capsule review

iPhone case roundup: Transparent, reflective, and leather

At a Glance
  • Ivyskin XyloT3 Reflect case for iPhone 3G

    Macworld Rating
  • Sena Cases WalletBook Case for iPhone 3G

    Macworld Rating
  • Speck Products SeeThru for iPhone

    Macworld Rating

Sure, everyone says they need iPhone cases for “protection.” But we all know the real motivator: style. Fashion. Chic. Glam. It’s all about the pizazz and…stuff. Whether you want a case that merely accentuates the sleek, sexy industrial design of the iPhone itself; a case that wraps hard-core protection and slick plastic construction in one impressive shell; or a stylish leather case that doubles as a wallet and screams “professional fashionista,” there’s an iPhone case for you. Today I take a look at three cases from across the design spectrum.

Speck SeeThru for iPhone (original)

When I bought my iPhone, the last thing I wanted to do was cover its beauty in an opaque layer of stylelessness, robbing those around me of the opportunity to immediately identify the device, and robbing me of the opportunity to bask in that envy. For those as appreciative of the iPhone’s elegance and slick curves as me, a transparent case is the only option. And while Speck’s SeeThru for the iPhone falls in that category, it’s also plagued by the flaws typically inherent in that category’s products.

Namely, and most importantly, the case isn’t the most secure—or most protective, or sturdiest, or most confidence-inspiring—compared to the others in this roundup. In fact, the only protection the SeeThru really reliably offers is defense against scratches and scrapes. You insert your iPhone into the hard-plastic case by sandwiching it between the case’s snap-together front and back panels, but one good bump can cause the panels to pop open. Once that happens, all bets are off in terms of protection. Even when the case is on, it just doesn’t feel like the two pieces are securely and reliably attached—there’s too much wiggling and jiggling, and too little guarantee.

But the SeeThru isn’t all bad. It does have the same nifty belt holster as Speck’s ArmorSkin that we reviewed a while back; you can easily attach and remove your iPhone, case and all, from your belt. Plus, you have the option to insert the case onto the holster screen-side-in for maximum screen protection, and the holster’s belt clip transforms into an iPhone stand for hands-free video watching. The SeeThru also comes in some swanky translucent colors, and Speck includes a removable, thin-film screen protector that hinders the touchscreen’s responsiveness slightly less than other, similar products I’ve tested.

Ivyskin XyloT3 Reflect Case for iPhone 3G

Then again, not everyone is cuckoo for the iPhone’s unadulterated beauty; some are willing—maybe even pining—to slap on an outer layer that not only protects, but also dresses their iPhone. You know, sort of like one would dress a young child before sending him off to his first day of school. The Ivyskin XyloT3 Reflect Case is one such outfit, with a solid-white, hardshell back and a reflective, metallic border lining the front.

Unlike the Speck SeeThru and many other two-piece, hard-shell cases for the iPhone, the XyloT3 is a shining example of sturdy construction and actual protection. For example, the plastic itself is thick and comfortably durable. And the latches that fasten the case together inspire confidence in their integrity—dropping your encased iPhone a few feet onto the ground won’t cause the case to snap open, flinging your phone into the perilous clutches of The Outside World.

But the XyloT3’s most notable benefit is a feature that defines most of Ivyskin’s other protective cases: it fully protects the iPhone’s screen with a solid layer of plastic. This front piece uses Ivyskin’s Surface Xylo Wave technology, which allows you to manipulate the touchscreen through the protective cover with near-perfect control—something that’s hard to find in other iPhone cases, which, if they include any screen protection at all, usually feature just a piece of stick-on film. The XyloT3’s plastic protects the screen not only from the usual scratches and dust, but from dings and drops as well.

Plus, since the front is reflective, the case doubles as a mirror. No more needing to squint into the shiny Apple logo on the back of your phone to make sure you don’t have any left-over lunch in your teeth.

Sena WalletBook Case for iPhone 3G

What if plastic isn’t your thing? What if you’re less about the wam, and more about the glam? Then the Sena WalletBook Case is for you. The jewelry-box-like packaging it comes in is an indication of what you’re getting when you plop down the dough for this phone fender: The case is made from high-quality European Napa leather, complete with the high-inducing new-leather smell. Unlike the leather cases that scream “cheap,” every detail of the WalletBook seems carefully conceived and constructed, offering a snug fit for your iPhone. The back and flip-open front panel are thick, solid leather slabs providing adequate protection for on-the-go businesspeople.

The WalletBook is aptly named: unlike other cases that merely provide a skin for your iPhone, the WalletBook also doubles as—you guessed it—a wallet, offering three sleeves one the front panel for credit cards and cash, along with a clear-plastic sleeve for an ID. But this approach also has its downsides: Because the case’s front-panel flips closed, the iPhone’s touchscreen and other controls—namely, the volume buttons and the Ring/Silent switch—are inaccessible while the front is shut, complicating the iPhone’s role as a music player.

The case’s two panels, front and back, and its snap closure also add bulk: This isn’t a case you can just slide into most pockets. Rather, it seems to be geared towards carrying in a bag or purse. But if you’re a fancy executive with deep pockets (both literally and figuratively), and you’re looking for a well-built, professional-looking, multi-function iPhone case, the WalletBook is right up your alley.

[Dan Pourhadi contributes to the MacUser blog.]

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At a Glance
  • Ivyskin XyloT3 Reflect case for iPhone 3G

    Macworld Rating
  • Sena Cases WalletBook Case for iPhone 3G

    Macworld Rating
  • Speck Products SeeThru for iPhone

    Macworld Rating
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