Holsters haven’t been popular — or even available, really — for past iPods, but they’ve become incredibly common for the iPhone. Today, we’re looking at three new holsters, two from Argentina’s luxury leather case designer Vaja, and one from Florida’s “do it all” mainstream case maker Marware. Vaja’s designs are called the iVolution Holster for iPhone ($55 and up) and the iVolution Lady Holster for iPhone ($80 and up); Marware’s is the Sidewinder Smart Holster for iPhone ($25). Prices aside, all three holsters have a lot in common, and none really blew us away.
The idea behind each holster is the same: rather than covering all or even most of the iPhone, these semi-cases provide side, bottom and rear grips that hold the iPhone in place and add a hint of decoration or functionality to its body. Sidewinder is the most versatile and protective of the bunch, packaged with a detachable ratcheting Multidapt belt clip, a clear film screen guard, and a gray microfiber cleaning cloth. It’s unique in including a pop-out headphone cord manager on its right-hand side, which is barely apparent when not in use, and derived from Marware’s earlier, impressive Sidewinder cases for iPods and iPod nanos. A restraining clip on the Sidewinder’s top keeps iPhone in place even when the holster is on its side.
Though Sidewinder makes belt-mounting and headphone management easy—both also accomplished with its same-priced Sport Grip Backwinder rubber case—Marware has given up on trying to fully cover iPhone’s body, a la past Sidewinders. The holster’s sides leave almost the entirety of iPhone’s chrome bezel unprotected, and much of its aluminum back as well, with further cut-outs for the side and top controls. Only the bottom is given full coverage; with thin slits for the bottom speaker and microphone, and no access to the Dock Connector.
Both of Vaja’s iVolution Holsters are, in essence, Sidewinder minus the headphone manager and belt clip, but plus luxurious materials. Whereas Sidewinder is made from a functional but forgettable matte black plastic with matching interior padding, Vaja molds your preferred one of 40 of its colorful Caterina leathers into an iPhone holster with a puffed and curved rear surface. The unisex or male iVolution Holster covers all of iPhone’s back save for its camera, while the iVolution Lady Holster has matching dress-like curves that expose equal shoulder-like portions of iPhone’s back around the camera and its adjacent side.
By contrast with Marware, Vaja seems comparatively unconcerned about iPhone protection. There’s no screen cover, and the standard iVolution Holster doesn’t have a clip at the top to hold iPhone in place should you turn it on its side. The less rear-protective Lady Holster does have a top clip, though you’re not doing to turn it as much: Vaja sees the two cases as having different buyers and applications. Its more expensive Lady Holster comes with a matching leather hand strap, topped by a silver applique and black cord that attaches to an eyelet on the Holster’s top rear, above a metal Vaja logo. For $25 less, the standard Holster comes with nothing to attach to its back; you add a plastic belt clip (+$4) or metal clip (+$20) if you want to wear it.
Our most positive comments on the Vaja holsters relate to their build quality and looks. Their embossed Vaja logo interiors, as well as their puffed and molded leather exteriors, are gorgeous. The ability to pick from 40 colors, including everything from muted to vibrant ones, means that you can attractively change up the rear of your iPhone without paying even more to a company such as as Colorware, and each of the holsters holds your iPhone tightly enough that you’ll need to push it out to remove it. Vaja’s bottoms expose your iPhone’s Dock Connector and just enough of the speaker and microphone to let them remain useful without removing iPhone from the holsters.
However, in all honesty, we can’t say that we’re big fans of holster designs; our view is that they’re not as useful or protective as full cases and shouldn’t be priced as much, either. You’ll need to buy a full-body clear protector—any of which will incidentally fit inside the holster, albeit a little more tightly—to really scratch-proof your iPhone. As their most stripped-down versions, the two Vaja cases are pricey cosmetic accents for the iPhone, and the Marware case is a far less expensive shell with a place to wrap your headphones. Without paying extra for one of the belt clips, the standard Vaja iVolution Holster adds very little to the iPhone; the $80 iVolution Lady Holster adds little more than the ability to be carried with a strap.
Once again, Vaja has brought a case genre—here, holsters—to new highs of both appearance and cost, without delivering the protection or value we’d expect for the prices. You can get a lot of case, even a good one made from leather, for $55 or $80, and the major draw here is the colorful puffed leather, nothing more. Similarly, by stripping its prior Sidewinder cases of their front, top, and full side protection, Marware has created a design that is fine but not fantastic by reference to its predecessors, and neither as useful nor protective for the same price as the company’s Sport Grip Backwinder.
Company and Price
Model: iVolution Lady Holster
Price: $80 (+ shipping)