Nearly four months have passed since Apple released the iPhone, and two waves of cases — the rushed, early ones, and the somewhat better, post-launch releases — have become widely available. Not surprisingly, iPhone case releases have slowed down as new iPod models have demanded manufacturers’ attention, but today, we’re quickly looking at five recent options of different types, one more noteworthy than the rest.
There have been two schools of thought on iPhone cases: “cover everything,” and “mostly cover iPhone’s sides and back.” So long as the device’s controls and ports remain acceptable, we always prefer cases that cover everything, but it’s much easier for case makers to design around the less protective standard. That’s what Agent 18 has done with EcoShield for iPhone ($25), a hard plastic case that’s made from recycled materials and designed to let you “protect and conserve” at the same time. Two versions, “black” and “natural,” are available.
Each EcoShield package consists of three pieces: slide-on, lock-together top and bottom shells for the iPhone, and a matching Universal Dock Adapter with enough space inside to let you dock the encased iPhone in your preferred speaker system—a convenient feature that Agent 18 has been pioneering for years in its iPod cases. EcoShield’s bottom is built to permit full, unencumbered access to the Dock Connector, speaker, and microphone on iPhone’s bottom, while the top half has holes for the headphone port, camera, Sleep/Wake button, and side controls. Agent 18 doesn’t leave enough room inside for a body film-covered iPhone, but there is enough space on the front to attach separately-sold screen film if you want.
Those keeping track of iPhone case options will note that Agent 18’s solution is similar to Incase’s rubber Protective Cover for iPhone, which we pilloried for being overpriced and underfeatured; EcoShield covers a little less of iPhone’s top and side, but is more rigid on front than the softer, bezel-exposing Protective Cover, sells for a slightly lower price, and includes the Dock Adapter, which adds a bit of additional value. Of the two, we’d pick EcoShield any time, though people interested in an additional color option may find reasons to like the Incase offering, which comes in black, red, and gray versions.
It’s worth a brief additional note that the black EcoShield we received showed a significant number of scuff marks after a couple of weeks of in-pocket testing—shiny spots on the otherwise matte plastic case. The positive way of looking at this is that EcoShield absorbs abuse the iPhone might otherwise be taking, but it would be great if the case didn’t show marks quite so easily.
All in all, we don’t think EcoShield is in the same league overall as the top silicone cases we’ve tested, such as PDO’s TopSkin and Marware’s SportGrip: EcoShield protects less of the iPhone, costs more, doesn’t offer as many color options, and more easily shows wear and tear. Based solely on the resilience of iPhone’s glass face, we think this is a fine case option, but you can do better on protectiveness and everything save Universal Dock compatibility for the price.
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