Since we see dozens of new cases every month, it takes a lot to really surprise us with something new, but Fresh Fiber has done just that with its line of 3D printed cases for the iPhone 4 and 4S. These nylon fiber cases are each produced by a 3D printer, resulting in styles and shapes that other processes simply can’t replicate. We’ve tested four different models from the company: Boombox and Camera (€40/~$54 each), Macedonia and Mondriaan (€35/~$47 each). While they do share some characteristics, each has certain features that define them amongst both the other Fresh Fiber cases and the case market as a whole.
All of these cases have the same basic shell structure: they latch onto the four corners of the iPhone, leaving full access to the ports and buttons. Along both of the long sides, they come just short of fully covering the steel frame, and leave the edge of the glass display exposed. On the right side of the case is a raised Fresh Fiber logo, and the company offers personalization of up to ten characters on the left for an additional €20/~$27 charge. The only other thing the cases really have in common is their raw, somewhat gritty texture. It’s unlike anything we’ve felt used for a case before and not necessarily bad—just kind of strange, and the result of using 3D printing materials rather than traditional plastics.
None of the four cases are what we’d describe as “plain,” but among them, Macedonia and Mondriaan are the more basic models. The first has a somewhat organic-looking, two-layer grid on the back; of the bunch, it leaves the most glass exposed, although the crosshatching pattern does a good job of obscuring otherwise large open areas. This multilayer design does add a little bit of thickness, but it’s not very noticeable once in the contour of your hand. Mondriaan has a similar grid structure, but it’s decidedly more angular with square and rectangular openings. This one adds the benefit of being able to hold a single credit card between the layers; a small nub prevents the card from unintentionally sliding out.
Boombox and Camera are both designed to resemble old school versions of their namesakes, with moving parts meant to add some functionality. The former looks like an 80s stereo system, complete with a tape deck in the middle and a large speaker on either end. What makes it more unique is the foldout handle that serves as a stand. Held in place by a small clip, the handle can easily be popped out and used as a landscape orientation stand; it’s kind of handy.
Finally, there’s Camera—arguably the case with the most features—and also the most superfluous ones—of the four. The case vaguely resembles a Leica or other classic camera. On either end, there are lanyard loops, but no lanyard is included. Right in the center is a “lens;” a hole in with a spinning ring that approximates adjusting the focus. Ironically, Camera is the only case in the group that can at times obscure the iPhone’s lens. The shell has a sliding door that can cover the camera when not in use, although we don’t know why you would want to do this. Fresh Fiber’s website even warns “don’t forget to open the camera slide before taking pictures!” We get that it kind of fits in to the camera theme, but it’s unnecessary and could lead to some lost shots.
The real reason to pick up any one of these cases is the novelty factor; like most shells, they only offer a limited amount of protection, and they’re more expensive than most cases even before you consider personalization. That’s not to say they’re bad cases; we found the designs to really stand out in a way that we haven’t seen before. If you dig the designs and are willing to pay the high price, we offer a limited recommendation of Boombox, Macedonia, and Mondriaan. Camera falls short though, and earns a C+ rating due to its odd lens-obscuring design, which was conceptually interesting but not particularly practical.
Boombox, Macedonia + Mondriaan
Company and Price
Company: Fresh Fiber
Price: €35-€40 (~$47-$54)
Compatible: iPhone 4/4S