Nearly four months have passed since Apple released the iPhone, and two waves of cases — the rushed, early ones, and the somewhat better, post-launch releases — have become widely available. Not surprisingly, iPhone case releases have slowed down as new iPod models have demanded manufacturers’ attention, but today, we’re quickly looking at five recent options of different types, one more noteworthy than the rest.
iPhone case makers have struggled to find the right balance of protection, looks, control access, and pricing, and to date, silicone rubber cases such as Marware’s $15 SportGrip have come the closest to ideal. Portable Device Outfitters, also known as PDO, has just released TopSkin ($20), an interesting option priced between and SportGrip and iSkin’s more protective but also considerably more expensive $40 Revo. TopSkin combines a surprisingly aggressive level of silicone protection—basically everything, save the speakers and microphone—with a subtly grippy design sold in your choice of frosted white, blue, pink, and black colors, just like Marware’s. Screen protection film is included with each TopSkin, as is a ratcheting rear belt clip.
There’s a lot—and we mean a lot—to like about the TopSkin design. PDO’s protection choices are almost all really smart, and highly similar to iSkin’s: it covers iPhone’s top, side, and Home buttons with silicone that you can easily press through to access those controls, and permanently exposes only the device’s two speakers, microphone, camera, and ringer switch; the headphone port and Dock Connector are covered by easily opened flaps of rubber, and the proximity sensor is shielded by a super-thin layer of protection, too. TopSkin’s thickness makes the ringer switch slightly challenging to access, which is fine given how infrequently most people use the switch, but the speakers, microphone, and proximity sensor work without any noticeable impact on incoming or outgoing calls. The only protective advantage of the pricier Revo is its iPhone camera protector, a feature we have yet to see on any other iPhone case.
The only things we aren’t fond of in PDO’s design are four in number. First, though belt clip fans will like TopSkin’s ratcheting belt clip, removing the clip leaves two additional small holes in the case’s back, as well as a noticeably thinner rubber area where the hard plastic clip mount used to be. The backs of both iSkin’s Revo and Marware’s SportGrip are more protective, and as a second point, they’re grippier than the semi-smooth TopSkin. Third, TopSkin can’t be docked inside of Universal Dock accessories because of its flip-open bottom; though it works with cables, you’ll need to take it off for other accessories. Fourth and finally, PDO’s color options aren’t spectacular, a problem affecting other silicone cases, as well, and its screen-exposing edges are a little rough rather than totally perfect. That said, we have yet to see a rubber case that’s as nice-looking as the iPhone itself.
Overall, TopSkin is, like Marware’s SportGrip, as close to our flat A rating as we’ve yet seen from an iPhone case—a model for proper pricing, protectiveness, and ease of use at a time when far too many of its alternatives are overpriced and unimpressive. Belt clip fans will find it to be an especially excellent option, particularly for the $20 cost, and the only things we’d really change would be its dockability and rear holes. It might have taken longer than its competitors, but PDO has done a superb, highly recommendable job with TopSkin.
Company and Price
Company: Portable Device Outfitters (PDO)