Review: Speck SmartFlex Card + View for iPhone 5
Evolved from two earlier CandyShell designs called CandyShell Card and CandyShell View, Speck's new SmartFlex Card ($35) and SmartFlex View ($35) are conceptually similar but substantially redesigned cases for the iPhone 5. Each offers a signature feature implied by its name: Card can hold up to three credit cards in a slot along its back, and View has a retractable stand. They have the same flexible edge and button protection plus almost identical port openings. The big difference between the two is what's on their backs.
Rather than combining plastic and rubber like its predecessor CandyShell Card, SmartFlex Card’s entire body is made of smooth, semi-flexible rubber that feels quite nice. This makes inserting and removing an iPhone 5 very easy, while insuring that phone is held strongly inside. Like every case we’ve seen from Speck for the current-generation iPhone, Card almost fully covers the device’s edges, including its Sleep/Wake and volume buttons, as well as protecting the display with a raised lip. Unfortunately, the former button loses pretty much all tactility, which is a letdown. There are of course openings for the vibrate switch, headphone port, and Lightning port, along with clusters of small dot openings for the microphone and speaker.
Card is designed to hold up to three cards, so naturally it’s a bit thicker than standard cases; it’s also just a hair thicker than Incipio’s Stowaway. Instead of a door, this design has a 3.5” slot underneath the camera lens, indented in from the edge by just about 0.25”. A raised triangle of rubber inside holds either one, two, or three cards—or some folded up cash—with equal pressure, so you don’t have to worry about one falling out if the holder’s not full. On the right side of the case is a thumb slot, allowing you to easily push your cards out. It’s a very nice solution, and altogether an impressively well-executed case.
When we reviewed CandyShell View, we liked the concept of the case, but had a serious problem with the incredible difficulty of removing an iPhone 4 or 4S from the thick plastic and rubber shell. SmartFlex View fixes that issue, and also comes in a slimmer package. The edges are the same as SmartFlex Card’s, except for the slightly different shape of the Lightning port opening and an ever-so-slightly clickier Sleep/Wake button. There was only one new issue: the bottom edge of our review unit sagged a bit rather than sitting flush against the iPhone’s frame.
What’s really quite cool about View is its built-in, retractable stand. You might miss it if you’re not looking for it: right along the bottom edge of the back is a tab slightly just over an inch wide with a small dip that allows you to pull the tab outwards. Doing so reveals a 2.25” plastic stand that can prop the iPhone up in either landscape or portrait orientation. It snaps into a guide, ensuring it’s locked in place. We really like both angles, the former for video viewing and the latter for general desk use.
With these two cases, Speck has scored home runs for users seeking more than just protection. SmartFlex Card is a really well-designed wallet case that rivals Incipio’s similarly impressive Stowaway. It looks and feels great, in addition to being protective, and just as useful as Speck claims. Because of this, it earns the same high recommendation as its top current competitor. SmartFlex View measures up to the same level, although without any real competition in sight—for the time being. Given that it packs a useful stand, it’s incredibly thin and light. And thankfully, unlike its predecessor, it can be removed when necessary. Anyone considering an iPhone 5 case for more than just protection would be wise to consider one of these designs.