Review: Contour Design iSee for iPhone

Review: Contour Design iSee for iPhone 1

It shouldn’t be a surprise that clusters of highly similar iPhone cases appeared at exactly the same time last week, or that there are reasons to prefer one such case over the others. We’ve looked at many leather, rubber, and fabric cases already; today, we review three reasonably priced clear hard plastic cases, Belkin’s Acrylic Case for iPhone ($30), Contour Design’s iSee for iPhone ($30), and Power Support’s Crystal Jacket Set for iPhone ($30). We’re also reviewing another clear protective solution, NLU Products’ BodyGuardz for iPhone ($25), which is a nearly comprehensive film that covers iPhone’s body to protect it against scratches. All four of these solutions have the same appeal: rather than masking the iPhone’s beautiful industrial design, they show it off, and in some cases enhance it through strategic use of clear plastic.

Review: Contour Design iSee for iPhone 2

Of the cases, the one we were most excited about initially was Belkin’s Acrylic Case for iPhone. Belkin’s spent a lot of time honing its case design skills over the past few years, and Acrylic Case is a powerful sign of what it can bring to life from sketches: the case very tightly outlines iPhone’s camera, ports, buttons, and switches, providing just enough access to each, and includes an impressive detachable belt clip that doubles as a video viewing stand. Capable of ratcheting through 180 degrees of freedom in 45-degree increments, this clip’s on a detachable frame that grips the case and the iPhone inside from the top and bottom. Each of the parts looks beautiful, showing off and accentuating the iPhone’s already great looks, and there’s no interference with iPhone’s proximity sensor when you’re making phone calls.

 

Review: Contour Design iSee for iPhone 3

Unfortunately, Acrylic Case has a couple of fairly serious issues. It has the most open face of all the clear protectors we’ve tested, leaving iPhone’s entire front open to potential damage. No full-face or screen film is included for those who want it. Belkin also uses a less than fully secure locking system to keep the front half of the shell secured to the back, resulting in occasional pop-outs of iPhone from the case when it’s first used. Over time, the parts settle a bit and that’s less likely to happen, but we’ve heard reports of other users experiencing the same pop-out issues we’ve had, thankfully none with disasterous results. This unexpected issue is the only reason Acrylic Case didn’t rate our general recommendation or better; we hope it’s fixed in a future revision. It’s worth bearing in mind if you plan to use Belkin’s included adhesive nub to mount the Acrylic Case in your car; the case does better on a video-ready recline than on an incline.

 

Review: Contour Design iSee for iPhone 4

Contour Design’s iSee for iPhone is very similar to the Acrylic Case in concept, but different in execution. iSee uses slightly thicker plastic than did Belkin, and more of it on iPhone’s face, sides, and back, making the final product feel more solid in your hand. Two sculpted side grips make the iPhone easier to carry, and three rubber feet on the back prevent the case from scuffing when you lay it on a flat surface. You get exactly the same port, button, camera, and switch access as in Belkin’s design, along with a snap-together shell that holds iPhone firmly inside, and covers more of the areas around the ear speaker and Home button. Just as with Acrylic Case, iSee permits full access to iPhone’s proximity sensor, bottom mic, speaker, and Dock Connector as well.

 

Review: Contour Design iSee for iPhone 5

iSee’s only major issues are three in number. Like the Acrylic Case, it doesn’t include screen protection, and thus leaves a 3.5” diagonal section of iPhone’s face exposed unless you go out and buy film yourself. It also includes a detachable, 180-degree ratcheting, 30-degree increment belt clip, here in the form of a black plastic holster, which doubles as a widescreen video stand when you want it. Our sample clip didn’t hold iPhone firmly enough inside, an issue Contour claimed to be remedying after initial iPhone user comments. And removing iPhone from the case after insertion is uncomfortable; we’ve done it a number of times without damaging the device, but it’s a tight squeeze. All things considered, we’d rather have the case a little snug than a little loose, like Belkin’s design. One minor issue is that the case’s back shows molding lines, detracting a little from its clear good looks, unlike its competitors.

 

Review: Contour Design iSee for iPhone 6

Power Support’s Crystal Jacket Set for iPhone is, in concept, an improved hybrid of the Belkin and Contour designs. It has the thinner feel and profile of the Belkin Acrylic Case, and the added front protection of the Contour iSee. Like both cases, there are holes in the plastic for iPhone’s screen, Home button, and ear speaker, as well as all the correct side, top, bottom, and back components. But Power Support goes further, including a fully protective piece of face-covering Crystal Film, which cleanly protects the rest of iPhone’s screen.

