Review: Metallo Design Gilty Couture Chromium Cases for iPhone
For years, metal iPod cases were nearly commodities: early iPod Armor aluminum cases from Matias were shamelessly duplicated all over the world, and competitors eventually turned to different thicknesses, colors, partial use of plastics, and other changes to create new and improved models. Having exhausted most of those ideas in a series of popular and reasonably priced iPod cases, Core Cases decided last year to try something different: it established a new brand called Gilty Couture, created designer iPod shells from jewelry-class metals, and sold them for premium prices.
Now the Gilty Couture line has taken another step forward. Last year, its iPod touch and iPhone “Accoutrements” were just flashy bezel covers for these devices’ faces; the iPod nano and classic received fully protective shells. Today, we’re looking at complete iPod touch and iPhone cases in two versions—Stainless Steel ($160) and Chromium ($200-250)—which have been strategically cut to provide screen, button, port and other access, while avoiding interfering with the devices’ wireless capabilities. Both the iPod touch and iPhone get the brushed Stainless Steel versions; only the iPhone has the shiny, polished Chromium for now.
All of these cases start with the same basic formula, derived from earlier slider-style Core Cases designs. There is a slide-off faceplate that covers part of each device’s top and sides, leaving the Sleep/Wake button and headphone port exposed, as appropriate, and containing a bezel shield for the frame around each device’s screen. No screen protection is offered. The second half is a shell that actually holds the iPhone or iPod touch inside using a thin layer of foam padding, covering most of the device’s back, sides, and bottom corners, but exposing most of the plastic wireless antenna compartment and bottom ports. None of the cases are completely closed on any side, save for the right of the iPhone case and the left of the iPod touch one, but what is covered feels very solidly protected. Universal Dock access and very substantial accessory compatibility are possible, thanks to the cases’ open bottoms and the tailoring of the metals.
The stars of the shows are the metals picked by Gilty Couture’s designers at Metallo Design. We were surprised at how good the iPod touch and iPhone looked in stainless steel, which Metallo picked from resilient Japanese stock and smoothed at the edges to avoid cuts. The company claims that the steel makes it the most resilient metal case around, though the absence of complete face covering would lead us to avoid testing the claim. Similarly, the $200 Chromium version of the iPhone case has a handsome glossy appearance, similar to the backs of most iPods, along with added weight that makes the iPhone inside feel more substantial. There’s nothing cheap to see or touch here.
Of some interest is the $250 Chromium Black version of the iPhone case, which is identical to the standard take but for the presence of 110 hand-set black faceted stones on a raised surface that surrounds the iPhone’s screen. Unlike other Gilty Couture stone-encrusted cases, which are conspicuously described as possessing clear or pink Swarovski stones, this one doesn’t describe the stones as Swarovski, and the stones don’t sparkle as much. You’ll have to decide whether the subtle bling is up to your standards; we’re not completely blown away by the look, but can understand why some people would like the design.
Keeping the cases in good shape is, like jewelry, a matter of how well you care for them. Each is packed in a luxury Wardrobe Box with a combination cleaning cloth and carrying bag, the latter part used for both temporary protection and polishing off the chrome surfaces. Based on our testing, you can expect both cases to show small marks if they’re just tossed into a pocket or left out to get scratched; the Stainless version shows less as it sparkles less to begin with.
Overall, the new Gilty Couture cases for iPhone and iPod touch are as good from a protection standpoint as the iPod nano and iPod classic cases introduced last year; they lack for the sort of screen, control, and port protection you can easily find in less expensive cases, but offer a lot more flash. They also won’t mess up the device’s wireless features or accessory compatibility—a common concern with metal cases—and are guaranteed to attract attention by virtue of their unique materials. Our only concern is one of pricing: is a case coated in chrome really worth the same price premium as a case made from silver? Is a stainless steel case really deserving of a $160 asking price? Many people will answer no; like the crystal-laden versions of the Gilty cases, the value of jewelry is in the eye of the beholder. While not for everyone, these cases are good stabs at the premium metal case genre, and deserving of our general recommendation.