Company: Speck Products
Compatible: iPhone 4/4S
Speck FabShell + FabShell Luxe for iPhone 4/4S
We have to hand it to Speck: the company knows how to make a case. It took home both iPhone and iPad Case of the Year in our 2012 Buyers' Guide for CandyShell Flip and CandyShell Wrap, respectively, and we also like its Fitted line. So it's understandable that we were excited to receive FabShell for iPhone 4 and 4S ($45). This case combines the cool fabric elements of Fitted with the one-piece construction of CandyShell. The result isn't perfect, but it is another good move by Speck.
Like CandyShell, FabShell combines plastic and rubber elements, although it uses a different arrangement. The back and sides are mostly hard plastic, but they have integrated soft plastic accents that give the case some flexibility; this makes inserting and removing your iPhone pretty easy. It may not be quite as protective as CandyShell, but it’s still pretty good. When in place, the case’s edges do form a lip but seem just a bit stretched out, showing they lack some elasticity. We do like that the covered volume buttons still feel pretty clicky, but the Sleep/Wake button lose some of its tactility—it functions just as well as it would uncovered, though.
All of the openings are well cut, with the headphone and Dock Connector port openings large enough to support most third party plugs. Unfortunately, the thickness of the case prevents the Dock Connector port from making a proper electronic connection with Universal Docks unless it’s propped forward a bit. It’s also worth noting that like most of Speck’s cases at this point, FabShell features an oversized camera hole that assures no diffusion of the flash.
What really sets FabShell apart from other rubber and plastic cases is the fabric that wraps around the back and sides. The only other case we’ve ever seen use fabric like this is Fitted. Available in a variety of designs—including a few special holiday prints and some in conjunction with Burton for a $5 premium—these cases look very nice and definitely stick out as something different. Knowing Speck, there’s a good chance we’ll see a number of new designs over time.
Aesthetically, FabShell is a success. It has a simple, clean design that’s only enhanced by the fabric accents. The button coverage isn’t as good as we’ve seen from the company before, but it’s still appreciated. We’d like to see the tolerances improved a bit so that the case has a less stretched out appearance, and perhaps a slightly thinner bottom to allow for dock compatibility. Overall, however, FabShell earns a strong general recommendation. It’s not the least expensive case around, but it does offer a fair level of protection, and looks great while doing so.
Updated June 13, 2012: Speck has released a premium version of FabShell dubbed FabShell Luxe ($50), pictured above. The back is covered in genuine leather rather than fabric, but otherwise the case is identical. Black, brown, red, and green versions are available.