Hate cases? iPhone slim case showdown

Sections: iDevice Accessories, iPhone, iPhone/iPod touch/iPad, Reviews

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Thin iPhone CasesI despise cases. I like my gadgets thin. After all, the Apple engineers worked their tails off trying to make the iPhone as slim as possible. The first thing many of us do is slap on a case that makes the iPhone as thick as an old Palm phone; can’t you hear the silent cry from engineering? I set out to find options on thin cases that I don’t hate, and after months of trying, I’ve got three options to keep your iPhone feeling, well, like an iPhone.

OtterBox Impact Series T

OtterBox silicon impact series t case for iphoneOtterBox is known for their know-how in gadget protection. From air-tight and water-tight cases capable of surviving your white water rafting trip to cases with a sleeker profile. Of course it is a trade off. The less you cover, the more vulnerable the device is. The new Impact Series T looks to walk this fine line between being thin and offering protection.

The case is made of silicon, although it feels much slicker. Installation involves stretching the case over the phone. The back is extremely form fitting with a ridge of protection along the case’s “spine” that feels great in hand. One can feel the edges of the phone through the case for a very thin feel. The Apple logo is visible through the hole in the case for a classy look.

The corners of the phone are protected by what OtterBox calls inner coring to dissipate impacts away from the device. Buttons are accessed through the case; no cutouts here.

The front side lacks some of the elegance of the back and reminds us that it is a silicon case. It looks chunky to me, but offers some decent protection. You’ll want to add a screen protector to this set-up.

Overall, the case is light, retains the thin feel and offers a level of protection. The price is $19.95 from OtterBox.

Ultra Thin Leather Grip iPhone 3G

Ultra thin iPhone caseCases are evolving into more than just something to try to keep your gadgets scratch free or in one piece, they are becoming fashion statements. This case is perhaps the most fashionable of the bunch; the strapless gown, if you will. The Ultra Thin case is among the best looking cases I’ve seen. Put simply, this case turn heads.

The Ultra Thin is constructed with polycarbonate (1/29″ thick!), and installation involves pushing the case onto the back half of the phone. The fit is snug but not super snug. I was initially concerned about longevity, but after weeks of use, I don’t have any further concern there. The back of the case I tested had a faux leather grip with texture. This felt great in hand, though it didn’t feel as slim as the Otterbox case.

The back of this phone has a hole to reveal the Apple logo, like the OtterBox, but the Ultra Thin case includes a film cover so the exposed logo isn’t a target for scratches. Nice touch! Buttons are accessed through cutouts in the case.

There is no protection or encumbrance for the topside of the phone. It is all exposed, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The bottom corners of the phone are protected, as is the back of the device. This case was the favorite among those who like their phone in cases.

The Ultra Thin sells for $12.99 ($19.99 for the leather grip model), in a host of colors and designs from Cretouch. At this price, this case is a strong contender.

Go (almost) naked: Zagg InvisibleSHIELD

Zagg Invisibleshield for iPhoneI’ve written about Zagg’s clear films before, as I’ve found them to be worthy of mention. From the CES demo of trying to pull a key through the film and failing, an impression was left on me. Zagg claims the film was developed to keep helicopter rotor blades sharp and damage free.

Zagg sells two versions of their goods for the iPhone: front only and full body coverage. I tested the full body coverage. Installation is a bit of a trick, as you spray the film and place it gingerly on the phone, aligning the flim. It takes a good 20 minutes but the result is a phone that is protected from daily scratches quite nicely.

The film adds a “grippiness” to the phone that is most welcome. The film offers no issues in recognizing swipes or taps, the texture is a little more grippy, but I got used to that fairly quickly. If a minimal level of protection is what you seek, look no further.

Clearly this film isn’t going to do much for impact protection, so those prone to the dropsies should look elsewhere, or at least add a case. What I love about this solution is it is just about invisible and offers no bulk. If your iPhone lives in your pocket and on your desk, it isn’t a bad choice.

Full body protection is $24.95 from Zagg and can also be found at Best Buy.

Overall, going thin requires some trade offs. The trade off is impact protection for thinness. How much of a sacrifice are you willing to make? OtterBox does a great job of straddling the line. The Ultra Thin case is great for keeping your gadget exposed, and the InvisibleSHIELD brings me that much closer to realizing how cool it would be to have an invisible jet.

Appletell Ratings:

I’m going naked, how about you?

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  • Adam Berger

    I go naked as well

  • Chris

    Wonderful cases. Specifically "Ultra Thin Leather Grip iPhone 3G" one

  • Michelle

    I love the SwitchEasy Rebel Touch, its really thin but has a soft rubber layer and a hard layer to protect. A+
    Then I added the MobiGrip which is a tiny disk that sticks on the back with a rubberband that fits on your finger. Make me feel more secure that someone can't bump me and I accidentally drop it.

    Picture of the back and front on my twitpic page

  • seth

    these cases are amazing i just wish there where more colors like blue and white and red and black red and white and alot more colors.