iSkin Aura for iPhone 5
Along with the launch of the iPhone 5 comes iSkin's latest iteration of Aura ($40), and though we normally pass on shell-style cases, this one is more distinctive than most of the generic designs we've seen. The look is very clearly in line with iSkin's prior products, but for a price this high, people tend to expect a lot from a case. Aura offers a genuinely nice design, but it's not as protective or functional as many of the lower-priced alternatives on the market.
Unlike the numerous OEM produced and otherwise forgettable shells out there, Aura is made of slightly thicker plastic. It snaps onto the side edges of the iPhone 5, but leaves the top and bottom fully exposed. While this guarantees full access to the buttons and ports, it also means there’s potential for the aluminum to get scratched. Unlike most shells, Aura does include built-in button protection, but since the covers are flush with the rest of the plastic shell, it can be difficult to hit them correctly without looking at them. Despite a bump on the volume up control, it’s easy for your fingers to slide right over the buttons, and you can’t always tell when you’re pressing them because of lost tactility. Another thing that’s lacking is a substantial front lip. Aura extends just a hair over the height of the iPhone’s screen. While this is enough to prevent the screen from making contact with totally flat ground, we’d prefer a slightly thicker bumper to protect against drops and falls on uneven surfaces.
The dual-textured back is what makes Aura really stand out. Underneath the camera is a one-inch section of plastic with a mirrored finish that is so shiny it could be mistaken for metal. Below that there’s a 3.75” panel of vertically brushed aluminum, which looks quite nice. iSkin claims that the metal has been fully tested to avoid cellular problems, and in our testing we saw no reception difference with Aura in place.
We like the way Aura looks on the iPhone 5, but the level of protection and high price are not fantastic. The marketplace has established pretty conclusively that $40 is about twice the price people want to pay for a shell, unless there’s something totally spectacular in the package. Today’s best-rated, full-fledged iPhone 5 cases have all been at least $5 less expensive than Aura, while offering significantly more protection. If fashion is your main concern, and neither price nor full body coverage is critical to you, then you may want to consider Aura; it’s worthy of our limited recommendation on the strength of its design. Otherwise, you’ll find better options for less.