Now that the first dozen iPhone 4 cases are available—and since a lot is changing behind the scenes with these cases—I wanted to take a moment to fill you in on what we’ve been testing, seeing, and hearing over the past couple of weeks.
Developers really rushed out the first handful of cases in order to get early options into AT&T and Best Buy stores, and in some cases are going back and fixing problems they discovered only after the iPhone 4 became available. Issues with the iPhone 4 flash have been most widely discussed, particularly in cases from iFrogz that have mysteriously not arrived here for testing, but also in other cases with backs that weren’t cut to allow the flash enough room to fire. Griffin will be replacing early units of its Reveal case (shown above), a sharp-looking clear and opaque plastic design, with ones that don’t have flash issues.
Cases we’ve tested from Incipio have been surprisingly solid across the board. It’s “surprising” only in as much as so many competing cases seem to have problems here or there; Incipio’s feel like they’ve hit their stride after years of iterative improvements to older designs. We’re particularly fond of Silicrylic, but NGP Matte is also nice, as is the very similar dermaShot, and Feather’s fine, too.
Speck’s PixelSkin and CandyShell are already very good, and CandyShell’s getting updated. CandyShell was, hands down, the best iPhone 3G/3GS case after receiving its later manufacturing and color tweaks. The iPhone 4 version is lightweight, looks sharp, and fits really well, though it needs a little help on the bottom in particular to become more accessory-friendly. With slightly better port tailoring, CandyShell could be awesome for the iPhone 4. PixelSkin is a very solid rubber pick for the moment, and we can’t wait to try the new version, PixelSkin HD, which is expected soon.
Hard Candy and Gumdrop have had mixed results. Both of these case companies are from former Speck exec Tim Hickman, whose latest designs are variations on the cool, quirky themes that he was involved in at Speck. Hard Candy’s BubbleSlider series turned out to be really quite good—similar cases with a rubber interior and button protection would be spectacular—but Gumdrop’s earlier Gumdrop Skin and Moto Skin Cases feel like rush jobs that really needed a little extra development time and polish. We’ve updated our First Looks to show off how the iPhone 4 looks in these cases… they arrived two weeks before the iPhone 4 hit shelves.
Apple’s iPhone 4 Bumpers? Ugh. There’s not much more to say about the iPhone 4 Bumper “Cases” other than that they’re rip-offs—ridiculous pricing given that they offer no front or back protection, and the rubber/plastic design pinches CandyShell, too, without offering its other advantages. While we like the metallic buttons that are built into the Bumpers, the cases’ almost complete incompatibility with headphone and Dock Connector accessories makes them a huge pain to actually use with anything. We wouldn’t recommend them to anyone.
United SGP’s Surprise. We were a little concerned that the Leather Pouch Vintage Edition wasn’t going to fit the iPhone 4 properly, given that it arrived a week before the iPhone 4 did, but it’s trouble-free. Sharp-looking, nice leather with the same dark red interior as SGP used on an earlier and similarly nice iPad version of this case. We don’t like or really recommend flip cases, generally, but this is one of the better-looking ones for sure.
There will be much more to say on iPhone 4 cases as the weeks (and months) pass. For now, our advice would be to exercise caution before making a purchase, as there are a lot of not-quite-right options floating around out there in the early days of the iPhone 4’s availability.