Review: Griffin Elan Form Hard-Shell Natural Cork Case for iPhone
When we reviewed Griffin Technology's Elan Form combination leather and hard plastic case for the iPhone in late 2007, we weren't expecting that the company would update the concept in any substantial way -- the concept had been done before by Incipio in OVRMLD, and only modestly improved by Griffin's addition of screen protection in Elan Form. Then Griffin surprised us by introducing this, a "Natural Cork" version of Elan Form ($30), which sells for the same price but uses substantially different exterior material.
While the new version of Elan Form isn’t worthy of a completely new review, we opted to cover it separately because it’s so different from iPod and iPhone cases we’ve seen before. By “different,” we don’t mean better—the cork is a little easier to damage than the prior Elan Form’s leather shell, hence the case’s slightly lower rating—but it’s neither a cheap-feeling case nor a completely stupid design. To the contrary, we actually like the idea of finding an affordable way to integrate natural materials into cases, as Miniot’s beautiful all-wood iWood cases were really too expensive by most users’ standards, and Griffin’s decision to use a veneer over plastic has definite appeal to the pocketbook, if not the purist.
Other than the cork’s slight softness, Elan Form Cork’s pros and cons are the same as its leather predecessor: you get a hard plastic shell that covers the whole iPhone save for its top, bottom, side controls, camera, and face, each of which is exposed to the elements. An included rectangular screen protector covers only iPhone’s 3.5” display, and not the area around its ear speaker or home button. This is a B level of protection by comparison with other alternatives we’ve tested, and Griffin could definitely have done better for the price.
On the flip side, as is almost always true of cases with less than comprehensive protection, the cork version of Elan Form doesn’t in any way inhibit your use of the iPhone’s features. Griffin continues to use a Universal Dock-compatible shape that also provides full access to the iPhone’s bottom speakerphone and Dock Connector elements, letting you connect any accessory—speaker, portable add-on, or otherwise—that you might want to use, without having to pull the case off. Removing the case is as easy as sticking a coin or two fingernails in its bottom right corner, then twisting; this took a coin and a little effort the first time but worked with short fingernails thereafter.
The cork version of Elan Form is, without question, a comparatively niche product that at best can be described as “fun,” particularly for sommeliers and other wine aficionados, and less charitably as weird, a design that doesn’t mesh in any way with the iPhone’s aesthetic. While it goes without saying that these days, cases needn’t match Apple’s products in order to appeal to some subset of the huge overall market, we would have thought more of Elan Form Cork if it had been a little more aggressively designed, both in looks and protection.