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iPhone 3G case shootout: Dermis, Speck, Moshi and Contour Design

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

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Those who have known for me for a while are aware of two things about my character: First, I never find it amusing when people impersonate Forrest Gump. It’s just not funny, okay? Stop doing it. You’re only making everyone around you feel awkward, and you really don’t want to be that person.

Second, I’m extremely picky about my iPhone cases, but in an evolving way. Originally, I was all about balance between looks, protection and functionality. I still hover around that balance, but I’ve lately started the embrace the whole “less is more” ideal. Indeed, I often don’t even put my iPhone in a case. I’m tired of the bulk and the color that strip the iPhone of its identity. So, knowing that, here are a few iPhone 3G cases I’ve been using on and off for the past few months to see if any are worth full-time use.

Dermis Skin

Dermis Skins reviewA good example of the “less is more” approach, Dermis Skins ($19.95) don’t offer much protection or functionality, but are very big on style and variety. These easy on/off silicon shells slip around the edges of your iPhone, protecing the back and sides. The entire bottom is open, providing easy access to the dock port. The only other openings (aside form the screen, of course), are the headphone port, camera lens and silence switches; the on/off switch and volume buttons are covered, but are easily accessed through the skin. No screen protector is included, so you’ll need to buy one separately.

Seeing that there’s also no method of fastening your iPhone to your person, the Dermis Skins are looking to sell themselvs mainly on style, and they succeed at that. There’s a ridiculous number of options from which to choose, including designs such as Punk Rock Pirate, Holy Apple!, Retro Plaid and Rock Royalty. Each of these designs then comes in multiple colors. If you can’t find a Dermis design you like here, then you’re just far too picky for you own good. That’s not saying this case is for everyone, of course—they’re more about fashion than function—but if you’re looking for a slim, minimal case that helps your iPhone look a little more distinctive while protecting from scratches and scuffs, Dermis is a great, inexpensive place to start.

CandyShell

CandyShell reviewSimilar in design but not in construction is Speck’s CandyShell ($34.95). This case offers the exact same layout and openings as the Dermis Skin, but has three major differences. First, it comes with a separate screen protector. Good. Second, it has only four design choices: Key lime jawbreaker, lemondrop liquorice, cranberry white truffle and watermelon gumball. Not as good, but probably enough for most users once you learn what those names mean. And third, although flexible, this is very much a hard case. The glossy rubber bends just enough to get the iPhone in, but getting it out can be troublesome. You know that if the developers have to create a video on how to do so, it has to be trouble.

Once you’ve got application and removal down, however, this is a good case. The color schemes are quite unique, and are accented by the glossy finish of the back. That finish is easily scratched, however, so if you keep your iPhone loose in a purse or book bag, it won’t be long before the Candy Sheel is showing some wear. And although the dock port opening is quite wide, you will need to remove the phone from the case when using anything other than a docking cable. Considering the complexity of that process, it’s something you likely won’t want to do often. Keep that in mind when deciding if this is the case for you.

iPouch

[Review by Jake Gaecke.]

iPouch reviewMoshi’s iPouch ($23.00) is almost as minimal as you can get with an iPhone case (also available for most iDevices and similar shaped gadgets). It’s nothing more than a microfiber cloth pouch with two pockets. One of the pockets is for your iPhone, and one is for an accessory or two, such as headphones or a bluetooth headset. If you use it for headphones, you can take advantage of the clip. This keeps them organized and easily accessible outside of the pouch, as your buds will hang out. On the top of the pouch is a cord that you can pull to tighten the whole deal, keeping your iDevice nice and secure. But truthfully, you don’t really need to tighten it unless you hang upside down a lot.

Since the pouch is made out of Terahedron, it can be used to wipe your iDevice clean of fingerprints and smudges. Moshi would like you to think that this wipes it clean every time you put your iDevice in and take it out, but it takes a bit more effort than that, even if you’re wearing tight jeans…not that I’d know.

