Since the iPhone 5 was so similar in shape to the iPhone 4 and 4S, developers had little reason to radically change their successful earlier products for the new device. Consequently, Speck’s late 2012 iPhone 5 versions of CandyShell and PixelSkin HD looked nearly identical to their popular iPhone 4 predecessors, with neither strictly requiring a near-term replacement. However, Speck has continued to tinker with both designs, releasing CandyShell Edge ($40) and SmartFlex ($30) as improved sequels that could as easily have kept the prior versions’ names. Price differences account more for their new ratings than anything else, but fans of either franchise will find their cosmetic changes interesting, as well.
CandyShell Edge and SmartFlex differ more in aesthetics than protection. Just like earlier CandyShells, CandyShell Edge is made from permanently bonded-together layers of hard plastic and rubber, resembling a glossy Skittle with a softer core. By comparison, SmartFlex is made from a single layer of TPU polymer that’s firmer than silicone rubber but more pliable than typical plastic shells. Inserting your iPhone 5 into either one is as simple as pushing it into the slightly-yielding frame; removal requires a quick few pushes on the case’s back to pop the iPhone out by its corners. Each case provides the same basic quantity of iPhone coverage, protecting everything except the device’s face, rear camera, ringer switch, and ports. The bottom speaker and microphone are covered by grilles with tiny circular perforations.
Although other developers’ cases get much more attention for their military-spec anti-shock and anti-drop characteristics, the CandyShell family is as safe as cases come without full screen coverage or watertight seals. We’ve used CandyShells day in and out for months on the iPhone 5 and years across other Apple products, never seeing a scratch or dent on any device body that was inside a CandyShell during normal use.
The only exception is front glass coverage. All of the exposed areas of the iPhone 5 are beneath two-millimeter plastic lips, preventing damage from drops, while allowing keys, coins, and other in-pocket items to cause scratches. Early CandyShells came with screen film, but Speck’s current cases do not, leaving consumers to seek their own.
Although its name is different, CandyShell Edge is effectively just a modestly revised version of CandyShell for iPhone 5. The single biggest change is in the button protectors, which have switched from elevated matte rubber to ever-so-slightly recessed glossy plastic on the outside, retaining all of the iPhone 5’s standard button tactility while reducing susceptibility to accidental presses and scuffing. Speck has also added a second thin layer of rubber between the hard plastic and original layer of rubber. The company says that the new pinstripe-like layer gives it greater color customization options when it’s making exclusive colors for partners, but we found the pinstripe colors to be distracting and unnecessary on the three case variations we tested. The third layer also reduces the size of port openings by a hair-thin margin, making headphone and Lightning plugs just a hint tighter to squeeze in than before. Oddly, however, Speck has increased the size of the rear camera hole again, moving back to a larger size from the tightly-tailored shape on last year’s CandyShells. These tweaks aren’t terrible, but they do make the case a little less accessory-friendly than the original iPhone 5 CandyShell, and another small step down from its cousin CandyShell Flip.
The only other factor meriting attention here is pricing. CandyShell Edge looks and feels like a straight sequel to CandyShell, but its price tag is higher for no good reason—the button changes are minor but welcome improvements, offset by the larger rear camera hole, smaller port holes, and pinstriping. We really like the case, and would be glad to see its features folded into the main CandyShell, but it’s not worth a price premium. As a result, it merits a B+ rating and our strong general recommendation, down from the A- of its less expensive predecessor.
Company and Price
Company: Speck Products
Model: CandyShell Edge
Compatible: iPhone 5