Review: Hard Candy Cases Bubble 360 Case for iPad (3rd-Gen)
Hard Candy Cases has released a number of innovative products over the years, and its most recent accessory for the third-generation iPad is Bubble 360 Case ($60) -- alternatively listed as BubbleCase 360 on the packaging. Though there are familiar elements in the design, it's not quite like anything we've seen before. The two-piece case is slim, yet claims to offer superior protection against liquid, dust, and debris, as well as drops and bumps. If you're looking for some extra iPad protection without added bulk, you'd do well to consider this case.
A dimpled polycarbonate shell in either black or white protects the back and sides of the iPad, with sturdy polyurethane around the edges. The tablet actually lays in this shell like a tray, as slight extensions of the corners hold it in place, a design that thankfully doesn’t make the unit feel significantly larger. It also provides protection for all the ports and buttons save for the microphone and rear camera, both of which are left exposed. Flip-open covers shield the headphone port, side switch, and Dock Connector port while the volume and Sleep/Wake buttons remain clickable through the edge plastic. Depressed power and volume icons can be seen alongside the corresponding buttons.
Hard Candy Cases includes a screen shield to protect the iPad’s display and hold the tablet in place. The plastic frame has a sheet of permanent screen protector film built in with a slight dimple for the Home button. It snaps into place and sits flush, leaving only a tab at the bottom left corner for easy removal. Unlike some competitors, Bubble 360 Case’s screen protection lays flat without air bubbles and doesn’t affect the responsiveness of the screen; even light touches still register. Unfortunately, as with many permanent screen protectors, there’s a prismatic effect that casts a rainbow haze over the Retina display. We’d classify the prismatic effect as between moderate and heavy, deeming it the single biggest knock on what’s otherwise a great case design.
Cases that offer the sort of protection that Bubble 360 Case does often come at a premium in both price and size, however, this case is both better-tailored to the new iPad than many rivals, and considerably less expensive—$30 less than a rival Otterbox. While we wouldn’t feel totally comfortable dropping an iPad from too high of a distance inside this enclosure, it’s certainly protected from small falls and the elements to a respectable degree. We haven’t yet seen something offer as much protection in a comparably slim form factor. For the same $60 price, you could opt to go with the more heavy-duty Drop Tech Series Case from Hard Candy Cases’ sister company Gumdrop Cases, but if thinness is the key, this is a very reasonable option, and one that is worthy of our strong general recommendation. Only the prismatic screen film might disappoint otherwise satisfied users.