Review: Vaja iVolution Silver for iPhone
Nearly five years have passed since iLounge reviewed Argentina-based Vaja's earliest iPod cases, the traditional PDA flip-style Classic Case and the more impressive play-through design i-Vod. These cases distinguished themselves from competitors in quality: they're hand made from beautiful, high-quality leather that was and is unrivaled by $35-40 alternatives. Since then, Vaja has released dozens of premium-quality leather cases, and though the concepts have remained generally the same, three things have changed: the iPods, Vaja's color options, and its prices.
Over the years, we’ve watched as the i-Vod has morphed into various iVolution cases, and seen the Classic Case take on several variations per iPod, as well. Today, we’re reviewing four of Vaja’s latest cases: the play-through iVolution for iPod touch ($80) and deluxe iVolution Silver for iPhone ($280), plus the flip-style iVolution Top SP Holster for iPod touch ($80) and deluxe iVolution Top Crystal 2 for iPhone ($220). This review covers the first two cases; a separate review covers the latter two.
Vaja’s iVolution for iPod touch and iVolution Silver for iPhone are both based substantially on the company’s earlier iVolution for iPhone, and are the heirs apparent to the iVod dynasty. They’re both designed to permit complete access to the iPod touch or iPhone’s 3.5” touchscreen, ports, and other controls, while adding attractive, expensive-looking leather to its front, back, and sides. A hard shell inside enables the leather to keep its shape when the device isn’t inserted, and adds a little bit of drop protection to certain of its surfaces in the event that you accidentally let it fall out of your hands.
The single biggest benefit of these designs is the extent to which they can be customized to look exactly like you want. You can choose from 39 different colors for the iPod touch iVolution, and 36 different ones for the iPhone version of iVolution Silver. More significantly, the iPod touch version gives you two color choices—one for the front and one for the back—while the iPhone iVolution Silver case provides a single full-body color choice. Both cases can have belt clips and nubs added for $5, as well as rear text ($10) or graphic ($30) personalization in the form of engraving, if you’re looking for a special added touch.
Whether for iPod touch or iPhone, the iVolution cases offer the same general level of protection. They cover almost all of the iPod or iPhone’s back, most of their sides, and parts of their faces and bottoms; notably, they both do a better job than the first iVolution for iPhone at providing uninhibited Home button access and coverage, thanks to an elevated clicking surface. Unfortunately, however, they offer no screen protection at all—a sad omission relative to earlier, better iVods we tested—and also have substantially open bottoms, protecting only the corners. Neither case can fit into Universal Docks, but both are open to bottom-connecting accessories and headphones; the iPhone version’s speakerphone features are uninhibited, and the iPod touch version works with all headphones, stumbling only when connected to full-width bottom-connecting accessories. Vaja also leaves both devices’ tops completely open, with additional rear and side exposure for the iPhone’s camera, ringer switch, and volume controls. Otherwise, the cases are basically the same—good but not great—in protection.
So why, then, is there a $200 premium to be paid for the similarly protective but less customizable iVolution Silver? The answer’s in the name and photos: this version includes highly attractive silver side and face appliques, as well as one of Vaja’s matching drawstringed carrying bags—something you can use to protect the iPhone, or carry as an additional accessory, lined with satiny Vaja-branded fabric. While simple and not necessary for many potential buyers, the bag is certainly a beautiful addition to the package, making it even better when given as a gift.
More important are the silver features of the case. Vaja has crafted silver covers for both the iPhone’s ear speaker and Home button, the former with a metallic mesh grille, and the latter completely polished and concave. iVolution Silver’s sides may not be silver to the core, but you wouldn’t know it from the quality of the stripes, which are polished like the front pieces and the matching Vaja logo. These pieces all come together to create a case that’s undeniably beautiful in person; having seen Vaja’s Crystal cases and other super-premium case designs, we can say that iVolution Silver for iPhone is the company’s best-looking case yet.
Our only concerns about these cases are the same ones we mention time after time: the aforementioned protectiveness omissions, and their high prices. We needn’t reiterate our pricing concerns yet again beyond to note that, as we looked back at the earliest Vaja iVod cases, you certainly got more for the money back then, and Vaja has previously done better on protection as well—the major reasons these two cases miss the high recommendation marks their predecessors routinely enjoyed. But as far as premium leather cases go, the iVolution for iPod touch is a very good one—a little more protective and easier to use than the first iVolution for iPhone—and iVolution Silver for iPod touch is an even more gorgeous case for those with the budgets to buy in. We continue to hope that Vaja will innovate even more protective, accessory-compatible cases in the future.