Apple officially unveiled the iPhone 4 Case Program this morning, along with a free downloadable iPhone 4 Case Program App that automatically checks your iPhone 4 against Apple’s serial number database and enables you to choose from eight cases—actually, seven if you count the two colors available for one of the cases. We’ve seen a bunch of the cases already, as well as predecessor versions of others for past iPhones, so here are the ones we’d recommend, plus comments on the others. Updated July 29, 2010 with additional photos and details.
Speck’s PixelSkin HD. This just-released case combines twin textures—glossy and matte black plastics—to create a grid on the back of the shell. Easy to put on and take off if necessary, PixelSkin HD has fairly accessory compatible holes and lacks only for screen protection. We’d definitely lean towards this one, which otherwise sells for $30.
Griffin’s Reveal Etch. Based on the company’s earlier Reveal for iPhone 4, Reveal Etch pairs soft rubber sides with a hard plastic back that has a faux carbon fiber texture—the standard Reveal has a clear plastic back. Reveal Etch appears to work properly with the iPhone 4’s camera and flash system, has reasonably sized accessory holes, and the same integrated button protection as PixelSkin HD. Choosing between them is mostly a question of the type of rear texture you like, but PixelSkin HD’s sides are a little firmer, which we like, while Reveal Etch’s back is stiffer. It’s normally $30.
Reveal Etch Graphite
Griffin’s Motif. Normally $20, this semi-soft TPU case is translucent gray—“smoke”—and has a diamond pattern on its back. Though the atypically low price might lead you to write this one off, the strength of Motif and earlier predecessors from competitors is that the manufacturing process yields very affordable, durable, and sharp-looking designs. Motif feels glossy on all of its sides, which might be an issue for users who need more tack, but the diamond rear pattern looks very cool in an understated way on the iPhone 4. This case is also noteworthy because its bottom and camera holes are tailored nicely for proper accessory, speakerphone, and photo performance, though its headphone port hole is on the small side.
Speck’s Fitted Case. We generally really like the style and fit of Speck’s Fitted series, which pairs a fabric rear surface with a hard plastic two-piece shell. The one Speck’s offering in the case program has a gray and black Tartan Plaid pattern and normally goes for $30; the only reason we’d lean away from it is that the button coverage is really weak by comparison with the cases listed above—they’re basically all exposed—and the accessory holes don’t have any ability to expand due to the hard plastic. But the fabrics Speck chooses are always really nice, as shown on the version we’ve covered already, and have a matte finish.
Fitted for iPhone 4, with a different fabric pattern
Incase’s Snap Case for iPhone 4. Now sold for $35, this is Incase’s take on the seriously overpopulated “simple thin shell” genre, which is only appealing due to the simple, clean design. The iPhone 4 version is shown below in clear, and comes packaged with a plastic separate video stand; it offers very limited top and bottom protection, with no front protection and open side buttons. Apple’s offering this one in smoke or clear colors, the only case with two versions—neither is the more deluxe Perforated design we liked and featured in our iPod/iPhone Book 5 earlier this year.
Snap Case for iPhone 4 in Smoke
Belkin Shield Micra for iPhone 4. With a $25 asking price, Shield Micra is the only case in the bunch that we don’t know much about, besides the pictures on Belkin’s site—the company has had some rough patches with cases we’ve seen in recent years. This one appears to have open buttons, but whether it’s made from semi-soft TPU plastic or a harder material is unclear; there would likely be button covers if it was made from TPU.
Apple Bumper Case for iPhone 4. Sold for $29, this “case” is really just two types of plastic—one matte rubber, one glossy hard plastic—wrapped around the metal edge of the iPhone 4. It creates major accessory incompatibilities and offers no protection for the iPhone 4’s back, unlike all of the other cases above. Though we like its looks, we wouldn’t recommend this one.
Notably, none of these cases includes screen protection, making some form of film an advisable additional purchase if you’re worried about glare, smudges or potential scratches. A wide collection of other iPhone 4 case options is available in our iPhone 4 Case Gallery, as well.