple’s Universal Dock standard. Griffin has also left the top of each case open, for a fully compatible headphone port and Sleep/Wake button use. While the majority of cables will fit the bottom hole just fine, it’s not oversized, so thick Connectors and full-bottom accessories may have issues. The side controls, and camera, are fully left open.
The appeal of Elan Form is that it provides fans of leather with a case that looks similar to fully leather designs, but with the ability to have fully reinforced holes for the screen and controls—a challenge for completely leather shells, which tend to sag at these points. And, whereas last year’s Elan Form was sold solely in a black leather on black plastic version, this one comes in that combination or a two-tone pink leather on brown plastic variant. Elan Form in brown and pink didn’t light any fires around here visually, even with our female editor, but it does provide an option for people who just have to have a pink leather case. Though the leather Griffin has selected doesn’t look super expensive on either case, it does look nice enough for the price.
As with Nu Form, Elan Form comes with a non-adhesive, rigid clear plastic screen protector and a black cleaning cloth. We’re not big fans of the screen protector, which fits but slightly diminishes iPhone 3G screen sensitivity relative to static peel films we have tested in the past; Griffin views this as a “premium” option, but we don’t. Our preference would be for a good piece of static feel film, instead.
Overall, though Elan Form has changed in some positive ways from last year’s version, it strikes us as a small step down from the old design thanks to the new screen protector and the drop in front leather. Continued omissions in top and side protection—issues that other companies have solved through more strategic use of rubber and hard plastic—also bring it down from what could otherwise be a high recommendation. If you’re not concerned about scratching the top or left side of your iPhone, and want a case with the appeal of leather, Elan Form is a good choice; those seeking more protection or a more expensive look should consider other options. For our money, we’d go with the less expensive, leather-free Nu Form instead.