The best iPhone cases aren’t necessarily the flashiest or the most expensive; instead, they’re the ones that deliver a great balance of protection and style at a given price. That’s why we’re so impressed by SwitchEasy’s new Eclipse for iPhone 4/4S ($20), which has effectively set a new performance-to-price ratio for hybrid hard and soft plastic cases. While Eclipse doesn’t have the same anti-shock properties as a fully rubber-lined case such as Speck’s groundbreaking CandyShell series for iPhone 4, SwitchEasy’s combination of a hard plastic frame with a soft plastic insertion/removal edge enables this new design to compete effectively in its own right; Eclipse also has other advantages, along with a couple of compromises.
Like Speck’s most basic CandyShell, Eclipse has been designed as a precision-bonded combination of hard and soft plastics that require no special assembly feats on the user’s side; pebble-textured hard plastic in your choice of five colors provides a sturdy-feeling frame, while the contrast-colored soft plastic forms a J on the case’s back and an O on the front, enabling side button coverage and a front bezel-covering lip for extremely easy iPhone 4/4S insertion. Removal is only a hint more challenging, as you need to pop the iPhone out through the same soft corner, rather than trying to force it through the harder top or right side surfaces.
Eclipse’s design has a certain instantly appealing elegance that our editors loved on first sight—the back is sophisticated and the front is clean, with the sides alternating between single- and two-toned. We would imagine that SwitchEasy will eventually evolve the sides and top even more impressively, finding a way to cover the top Sleep/Wake button as well. This is Eclipse’s only obvious omission in the protection department relative to a CandyShell, and made up for by SwitchEasy’s inclusion of a video stand, twin screen protectors, headphone and Dock Connector port covers, all of which add dramatically to Eclipse’s overall protective value and versatility.
With the port and screen covers in place, the only things left exposed on the iPhone 4/4S are the twin microphones, speakers, cameras, ringer switch, Home button and Sleep/Wake button. While that mightn’t seem like a short list to first-time iPhone case buyers, iPhone 4/4S cases rarely do better than this for a variety of reasons, and most offer less coverage for higher prices.
If Eclipse has any obvious shortcomings, they’re in the accessory compatibility department, and even then, we’d call them modest. The headphone port hole is extremely small, sized solely for Apple’s headphone plugs and similarly thin alternatives, which include many recently released low-end earphones but relatively few high-end ones. Similarly, the Dock Connector port hole on the bottom appears to be on the small side, though our testing found that it worked with virtually every Universal Dock accessory we tried with it, as well as many standard Apple-sized cables made over the past few years. Only Speck’s CandyShell Flip, with its ability to pop open its bottom to accommodate even the most challenging accessories, is substantially better in this regard; the original CandyShell is not.
A small issue that some users will want to be aware of is implicit in the primarily hard plastic design: without a rubber lining, Eclipse’s ability to keep the glass-bodied iPhone 4/4S safe during a serious drop is limited. While the front bezel will likely absorb a hit, there’s no soft lining around the back, so if you commonly drop your phone, the CandyShells or similar designs will offer greater resilience. That said, SwitchEasy’s decision to use a more scratch-resistant matte plastic exterior for Eclipse means that it won’t look as worn out as quickly as the glossy CandyShells, which quickly develop a patina from thin surface scratches, and tend to become shaggy around their rubber parts over time. It remains to be seen how well Eclipse preserves its good looks after a year of use, but as it ships, it does indeed look and feel very good; we’d expect this to continue.
Overall, Eclipse is without question one of the very best iPhone 4 cases we’ve ever tested, and another example of how excellent SwitchEasy’s design team is when it’s operating at its peak: it’s a clean, attractive case with plenty of frills in the package to add to its value. As serious iPhone 4/4S users, we would only make the most modest of changes to this design before calling it “perfect”—Sleep/Wake button coverage and one piece of anti-glare film rather than two pieces of crystalline film would be ideal—but even so, Eclipse is so well designed that we’d gladly rely upon it every day to protect our own iPhones. It’s highly recommended, and for the $20 price, certainly worthy of our extremely rare flat A rating.
Company and Price
Compatible: iPhone 4/4S