Forget chasing after bag snatchers and standing up to bank robbers – in this gadget loving age the definition of brave has to be anyone who uses their smartphone without a case. Confronted with such individuals, we can’t help but stare at them with both fear and wide-eyed admiration. After all, if they are willing to risk a scratch, scuff or major damage to the computerised jewel in their pocket who knows what crazy things they might do.
But we don’t want to encourage such reckless abandon. It’s like driving without a seatbelt or bungee jumping without a bunjee. Crazy and exciting – but after a few glorious moments, sure to end in disaster and tears.
No, we say. Stay safe and case-up.
Now as we are unapologetic worshipers at the altar of Jobs, you’ll find iPhone’s nestling in the pockets of our jeans so, inevitably, the cases we’re looking at today are for the latest iteration, the iPhone 5.
There are myriad companies that make cases and protective covers for the iPhone – it’s a massive industry, accounting for nearly $450 million in the US in 2011, and no doubt a lot more in 2012.
That’s a lot of cases so let us guide you straight to one of our favourite brands – Speck. Based in Palo Alto, California, it is about 20 minutes’ drive from Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, which helps to ensure that its cases simply work better with Apple products. (N.B. This is nonsense, obviously).
I was one of these early iPhone 4 guys, and one of the cases on offer was cooler looking than the others but it required waiting TWO WHOLE MONTHS for delivery. Yes, rather than buying a cheap case in the mean-time, I lived close to the edge and didn’t get a case. Crazy? Well it’s just the way I roll.The make first came to my attention after the iPhone 4 ‘Antenna-gate’ incident, which for those of a geeky persuasion will recall in June 2010. This was when many complained that the iPhone 4 dropped calls when held in a certain way, leading Steve Jobs to write the immortal line in an email to a disgruntled customer, “you’re holding it wrong”. That didn’t go down well and the result of the fall out from Antenna-gate was that Apple was forced to give away free cases for early iPhone 4 owners, or ‘bumpers’ as the US irritatingly insists on calling them.
For him: Speck PixelSkin HD
UK Supplier: Amazon.co.uk – Black only
That case was the Pixel HD from Speck. Sure enough, when the iPhone 5 arrived being a’ wild and crazy guy’ I decided I wanted exactly the same case to protect the new phone, and sure enough around the day of release, Speck announced the PixelSkin HD for iPhone 5.
What I like about this case is that it offers pretty comprehensive protection for your iPhone without adding too much in the way of bulk. It’s also tough and I can attest that it saved my iPhone from numerous bumps, scratches and in all likelihood breakages.
It doesn’t offer any direct protection for the screen, but the ridge of the case is raised all the way round so that when your iPhone does fall to the ground it still offers good protection. The power button at the top and the volume button at the top and bottom are covered. While sturdy the case isn’t too thick, so I never have any problems plugging in headphone or the like. If you’re using a dock you might be able to keep the iPhone in the case while using it. I say might though – you’ll still need to take it out in most cases.
It’s good news then that it’s very simple to pop the case on and off easily, which is useful as dirt and dust will creep inside over time and you’ll want to take your iPhone out and give it a clean. That’s always a good moment to remind yourself how thin and light and generally wondrous your Jesusphone is, before you quickly place in back in its protective skin.
The best bit about the case though it where it gets its name – the grid-like array of squares on the rear. Speck offers another case with squares also called the PixelSkin, but these are smaller, hence the ‘HD’. It looks great, but what’s good about this is that this gives the case a grippy feel, so it’s less likely to slip out of your hands or slip off a sofa.
I prefer my black iPhone to be matched with a black case, but Speck usefully does the case in four other colours – red, blue, graphite and harbour (whatever that is). We were sent the red one, and the colour is rich and deep.
Finally, the shiny plastic finish is smart, which makes it easier on the eye that many cheap cases. The Speck Pixel HD isn’t the cheapest case around, but for me, it’s smart, stylish, strong and great value.
For her: Speck FabShell FreshBloom Coral
UK Supplier: Amazon.co.uk
If you want something less minimalist on your iPhone, then Speck also offers the FabShell range. The one that was sent for testing has a fabric finish integrated down the back and down the sides of the case. Again, the first impression is of quality and style. By its very nature a case is going to alter the look of your phone, and if you have picked up an iPhone it’s fair to say that image is important to you, (he said, knowingly knocking the cheap plastic feel of all Android phones). The Fabshell gives your phone that slight arty touch, without falling into pretention. It also feels great to touch, adding a tactile enhancement that oozes class.
Putting the FabShell on, I noted that the shell was thicker than the Pixel HD. This made it a little trickier to get on, but this is offset with offering even greater protection. The ridges for the ports are inevitably a little deeper though, so be warned and the power button is a tough more difficult to push and the mute button on the side is harder to get to as well.
The line drawing finish of the one we were sent (FreshBloom Coral) wasn’t particularly to my taste, but there are a good number of cool looking ones on the Speck web site – Raw Edged/Pomodoro looks good to me, so there’s bound to be something to your liking.
There’s no denying the quality of these iPhone cases. They add rather than detract from the look of your phone, and offer solid protection without adding too much bulk. Highly recommended.