Review: iSkin Revo for iPhone
Pros: The first iPhone case from the silicone case masters at iSkin, featuring impressive protection - including unique camera and Dock Connector covers - as well as novelties such as dual screen covers, and two-tone, grip-textured rubber. Works inside Universal Dock accessories while providing extra anti-drop corner and side protection.
Cons: One screen cover provides clear view of screen but no touch sensor access, needs to be taken off and put back on; other (privacy) protector lets dust in, barely enhances privacy when iPhone’s being used for e-mail, photos, phone, or web in vertical orientation. No belt clip or video stand, which would be expected at high asking price. Colors aren’t a great match for classy iPhone.
Whenever iSkin releases a new case, people care. Especially us: as far as silicone rubber cases are concerned, we’ve grown to trust that the Canadian accessory maker will develop uncommonly good designs that are generally more protective, better looking, and well thought-out than their competitors. So when iSkin announced Revo ($40), a silicone iPhone case available in one- and two-tone versions, we rushed to see whether it was the protector we’ve been waiting for.
After a week with Revo, we concluded that iSkin has done a good job overall with its first iPhone case, unveiling a few innovations that could become great in future products. Revo is the first case we’ve seen with a built-in clear iPhone camera lens protector, part-time headphone port cover, pop-off face protector, or privacy-enhancing screen film. It’s also the first to allow you to pick from two colors of rubber: a black on black version is available, but black with light or royal blue, pink, red, or yellow versions are also options. If innovations were all it took to receive our high recommendation, Revo would have easily bagged an A rating. But in practice, we found ourselves wanting more for the price.
Revo’s strongest suit is unquestionably its protectiveness. With the exception of three holes—one for the iPhone’s ear speaker and proximity sensor, one for the ringer switch, and one for the bottom speaker and microphone, iSkin covers every other iPhone surface, down to the screen, every button, and the camera. In typical fashion, the company hasn’t just used boring smooth silicone, either: the case has a highly tactile texture and thicker side grips where your fingers are likely to rest. There’s even a special black Dock Connector cover in the package, molded to keep as much of iPhone’s bottom safe as possible without stopping you from using the bottom speaker and mic—a nice touch. And though it adds a bit of extra, iPod-like meat to the surprisingly skinny iPhone, Revo does make your iPhone feel more drop-safe than the full body film protectors we’ve been testing and liking recently, particularly in its padded corners. Still, if you remove your Universal Dock Adapter from any Universal Dock-equipped speaker or docking accessory, you can mount iPhone inside without taking Revo off.
iSkin has taken screen protection quite seriously, too. The screen actually gets two different layers of protection—the aforementioned pop-off face protector is called a Visor, and provides a layer of completely clear hard plastic that can be positioned on iPhone’s face, or reversed around and left on the case’s back inside sculpted silicone grooves. There’s also the static cling-based privacy-enhancing screen protector that can be applied, making iPhone’s display difficult to see from certain angles.
Our single biggest issue with Revo was that we really didn’t like either of the screen protectors iSkin includes. Put aside the complete lack of proximity sensor coverage, which looks a little odd in this particular design, and Revo is still left with two odd approaches to face coverage. The first piece—the pop-off hard face protector—lets you cover and see iPhone’s entire touchscreen, but not use it. Consequently, if you carry it along, you’ll need to constantly pop it on and off of iPhone’s face, which we didn’t like at all. So let’s say you take it off, as we did. iSkin’s second piece, the privacy film, slightly dims and doesn’t fully cover iPhone’s face, allowing little particles to get into the case. It also doesn’t work as a privacy guard in the way we would have expected.
Typically, if you’re concerned about privacy, you’re worried about someone looking at your screen from the left or right, rather than above you or in your lap. Instead, the screen-tinting effect happens only when a vertical iPhone is viewed from above or below, which means that most of what people do on the iPhone—e-mail, web browsing, phone, photos, and so on—will be visible to people sitting next to you. Flip the iPhone to horizontal (wide) mode for video viewing, however, and you’ll block out people to your sides, which is great if you watch a lot of video and don’t want others to see it. For this reason, whether you’ll like the way the film works will depend on what you’re trying to block others from seeing. It doesn’t interfere with normal use of iPhone’s screen should you decide you’re comfortable with its appearance.
The last two issues we had with Revo were its coloration and pricing. Though we give iSkin credit for trying to use optional two-tone coloring to step beyond all of the single-tone silicone cases we’ve seen to date, we didn’t really like any of the second colors—they all detract from iPhone’s sense of class—and found that the black base color shows a lot of dust, too. A simple clear version would have worked better. And as we’ve noted many times before in iSkin reviews, the $40 asking price strikes us as too high for any silicone rubber design but the absolute best of the best, and even then, it would be a big stretch given that Marware sells the protective, neutral silicone rubber Sport Grip case (iLounge rating: A-) for only $15. The only way $40 makes sense for a rubber case these days is by reference to even less valuable designs, such as the Incase Protective Cover for iPhone (iLounge rating: C+), which while $10 less expensive is also more difficult to recommend. Note also that none of these cases includes frills such as a belt clip or video viewing stand, which might more reasonably be expected as the prices go up.
Overall, iSkin’s Revo for iPhone was on the fine edge of our B+ and B ratings, but tipped into the flat B category because of several factors—its unusually high price, its somewhat awkward approaches to screen protection, and its less than beautiful use of two-tone, dust-attracting rubber. That said, we admire certain of its innovations, particularly its camera and uniquely shaped Dock Connector covers, but also its part-time headphone port cover and the concept (if not execution) behind its privacy-enhancing screen film. Our hope is that future iSkin cases for iPhone will materialize and make even better use of these ideas.