Over the last week, we’ve been checking out eight different leather iPhone 3G cases, almost all of them highly familiar based on earlier versions we’ve seen for the original iPhone. We’re giving each only a brief review, with a short description and opinions below. This review covers Case-Mate’s Signature Leather ($35) and Carbon Fiber Leather ($50) cases for the iPhone 3G.
The original iPhone’s Signature Leather and Carbon Fiber Leather cases were “play-through” hardshell cases wrapped in leather, providing full access to the device’s touchscreen without the need for a flap or other cover; this year’s versions are the same, with slightly revised bodies. Once again, the Signature version’s leather is smooth Napa, in your choice of black or red, while the Carbon Fiber Leather is textured to look like expensive carbon fiber. Each comes with a rectangular screen protector, cleaning cloth, and application squeegee; neither protects most of the iPhone 3G’s top and side corners.
We were generally impressed when we saw the original Signature Leather Case last year, and this year’s version has changed in some good and some not so good ways. Gone is the prior version’s slightly odd devil-eared front shape, replaced by a more conventional front bezel, and more protection has been added to the iPhone’s right side. However, Case-Mate has dropped the previously included detachable belt clip from the package, kept the price the same, and also continued to include a rectangular film screen protector that’s not as impressive as the full-face ones it sells in separate packages, and competitors routinely include at no charge. The case is also Universal Dock incompatible, though its fully open top and bottom don’t preclude connection of most other types of accessories. For the $35 asking price, this case looks good, but we’d expect more in protection and compatibility; it drops a bit from last year’s rating due to Case-Mate’s decision to keep the price the same while including less functionality.
The Carbon Fiber Leather version uses the exact same shape, but coats the iPhone with a less common type of leather—it’s not real carbon fiber, but a textured leather that looks like it, and is now available in either black or silver versions. You’ll pay a $15 premium for this material, which is on the high side, but not as objectionable as last year’s $90 iPhone version, which users were forced to buy with a matching holster-styled belt clip; if you have a carbon fiber car interior or some other fetish for this look, the $50 price won’t strike you as crazy. Nothing else is different between this and the Signature case, however, which means the same protectivity and accessory compromises apply; due to these issues, which could have been avoided with slightly different hardshell tailoring, these are good but not fantastic designs. They both rate the same general-level recommendation.
Company and Price
Compatible: iPhone 3G