In the early days of iPod cases, hard plastic was far from the most common available material: developers found it hard to precisely match Apple’s curves, and used softer fabric and rubber designs instead. Today, thanks to sophisticated 3-D modeling and molding techniques, iPods and iPhones alike are routinely encased in shells made mostly from hard plastics. We’re briefly reviewing seven very different options today for the iPod nano, classic, touch, and iPhone 3G, and if you read all of their reviews, you’ll see that there are huge differences in their approaches to protection and value for the dollar. This review covers Elago’s Slim Fit Case for iPhone 3G ($25) and Mezotek’s Gogo Slim Fit Case for iPhone 3G ($18).
As their similar names suggest, these two Slim Fit Cases might as well be the same product; they’re both thin, shopping mall kiosk-caliber colored snap-on shells, made in Korea, and they’re differentiated from each other only by coloration, texture, and modest differences in shape. The Gogo version has a thin stripe of additional plastic next to the volume and ringer controls; the Elago one has slightly more contoured edging on the top, side, and bottom. Some are glossy, some are matte, and some are soft touch rubber finished. It appears, in fact, that the Elago product is the exact same unimpressive rear shell we previously reviewed and disliked from United SGP, except for the colors offered, and another difference.
Two of the Elago shells we saw were made from glossy white or black plastics that looked nearly identical to what the iPhone 3G ships with. The third was matte white and plastered with some truly awful Barack Obama artwork, which one of our editors felt resembled Benicio Del Toro more than the U.S. President-Elect. There are other versions, as well, and the Gogo case has its own spins; a gradient metallic copper take is at least mildly interesting, while one with a cartoony character on the back is just sort of odd.
What all of these cases—Elago’s, Mezotek’s, and United SGP’s—have in common is a certain laziness of design and protectivity. There’s the low-class exposure of the rear Apple logo—a “feature” we have come to actively hate—which neither Elago nor Mezotek even attempts to offset with clear film protection. Their approaches to front coverage vary: Elago does nothing with the iPhone 3G’s chrome bezel, but includes screen film, while Mezotek covers part of the bezel, then does nothing with the rest, or the screen. Though we’re not huge fans of any of these cases, there’s no doubt that Incipio’s Feather, an earlier and much better product, did a much better job of protecting the iPhone 3G for its similar MSRP. It’s hard for us to even view these competitors as cases, despite their billing as such; it’s as if their designers aspired to do little more than change the iPhone 3G’s rear coloration, and then did so haphazardly with mediocre-looking holes that expose patches of its skin.
The overall affect of adding one of these shells to your iPhone 3G is, in our view, to cheapen its looks while adding protection that is at best mediocre by comparative standards. We’d place the Elago version two steps under United SGP’s rating due to its less impressive included protection, and the Mezotek Gogo a further step under that due to further protectiveness omissions for the price. The only complication is the fact that the companies selling these cases will show them at official MSRPs, then instantly offset them with “discounts” that may make them seem more attractive.
Our advice would be to pass: if you’ve purchased an iPhone 3G and have any sense of class, there are much better designs and values out there. In fact, of the hundreds of cases that have arrived here in recent months for testing, these are some of the least impressive ones we’ve seen; we actually contemplated throwing them away rather than featuring them on iLounge, but figured they were worth telling you about, if only to suggest you avoid them. Reward companies that make the effort to really protect your iPhone and offer a great value for the price.