Review: Speck CandyShell and CandyShell Satin for iPhone 4/4S
Before there was CandyShell Flip, CandyShell Grip, or CandyShell View, there was Speck's CandyShell ($35) for iPhone 4 -- which was more recently updated for compatibility with the iPhone 4S. Based on earlier iterations for the iPhone 3G/3GS, CandyShell was one of the earliest cases to combine plastic and rubber, and remains one of the best executed. Speck also recently expanded the line to include CandyShell Satin ($35), maintaining the same design while switching to a soft-touch finish.
The basic design features of the case have not changed significantly over the years. CandyShell is composed of two layers: an inner layer of soft, shock-absorbent rubber and an outer layer of hard plastic. Plastic covers the back and all the sides of the iPhone, while the rubber extends outwards to the four corners, front lip, volume buttons, and Sleep/Wake Button. By combining these materials together, Speck effectively protects almost all of the iPhone 4’s glass and metal body, including buttons, which is excellent. While the standard case’s glossy rear surface quickly develops a patina from surface scratches, this issue is resolved with the Satin version.
One change that Speck has made since introducing the earliest iPhone 4 model of CandyShell is increasing the size of the camera hole. Rather than a tight fit around the camera and flash, the company has expanded it significantly to prevent flash diffusion. Other companies have utilized different techniques to address this issue, many of which don’t require leaving so much of the glass back exposed. It is also notable that the inner rubber touching the back of the iPhone features a small dot pattern. Previous iPhone 3G/3GS and iPod touch 2G/3G versions of CandyShell did not have this same design; it reduces rubber and thereby the case’s weight without impacting protection.
A few issues remain with the basic CandyShell that have mostly been resolved with other versions, especially CandyShell Flip. Inserting the iPhone 4/4S into the case isn’t hard—one simply pushes it into place—but taking it out can be difficult. We found the best technique to be pushing from the behind at the top two corners. Another issue is dock compatibility. While it will fit most docks, including Apple’s Universal Docks, the thick plastic will prevent some electronic connections; ever so slight tweaks to the bottom hole could really help here. It’s worth noting that Flip addresses both of these issues with its rubber-hinged bottom portion. Finally, there’s screen protection: the CandyShells no longer come with screen film, which means that you’ll risk possible scratches of the iPhone 4/4S front glass, though the lip around the screen is very effective at reducing impacts from accidental drops.
CandyShell clearly set the path for a number of good and even great cases; the latest versions of the original design currently fall into the high end of the first of those two categories. The combination of plastic and rubber certainly works; it’s protective and attractive. Speck’s soft-touch finish option is also nice, and some users will certainly prefer it. The biggest factor that keeps us from offering a stronger recommendation, outside of the problems we addressed above, is that fact that CandyShell Flip costs the same amount and addresses those issues. That being said, the original is still worthy of a B+ rating on its own merits; we would like to see Speck add screen film back to CandyShell to really complete the protective package.