Toronto-based iSkin has been experimenting with mixes of hard and soft plastic iPod protection for years: its eVo2 featured a hard plastic screen protector, which evolved into a larger hard plastic face protector for eVo3, and ultimately into a completely hard plastic case with rubber inside for Claro. The latest evolution of this concept is Fuze for iPhone ($40), which fuses thin rubber layers onto separate front and rear shells.
In short, though Fuze is relatively late in arriving—the original iPhone it’s designed for won’t be sold a week from now—it’s definitely iSkin’s most impressive dual-material case yet, and not just in looks. The case mixes a thin layer of soft rubber on the inside with thicker polycarbonate plastic on the outside, then adds two-tone coloring and soft rubber accents. From the outside, the front of the case is silver, black, and clear, while the back is entirely black, interlocking together on the top and both sides. On the inside, it’s obvious that the shell is actually clear hard plastic, covered substantially in colored rubbers.
While a hole has been left for the iPhone’s bottom, a completely soft rubber tab hangs down and plugs into the device’s Dock Connector, providing part-time shielding for everything except the bottom speaker and microphone. Similarly, the case’s front has a fully rubber Home button cover, leaving the screen and ear speaker exposed. Holes for the ringer/silent switch, headphone port, and camera are the only others; iSkin covers the Sleep/Wake and Volume buttons with flexible hard plastic protectors. A clear screen protector is also included.
On an absolute scale, Fuze’s protection for the dollar is good rather than great—we’ve seen cases, even iSkin’s earlier Revo, which cover more of the device’s body—but unless you’re looking for a belt clip, that’s the only compromise you’ll need to make here. Neither of Revo’s awkward approaches to screen protection seemed entirely right to us, and its two-tone color schemes almost all looked a bit off. Fuze, by contrast, looks really sharp in a way that takes color inspiration from the original iPhone and remixes it in some interesting ways. Thanks to the soft touch rubber used as its interior and exterior coatings, it feels good in your hand, too.
Apart from the slight initial challenge of pulling the Dock Connector cover back so that the iPhone can be used in Universal Docks, the only other issue we had with Fuze during testing was a small one: iSkin has designed the case to lock together at several points on its top, bottom, and sides, and if you don’t follow the directions the first time you put on the case, you can rub a tiny bit of the black rubber off of Fuze’s bottom tabs. We’re not used to needing to follow instructions to clip on an iPhone (or iPod) case, but here, doing so would have left Fuze unblemished.
Having enjoyed using Fuze for the first-generation iPhone, we’re looking forward to seeing what the company can do with the already announced but not yet debuted version for the iPhone 3G—hopefully more color options and small bottom tweaks will be in store. For the fashion-savvy company, Fuze is a hot return to form, and generally worthy of its asking price. Assuming you plan to keep your original iPhone around for a while, it’s highly recommended.
Company and Price
Company: iSkin, Inc.