Having previously looked at all of the first-generation leather cases for iPhone, we’re briefly checking out five fabric iPhone cases today: Incipio’s ECO|Case ($20) and Standard Pouch ($15), iStyles’ 2007 Sleeve with Pocket ($10), iStyles’ 2007 Sleeve without Pocket ($10), and Marware’s Sportsuit Sleeve ($20). As the prices suggest, all five of these cases are affordable options; they’re also lower on frills than most of the iPhone cases we’ve tested.
Each of the cases starts from the same premise: they’re here to protect the iPhone when it’s not in use, or being used solely with earphones. Fabric covers iPhone’s screen, back, and complete bottom, almost entirely preventing you from using iPhone’s controls without removing it from the case.
Incipio’s ECO|Case and Standard Pouch are the least protective options. Similar to the leather iPhone holsters we’ve reviewed, ECO|Case uses a single piece of green canvas that wraps from the front of the iPhone to the back around its bottom, providing no access to the front or bottom speakers, microphone, Dock Connector, Home button, or screen. Standard Pouch is the same, but with black nylon rather than canvas. Each one leaves iPhone’s top entirely exposed, along with the ringer on/off switch, and the side volume down button is covered, while volume up isn’t. Beige or black elastic covers parts of both of iPhone’s sides, leaving its upper and lower side corners exposed.
As with most of the other cases here, neither of these cases includes a belt clip or anything else of interest; they’re just simple fabric holsters, thankfully a little padded on both sides. Since neither is expensive or especially excellent, they’re worth considering if you want something simple and green or black to slip your iPhone inside of a pocket or suitcase, but that’s it.
iStyles’ 2007 Sleeves offer more protection and visual options at half the price. Each of the Sleeves is made from one of 13 eclectic fabrics: faux animal furs and wrinkled silks, fully or partially metallic plastics, and semi-plastic coated furs. Almost all of the options have a front pocket sized for iPod or iPhone headphones; the one super-furry spotted animal fur version here does not, but makes up for that with its unique bulk.
While we can’t tell you that we’re huge fans of pouches like these, as they’re not practical for instant access to iPhone’s speakers, screen or other controls, there’s no denying that the $10 price tag makes these a lot more attractive than they might otherwise be as a purely protective option. All they expose is iPhone’s top surface, and the earphone pocket’s a nice additional touch for convenience. iPods, which are slightly shorter than iPhones, also fit inside, and their tops are commensurately recessed a little more below each of the iStyles cases’ top surfaces.
Of the pouch-style fabric options we’ve tested, our favorite is Marware’s Sportsuit Sleeve, which classes up the basic concept behind the pocketed 2007 Sleeves with two types of black neoprene, a soft gray fabric interior lining, and a detachable Multidapt belt clip and nub. More protective than the Incipio and iStyles options, it includes a Velcro top flap that covers everything except the iPhone’s headphone port, and the headphone pocket in the front uses a great-looking Orca skin neoprene.
Marware’s marketing Sportsuit Sleeve as a discreet carrying alternative for iPhone, which didn’t make a lot of sense until it became apparent just how desirable the device would actually become. Since the iPhone version looks basically identical to the fifth-generation iPod Sportsuit Sleeve (iLounge rating: B), no one’s going to know what you have inside unless you’re really flashing your iPhone-specific earbuds—or needing to remove iPhone all the time to fidget with its controls. Like the other options above, this is a relatively discreet option.
Overall, we think the Sportsuit Sleeve’s as good of a case as its same-priced, highly similar iPod predecessor, and because of their very low prices, iStyles’ Sleeves are equally good options for those on tighter budgets. By contrast, the Incipio ECO|Case costs as much as the Sportsuit and delivers less protection and functionality than the Sleeves; it’s fine, but not that impressive of a case for its price. The Standard Pouch sells for less but looks cheaper, too; it rates the same so-so mark in our book.
Company and Price
Company: Incipio Technologies
Model: Standard Pouch, ECO|Case