Review: SwitchEasy Melt, Numbers + Shades for iPhone 5/5s
The folks over at SwitchEasy have been quite busy lately. Shortly after releasing a flood of iPhone 5c cases -- seen here and here -- they have now debuted a handful of new options for the iPhone 5 and 5s. Although we've seen Melt ($25) before, this version has been redesigned as an iPhone 5/5s model, and now shares the improved plastic and rubber body of the iPhone 5c version. Numbers ($15) also has an iPhone 5c correlate, and is the least expensive case in SwitchEasy's iPhone 5/5s lineup. Finally, Shades ($30) is the most interesting of the bunch. With a retro look and feel, the hard plastic case surely sticks out. All three cases come with screen film, among other extras.
As Melt is based heavily on Numbers, we’ll start by taking a look at the latter case. Even though it’s very inexpensive, it’s one of the company’s best cases. This one is made of a plastic polymer material, which offers a firm structure but plenty of flexibility. Coming in five colors, including a frost white, it’s incredibly easy to install and remove the case, yet it wraps around to protect almost every bit of the iPhone’s plastic body. After installing the screen protector, the only portions left exposed at all times are the Home Button, rear camera, side switch, microphone, and speakers; the last two have only small openings around them, enough to let sound in or out without leaving extra plastic unprotected. Both the headphone and Lightning ports are protected by integrated stoppers. They flip out of the way when access is needed, but are otherwise unobtrusive and very welcome.
Melt starts with a core that’s very similar to Numbers. The big difference is the shape; it’s thinner in some areas, and comes over the iPhone’s top bezel in a melting pattern. It includes the same port and button protection, although on this case, it takes more pressure to activate the power button.
The thinner material corresponds to the shape of the hard plastic backplate that fits on over the case. On four of the five color options—black excluded—the plastic is a different, contrasting color, including reflective gold. Arguably, this layer adds some protection, but it’s likely there more for show. The melting pattern is sure to turn some heads, which is surely the specific reason someone would choose Melt over Numbers. Overall, the material choices and case design are a real improvement over the previous, slider-style Melt for iPhone 4/4S.
Shades is the most unique case of this bunch, and one of the more original options we’ve seen from SwitchEasy in the past year or so. Coming in translucent black, green, or purple, the case has a very 70s vibe. Whereas most of the company’s cases are thin and malleable, this one is much thicker and totally sturdy; it has practically no give. The iPhone fits inside it like a tray, with Shades adding about a quarter of an inch to the height and width. Any protective lip the case adds to the iPhone’s face is negligible, which is unusual for SwitchEasy.
Metallic button protectors add to the premium feel of the case, helping to ensure a good tactile experience. The case’s thickness can get in the way of accessing the ringer switch, though, so users with stubby fingers or short fingernails may need to really dig in there to manipulate it. Then, along the bottom, there’s another surprise: one long opening running from the speaker to the headphone port. It’s not a common design choice from SwitchEasy, but the company does include two connector protectors, which fit into the ports. Our favorite aspect of the case is the subtle outward curve on the back, which feels very good in the hand; the larger bottom port opening may also be a winner for users looking for a Lightning speaker-compatible case option.
Just as with the iPhone 5c version, Numbers for iPhone 5/5s is a really impressive case, especially for the price. While it may look simple, it offers a very high level of protection, and a great feeling material. It’s excellent enough for the price to merit our rare flat A rating. At $10 more, with small button issues and a more limited aesthetic appeal, Melt earns a general recommendation. It’s still a good value, and highly protective. Lastly, Shades also earns that same B rating, with points for its unique look and feel. The size will be a turn-off for some, but we credit SwitchEasy for taking a risk with this one. We think it paid off.