Combining plastic and rubber is nothing new for Speck, but its new SmartFlex Shine for iPhone 5 ($35) is a little bit different than the standard CandyShell lineup. The inside is still soft, shock-absorbent material, and the outside is still hard plastic, although it has more give than we might have expected from a Speck case. Coming in three color combos — white/grey, green/green, and pink/pink — the “shine” in the name comes from the glitter in the glossy top coat of the plastic.
Whereas CandyShell’s edges are slightly convex, SmartFlex Shine’s are flat, and perpendicular to the back of the case. This design allows the case to stand just a little bit shorter and narrower, but it maintains roughly the same thickness. There’s still a rubber lip around the screen, but instead of wrapping solely over the iPhone’s corners, it now extends to cover almost all of the bottom edge. The layout of the openings is the same, with large holes for the Lightning and headphone ports, and arrays of small holes for the speaker and microphone; now it’s just all rubber instead of a combination of the two materials. As always, we appreciate that the buttons are protected, but we were a little surprised to find that the volume buttons are somewhat less responsive than they would have been bare. Speck normally doesn’t compromise on tactility with its button protectors.
Overall, SmartFlex Shine feels like a budget version of a CandyShell at a regular CandyShell price. We could easily see Speck taking the prior design, adding a layer of glitter to the plastic, and calling it a day; it’s not totally clear why it went with a totally new concept here, and the changes are somewhat hit and miss. That said, SmartFlex Shine is still a pretty good case, and has a pretty distinctive look. While we’d steer most iPhone 5 users towards a CandyShell variant instead, this is an option worth recommending to those who like glitter. It earns a flat B rating.
Company and Price
Company: Speck Products
Model: SmartFlex Shine
Compatible: iPhone 5