 

Review: Contour Design iSee for iPhone 7

Again, in concept, the Crystal Jacket merits cheers for out-protecting both of its above competitors. But in the version of Crystal Jacket we tested—one that Power Support is now retooling following comments in our First Look—the combination of film and the case’s lack of a cutout for iPhone’s proximity sensor made it unstable when used in phone mode. Using the case without film, or the film without the case, was fine, but when they’re together, iPhone’s screen sometimes turned off or on when it shouldn’t have, an issue we’ve seen with other cases that didn’t leave a gap for that sensor. Power Support has an easy fix ahead, and given that it’s protecting iPhone’s whole face with film, it needn’t compromise protectiveness in the process, but we’re holding off on a rating until we see the revised final product.

Crystal Jacket also has one other feature worth mentioning: like iSee, it comes with a black plastic holster and belt clip to let you mount iPhone on a belt. It also ratchets loosely on 30-degree increments through 180 degrees of freedom, but unlike the Belkin and Contour designs, it’s not meant to serve as a video stand, and Power Support noted that you’re only supposed to mount iPhone with its screen facing into the holster, not facing outwards. We preferred the video stand-ready concepts of the other clips, though Power Support’s design was the most stable of the bunch for actually holding the iPhone safely at belt level.

 

Review: Contour Design iSee for iPhone 8

Finally, there’s NLU Products’ BodyGuardz for iPhone. We’ve become very enamored with clear film solutions over the past year and a half, as they enable iPod and now iPhone users to preserve almost all of the appearance of their favorite devices without adding any perceptible thickness or weight. The only consequences are that matte surfaces tend to take on a plasticy shine, small dimples can be seen in the film on certain angles, and the film provides very little protection against drop damage; it’s only there to keep your iPod or iPhone safe from scratches and scuffs.

BodyGuardz for iPhone does a very good job at that. As with all full body films we’ve tested, it doesn’t make a great first impression, since you need to apply it using a wet applicator spray, and proper coverage of iPhone’s body requires especially precise alignment of all sorts of tiny edges. We found its corners especially hard to stick on to iPhone, despite getting most of the rest of the two-piece (front, then back and sides) film where it was supposed to be after 15 minutes or so of effort. Right after application, even with the included squeegee, it looked pretty ratty, with some bubbles under its surface that we couldn’t totally work out. A second set of film is included in case you seriously screw up the first one.

 

Review: Contour Design iSee for iPhone 9

However, once it dries, BodyGuardz for iPhone—like its iPod predecessor—looks really quite good. Most of the bubbles disappear within 24 hours, and what you’re left with is an almost perfectly coated iPhone, roughly 95% covered against even serious scratching instruments; only the Home button and the parts that are supposed to be fully uncovered are left uncovered, along with a thin slice of the screen bezel, and the aforementioned corners, which dried better but still didn’t look great. NLU is apparently working on a revised version of BodyGuardz, free to early purchasers, that will fix that issue; we’re not sure whether it’s accomplished by providing less or better corner coverage. We did have a couple of small dust particle bubbles on iPhone’s back, detracting from the protector’s good looks, but perfectly cleaning iPhone before application, or removing BodyGuardz and washing it before it dries, can minimize these problems.

Other than the issues noted above, our only concern about BodyGuardz is, again, its price. The materials here aren’t expensive, so small vendors can sell full body clear protective films for $10 or less; for the $25 price of this film, you can get a full iPhone case that offers equal anti-scratch and superior anti-drop protection, besides. We very much like the way BodyGuardz looks on the iPhone, and protects it against our primary damage concerns, but at this price, it’s not for everyone.

Our Rating

B+
Recommended

Company and Price

Company: Contour Design

Website: www.contourdesign.com

Model: iSee for iPhone

Price: $30

Compatible: iPhone

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17 comments
  1. I concur that the case is in fact nice in style, as it displays the beauty of the iPhone perfectly. However, I own one and experienced problems with it first hand, including a fatal one. First of all, the holster’s belt clip does not have enough tension to secure itself to a belt and will easily allow the iPhone and clear case to launch to the ground.

    As for the fatal part, I was holding the iPhone in hand when it drop and the case came apart into it’s 3 pieces and my iPhone was on the ground face down!

    The glass screen was cracked! I couldn’t believe it! The case wasn’t broken by my iPhone was! Why the case did not stay on the iPhone and protect it, I do not know.

    The case manufacturer’s initial response: We only cover the case itself not the item damaged!

    So ask yourself, do yuou really want this case?

  2. Hi, this is Andy from Contour Design. We’ve already made updates to the iSee for iPhone, addressing issues that have been brought up in these forums. Most of the cases that have been sold or are being sold have these updates. If anyone has issues with the holster, please let me know and we will do our best to help you out.

  3. @ContourAndy – If you have a new holster for the iSee, one that actually clips on to the case and holds it tight, I’d be interested in a replacement for mine. Who do I call or contact?

