As of today, the iPhone 3G doesn’t have a hard plastic case that we love; we’ve liked Contour’s iSee and Hardskin, as well as Griffin’s Wave, but the right combination of looks, pricing, and protection hasn’t yet emerged. The same holds true today as we review three new plastic iPhone shells from Case-Mate, Speck, and Uniea. This review covers Speck’s new SeeThru for iPhone 3G ($30).
From generation to generation, it’s hard to know what to expect from one of Speck’s SeeThru cases; last year’s version for iPhone came in six colors, each with a a combination belt clip holster and video stand, while this year’s version is sold in five colors—clear, smoke, red, pink, or purple—for the same price without one. Our test unit arrived last year with no screen protection, which Speck remedied in later production runs; this year, the company is unapologetically calling screen protectors “fussy,” “smudgy,” and “get in the way” items, and not including them.
That’s perhaps the worst marketing spin we’ve yet heard on a feature we’ve liked in the 80% of iPhone cases that include screen protection; without that, this case is little more than two pieces of clear plastic that snap together to form a shell.
To Speck’s credit, these particular pieces of plastic are better than last year’s, and in fact, we’d call them some of the most attractive-looking colored cases we’ve yet seen. They’re more form-fit to the iPhone 3G’s curves, and benefit from newly added rubber grips on the left and right sides that keep the case from being as slippery as the iPhone 3G itself. The company still provides openings for everything from the camera to the side and top controls, headphone port and bottom, with only one notable caveat; the bottom is fully accessory-friendly, including Universal Docks, but the top headphone port hole is a little too small for oversized plugs. Most users’ headphones will work just fine.
There’s also a novel feature in this case; the bottom piece slides off to form a video stand for the rest of the encased iPhone 3G, and simultaneously exposes enough of the iPhone 3G’s bottom to let it work with Apple’s iPhone 3G Dock.
The only problems with SeeThru are predictable ones. We still find it hard to consider buying a case without screen protection, and think Speck really needs to get its act together on this particular issue—marketing isn’t going to convince us that we don’t want to keep the iPhone 3G’s screen safe. Additionally, SeeThru’s plastic is pretty easy to scratch and scuff—some of our review samples arrived that way—which is only acceptable in the sense that the case is absorbing some of the damage that would otherwise be impacting the iPhone’s body.