Over the past six years, we’ve seen literally thousands of different iPod and iPhone cases — so many, in fact, that we now have to keep most of them in sorted bins at two storage facilities. We’ve come to realize that there are quantifiable differences between the great ones, the good ones, and the bad ones, and that certain approaches to development are more likely to yield one of the three. With the latest version of Gelz for iPhone ($9), a silicone case design that we previously described as low-priced and cheaply made, RadTech has only narrowly avoided the “bad” category.
When we first saw Gelz a couple of months ago, they were throwaway-class Chinese cases for the iPhone, complete with the sort of first-wave issues we came to expect from such things: mediocre fit, coverage of iPhone’s proximity sensor, and poorly cut top and back holes. They also had an unnecessary hole for the Home button, and a depressed circular area on the back near the Apple logo. (You can see two photos of the original design at the bottom of this review.) We were content to let that brief appraisal stand without further comment or a rating, but RadTech then updated Gelz to make them a little better, resulting in the design you see in the majority of the photos here.
Now Gelz have side grips, a hole for the proximity sensor, and no hole for the Home button; they also lose the back depression around the Apple logo. There are still holes around the headphone port, sleep/wake button, ear speaker, screen, side controls, and entire bottom. Six colors—blue, pink, white, black, green, and orange—are available. None comes with a screen protector.
On one hand, we feel uncomfortable criticizing Gelz for being sloppy and mediocre, because if there’s anything that can be assumed about a $9 case, sloppiness and mediocrity would be near the top of the list. The nicest thing we can say about these cases is that they fit the iPhone and don’t look awful. That said, they don’t exactly make RadTech’s quality control look good. Basically every side of every hole on our blue sample case was rough, and there are even imperfections in the flat parts of the rubber. The black sample was better, but didn’t look great, either. Both cases’ ridged side grips now attract and trap hairs, dust, and dirt, and their overall thinness and rubber quality add to a feeling that you’ll want to throw them away after a short period of use.
It’s worth noting that inexpensive iPhone cases don’t have to be mediocre. Marware’s highly-rated $15 Sport Grip not only feels more substantial in your hand, and has much better sculpted holes and grips, but also includes a clear film screen protector—something that you’ll need to buy separately from RadTech for $10 to add to Gelz. Those are just some of the reasons we’d much sooner recommend the Sport Grip over this case for bargain shoppers; even for the low $9 price, it’s somewhat surprising to see a reputable company selling such junky rubber cases, and we’d hope that RadTech goes with better suppliers for subsequent products.
Company and Price
Model: Gelz for iPhone