Nearly two months after the iPhone 3G’s release, new cases continue to appear at a brisk pace, so we’re doing quick reviews today of a collection of options that vary dramatically in looks and features. This review covers ION-Factory’s Carbon Fiber Leather Shells for iPhone ($60) and iPhone 3G ($80).
Let’s make one thing clear up front: we genuinely like both the thought and execution behind ION-Factory’s designs. A company called Case-Mate has released faux carbon fiber leather cases for the iPhone and iPhone 3G, and though they were pretty good, they didn’t seem totally worthy of premium asking prices. ION-Factory has gone in a different direction, offering a similar leather-coated hardshell case design, with the twist of a stripe of composite carbon and graphite fiber running through the back. This layer is covered with a thin layer of glossy plastic to protect it from damage, but the material still adds an unmistakeable element of class to this design, and looks just like what you see in sports cars. At most, the plastic-based shell has a small (sub-one-bar) impact on iPhone 3G signal strength.
The Carbon Fiber Leather Shells are available in different leather colors; the iPhone 3G version is sold in white and black, as well as a cheaper-looking “grey velvet” version, each with a black carbon fiber stripe running down the back. By comparison, the iPhone version is sold in white, black, or orange leather, with no grey velvet option. A thick microfiber cleaning cloth is included in each package.
Our issues with the Carbon Fiber Leather Shells are several in number. First, the cases lack for top, side, and front protection, offering no screen coverage and a generously sized hole that runs from the top half of each side through the entire top. While this hole makes removal of the iPhone or iPhone 3G easier, and guarantees headphone compatibility, it exposes a lot of body material to potential scratch damage. A speakerphone and accessory-friendly port on the case’s bottom unfortunately is Universal Dock-incompatible because of the case’s thickness; the original iPhone version of the case is unusually thicker in its front half than its back, making this incompatibility especially unnecessary. Our ratings of both products were affected most by these issues; clear film screen protection should have been a no-brainer.
A final issue is pricing. The $60 asking price of the iPhone version strikes us as the right general price for a case of this sort—assuming that it came with screen protection—but the $80 asking price for the iPhone 3G version is steep, and especially questionable for the suede-ish-but-not-quite “velvet” version. If ION Factory included screen protectors and sold all of these cases for $60, we’d have fewer objections, but paying $80 for a semi-protective case with a stripe of fiber just strikes us as too much, especially when the rest of the coating is the velvet material—a gray leather material would have been a better option. Though the iPhone and iPhone 3G versions of this case are virtually identical save for the aforementioned thickness issues and a rounded front bottom on the iPhone version, our different ratings reflect the huge price difference between them. We do like the iPhone 3G version, but would only consider buying it if it becomes more affordable.