Staggering is the only word we’d use to describe the number of hard plastic iPod and iPhone cases we’re reviewing today — over 20 different models that we’ve been comparing to one another, as well as past cases, over the last few weeks. To help you sort through all the options, we’ve assembled a few statistics that are worth knowing up front. All of the iPod nano cases in this roundup run from $20 to $30, with most at $25 or less, while the two iPod classic cases sell for $25 to $30, iPod touch cases range from $20 to $30, and iPhone 3G cases go for $20 to $35. Virtually every case offers at least partial back and side protection, but they vary widely in front, top, and bottom coverage. Though all use plastic as their base material, they differ considerably in color options and secondary materials. This review covers United SGP’s Ultra Thin Plus Case for iPhone 3G ($23).
Three of the plastic iPhone 3G cases we review today are highly similar to one another: they all rely on the idea of clipping a thin shell to the sides and back of the phone, shifting Apple’s glossy white or black coloration to different colors and textures. They offer something between minimal and minimalist protection, and arguably exist mostly just to change up the device’s appearance; the more they cover, the more like an traditional case they become.
Least impressive is the Ultra Thin Plus Case, a simple plastic shell that we received for testing in six colors. Each has a small hole in the back for the 3G’s camera, and a big, poorly centered one for the Apple logo. Since this mirrored logo easily shows scratches, United SGP includes a sticker to cover it; the company would have been better off just sealing the entire rear rather than leaving the hole in the first place.
The rest of the Ultra Thin Plus Case is as plainly designed as can be, with minimal device protection. Unlike the others, it exposes the complete iPhone 3G chrome bezel—Incipio’s design protects most of the bezel, and JAVOedge’s weaves in and out—and it’s cut with fairly generous top, bottom, and left side gaps to accommodate the iPhone’s ports and controls. Consequently, more of the device’s plastic is exposed than with the other simple shells.
United SGP’s only saving grace here is pricing. A version without screen protectors called Ultra Thin is sold for $13, while the $23 version comes with both crystalline and anti-glare screen protectors, plus a cleaning cloth for application. We don’t think of either of these prices as a great value by contrast with the better-designed Feather, but if you’re looking for a metallic color thin case for the iPhone 3G, these designs aren’t bad.
Updated October 31, 2008: United SGP subsequently released leather, faux carbon fiber, and matte plastic versions of the Ultra Thin Plus case, featuring different exterior textures with the same shapes. Our rating remains unchanged; the additional versions are shown above.
Company and Price
Company: United SGP
Model: Ultra Thin + Plus
Compatible: iPhone 3G