To put it mildly, silicone rubber iPhone cases tend to be very similar from company to company, and that trend has only accelerated with the iPhone 3G: everyone has embraced the general idea of covering most of the device’s back and sides with rubber, then leaving the screen open to be protected by film. As a result, the only differences between rubber cases are three in number: the amount of rubber used to cover the iPhone 3G, the way the rubber has been molded, and the price at which the finished product is sold.
Today, we’re looking at five rubber cases from four different companies. Gecko Gear’s iPhone Glove, Incipio’s dermaSHOT for iPhone 3G, JAVOedge’s Indented JAVOSkin, and iFrogz’ Treadz Case for iPhone 3G are all basic rubber cases that fit the above description, while Incipio’s more deluxe Silicrylic ($25) adds a hard rear frame to a rubber skin for decorative and shock-absorbant purposes.
Available in eight colors, Silicrylic is based heavily on the purely rubber dermaSHOT—even the color options are the same—but subtle modifications have been made to its sides to accommodate a hard plastic X frame that stretches from its corners to its back. The case is a little thicker so that the frame can fit into precision-molded grooves, including a rounded rubber square of color that covers the Apple logo, and the frame helps to give the Silicrylic a solid feeling that the dermaSHOT case lacked. In most of the color schemes, the frame is completely transparent, but in the black or green cases, it’s instead a nearly opaque smoked gray that we didn’t find as attractive. While none of the Silicrylics is a stunner visually, they’re all a little more interesting than the generic dermaSHOT.
Apart from the value of the added hard plastic, the protectiveness of Silicrylic remains unchanged from dermaSHOT. There are holes for the face, headphone port, ringer switch, camera, bottom speaker, bottom microphone, and Dock Connector port, but Incipio covers the Sleep/Wake button and volume buttons. Thanks to the included screen protector, the whole front of the iPhone 3G is also covered save for the ear speaker and Home button; consequently, this case is in the above average range on coverage.
One nice pack-in found here, as with the dermaSHOT, is a small, standalone black plastic video stand, which while simple in execution serves its purpose perfectly well: place it on a flat surface and you can prop the iPhone 3G up on a recline to watch videos. As other companies have found, it doesn’t cost much to add this feature into the package, and users get the benefit of being able to enjoy using their iPhones without buying more expensive and complex docks. Incipio’s choice to include this was a wise move.
Apart from its so-so styling, the only issue we had with Silicrylic was the apparent impact of its rear hard plastic frame on cellular performance. Between the thicker rubber and the back shell, we tended to see 3 bars of signal drop down to 2 when Silicrylic was fully attached to the iPhone 3G—not a huge hit, and not apparent in actual test calls we made, but in marginal calling situations, you may find that you have less signal strength than you might with a more radio-transparent housing. Results will likely vary from users to user on this issue, but for most, it won’t be a fatal flaw unless you’re really on the edge of signal coverage.
In our view, Silicrylic’s slightly improved cosmetics over dermaSHOT are offset by its higher price and modestly diminished iPhone 3G cellular performance, factors that would lead us to prefer the dermaSHOT or more impressively styled, similarly-priced competitors instead. While this isn’t a bad case, it could benefit from further styling and functional tweaks for its next revision.
Editor’s Note August 19, 2009: Incipio has updated Silicrylic for iPhone 3G with a somewhat new design, shown in the two photos above.
Company and Price
Company: Incipio Technologies
Compatible: iPhone 3G