  4. Nice first look Jeremy. I’ll second what other editors have noted in that it is rather uncomfortable removing the phone form the case. But all in all the case is quite nice. I’d also like to note that the holster is useless and feels rather cheap. The case does not clip into a “locked-in” position in the holster. As a result, any slight jerk will cause the iPhone to go flying out of the holster.

  5. Hi Andy and lvidal91, did you resolve this clip issue? I find the iSee to be quite nice and would like to purchase except I find this to be a serious issue.

  6. All these cases are nice and I prefer a clear case on my iPod/iPhone but now that the iPhone comes with a dock, it would be great if these companies could find a way to dock the iPhone without taking out the case. My 2 cents.

  7. @mattybinks, et al., – After talking with Andy and Mike at Contour Design, they agreed to send me 2 “updated” cases and holsters to replace the ones my wife and I had bought for our phones. The replacements worked as advertised. The new holster clip is vastly improved and does hold the phone and case very tightly when the phone is placed in the holster with the screen facing inward. In addition, the new case appears to hold the phone a bit more snuggly than the previous one (but this is just my very subjective appreciation). If you purchase the iSee and do not get the updated model get in contact with the guys at Contour like I did. How do you tell if you have an updated holster? Well, I noticed that the old (loose-clip) holster has depressions on the inside of the back plate that are rough textured. Whereas the newer holsters have smooth texture on the same depressions. All in all I’m very satisfied with my case.

  8. I picked one of the “updated” cases up from Apple today. My first impression of the case is that it looks very nice on the iPhone. All the Apple employees had them on there iPhones, too. The case protects the iPhone great except for the screen of course. The holster that comes with it is good quality also. The updated version of this case is the way to go. I am worried about scratches on the back of the case itself, but other than that, this case is by far my favorite out there.

  9. I purchased iphone on 7th and bought the crystal film set screen protector and the isee updated version. The apple crytal film works great just like it was not there. Perfect protection from scratches. The Isee works pretty good but i feel when in holster the iphone screen should be facing in for sturdy hold. if not seems phone can pop out pretty easily. The clip on the holster is what i dont like as much. it is too big and not as strong. ive had it pop of my pant loop and hang on the edge. 2 close calls. over all i felt it was the best overall iphone protective cover out there and shows the beauty of the iphone. it looks great.

  10. i just bought the isee case…i still have the contour showcase for my 3g 40 gb and after wiping off the rubber it looks good as new. i love the design.

    i know you guys are talking about the holster being loose…but when you guys have your phone in the plastic case…do you notice it shifts slightly up and down when you flip the case? i can actually hear it shift…just wondering if i should try to return it to get one that fits better.

  11. i just got the isee case by contour design to replace the griffin one i got first and its great. when i got my iphone i bought the griffin case and it would not open. there were no instructions and i tried to call griffin tech support but that was impossible.

    contour design makes good stuff. i am really happy with the protection of the isee case for my iphone.

    ps it would be nice to have some of that film for the screen.

  12. ContourAndy, I just placed an order for an iSee case at the website. Are they in stock and ready to ship? I expect to recieve my iPhone by July 18th and was wondering how long my wait might be. Thanks!

  13. i have the Belkin Acrylic case and it is quite loose…i would love to get this case IF i can find a way to mount it in my car…that is such a HUGE selling point for me…any suggestions…..countourandy or mike???

  14. i was initially pleased with this case, but disappointed to find that it made small scratches on the glass surface around my screen. the borders of the opening of the case for the screen left marks on my iphones screen which are permanent. i doubt its going to be possible to keep this great piece of technology in pristine condition, but i was saddened nevertheless. i think im going to buy a screen protector before i put that back on my iphone.

  15. For those of you concerned with screen protection (particularly with the iSee case), but would still like to caress the fine glass surface of the iPhone with your bare fingers, this is the thing to do. When clipping into the holster, put the screen side in so that the back of the iPhone is left exposed. iSee’s holster has two small openings that still leave the iPhone’s screen partially unprotected. Nonetheless, doing so will be better than to leave the entire screen unprotected. Most of times with the iPhone’s screen facing the holster, the screen will be protected by your hips/pants/shorts/skirts. No need to have the screen facing out while in the holster.

  16. I purchased a Contour iSee with my iPhone on opening night 6-29. I like the case, but agree with several postshere that the holster was a bit loose. My iPhone was easily knocked out. I read the posts here and saw that Contour had addressed the issue in a later production run. I contacted Contour and they were kind enough to send me a replacement iSee. The new holster is tighter, so the iPhone should not be knocked out so easily. Kudos to Contour for their great customer service. (The clear case has protected my iPhone from several drops and falls to the ground. Great product!)

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