Moving on. I’ve used a case similar to this since I first got my original iPhone: it’s called an eyeglass pouch. So, perhaps I’ve been spoiled by my ultimate in minimalism when I say that I think the iPouch is a little bulky. A side effect of the microfiber cloth (available in zen black, lavender pink, baby blue and sahara beige) is that it doesn’t slide in and out of your pocket very easily; it’s far easier to pull the cord to get the whole thing out. And when you get a phone call, this could be a small problem. I guess I wish the outside was made of a thinner fabric, but then you wouldn’t have any shock protection at all if you dropped it. Trade offs; which ones to make?

Overall, this case is pretty decent, but I’ll be sticking with a plain black eyeglass case until I lose it again.

HardSkin

HardSkin reviewThe good folks at Contour Design have a history of creating sharp looking, functional cases, and their HardSkin ($29.95) is no exception. Visually, this is my favorite of the bunch, but that’s solely based on the dark, metallic looking colors of the rubberized hardshell. They look elegant; like the paint options you don’t get on the base model cars. Some of the colors here even sound like car paint options: black, plum, navy, blue pearl, red pearl, violet pearl and green pearl. But the HardSkin offers a couple of unique functionalty features, as well.

The case itself constists of two main pieces that snap together around your iPhone. Unlike many other snap-on cases, the HardSkin is easy to get off (although you will need a coin to do so). Contour also includes removable silicone covers for the volume and hold buttons, which you need to balance in place when snapping the pieces together. It’s not terribly difficult to do, but if you take your iPhone in and out of the case often, you’ll quickly grow tired of bothering with them. Also, although no screen protector is provided, you can add a holster and belt clip for an additional $10.00.

I want to point out that you shouldn’t be fooled by the photo I’ve included here. The HardSkin is actually a bit brighter and shinier than what shows through in this this press image. It’s also thinner, as strange as that sounds. The press images make the HardSkin case look puffier than it actually is, so I recommend you check one out at your local iPhone accessory store to get a feel for what this case really looks like.

Conclusion

Of this bunch, my favorite is the Contour HardSkin. Some of that is the design, which is subjective, but its ease of application and removal while still offering hard shell protection, as well as its option for a belt clip, help it to rise above the competition. I’d really like to see it come with a screen protector, but those are readily available eslewhere if you want one. Each of these cases will likely find its audience, but for the best combination of design, function and protection—while still keeping the iPhone fairly trim—you have to go with the HardSkin.

See more iPhone 3G case reviews.

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  • Boca Boi 786

    hey your link to HardShell is a dead link…please fix it

    this is the link
    http://retail.contourdesign.com/?/products/64

  • Kirk Hiner

    Thanks, Boca. Looks like they changed their filing scheme. I guess that's the danger of linking to anything other than the home page.

  • Erica

    Nice article. Be careful with the Contour HardSkin's volume and power overlay buttons; my HardSkin case fits so tight, that the overlay buttons kept constant pressure on the actual buttons, so I had to take them out. I stil LOVE the case though.

  • ivan

    It is very nice, Is it suitable for Iphone 3G Perfect? I bought one from htpp://www.sourcingasian.com it is very beautiful. It protects my iphone 3G From finger print.

  • Wilson

    BEWARE!!!!
    I thought this was a great case until after a month the rubberized coating started to rub off. Contour asked me to send it in for them to take a look and determine if they would send a new one. After spending 35 dollars on a defective case I now also have to pay to ship this back to them. Horrible customer service.

  • Steve

    Have to disagree slightly with your iPouch bulk concerns. Maybe it's because I used an Otterbox Defender before, but I find the iPouch to not be all that bulky. I like that it has some thickness to it because I know it will give better scratch protection from unknown objects that might be lurking in a bag, pocket, etc.

    The issue with most cases is that the emphasis is on protecting the body of the iphone, the screen is left to wallow in cheap plastic covers most of which will not hold up to anything of substance. I don't wear tight pants so its not a concern for me :=)

    Anyway, just thought I would share my thoughts.