Materials aside, hard cases for the iPhone fall into three broad categories: ill-conceived, well-intentioned and nice but not great, and thoroughly impressive. Over the next day, we’re going to briefly review eight recent iPod cases that range in price from $20 to $50, and in design from one end of that spectrum to the other: four are made mostly from metal, the other four mostly from plastic. At first, we’re focusing on the plastic cases: JAVOedge’s JavoClearCase ($22) for the iPhone, Speck’s SeeThru for iPhone ($30), JAVOedge’s AlloyVision Crystal Metal Case for Apple iPhone ($36), and Otter Products’ OtterBox for iPhone Defender Series ($50).
We have reviewed many plastic cases for the iPhone already, and their features and limitations are at this point well established: companies find it easy to cover most of the iPhone’s front, back, and sides, but struggle with what to do with its screen, top, bottom, camera, and button-style controls. JAVOedge doesn’t bring anything new to this equation with JavoClearCase, which just leaves all of these parts exposed, doing so more generously on top than many similar snap-together clear cases we’ve tested, and not providing any screen protection or other rubberized caps to fill them.
To its credit, JavoClearCase comes in two colors—one totally clear and one smoked clear—and includes a clear detachable belt clip and nub if you’re interested in belt mounting it. The nub lets the clip ratchet through 360 degrees of freedom in 45-degree increments, but is designed to mount on the case in a way that puts some pressure on the iPhone’s reflective rear Apple logo. It’s far from a smart design, but the case is relatively inexpensive, so you’re getting what you pay for.
Speck’s SeeThru for iPhone represents somewhat of an increase in thoughtfulness over the JavoClearCase, albeit at a higher price. Unlike most of its competitors, SeeThru is designed to appeal to you on color: there’s no crystal clear version, rather, Speck sells it in aqua, green, pink, red, and smoke black versions, each with the same detachable black plastic belt clip holster. And it’s fairly obvious that Speck brainstormed the design more than JAVOedge, as the case covers more of iPhone’s top, left side, face, and bottom than JavoClearCase, and the two shell pieces are easier to assemble and remove at will.
Rather than use the mediocre nub attachment JAVOedge picked, Speck again includes a ratcheting belt clip holster, which doubles as a prop-up stand for reclined video viewing or Cover Flow music navigation, and doesn’t block access to the iPhone’s bottom. You can keep the holster with you if you want, or leave it behind; SeeThru’s back doesn’t have any chance of screwing up your iPhone.
As with other Speck products, SeeThru’s omissions are somewhat predictable. Our sample cases didn’t include any screen protection, though Speck says that it will be remedying this in the future, and the other parts of the iPhone that are exposed are similarly just open, rather than covered part time. We also noticed unusual, off-center thin molding lines on the case’s face and back, which don’t detract much from its looks, but they’re there; it’s also unclear whether the Smoke version, which we didn’t test, has any issue with the iPhone’s covered proximity sensor. The other colors we tried did not.
Overall, SeeThru for iPhone is a good case option for those who are looking to add color to their iPhones while showing off parts of its body, but it’s not a superstar on protection. Consider it a top pick if you want a bright-colored shell; otherwise, there are options for the same price with better iPhone coverage.
Company and Price
Company: Speck Products