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iPhone 3G/S case roundup review

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

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The staff at Appletell spent a good amount of time in 2009 using and writing about iPhone cases, but we know we were only able to cover a fraction of the options out there. We’re starting a new year, and CES has already seen many new iPhone case announcements. I expect there’ll be more come Macworld Expo 2010. To make sure we’re ready, we’re clearing our drawers of 2009 releases with one more roundup.

Bandshell

BandshellWe’ll start with the most unique of the bunch, the Bandshell ($19.99) from TJM Innovation. This hard shell case comes in 12 colors; some of which are quite cool, one of which may be the ugliest shade of white I have ever seen. The case is also quite bulky with wide beveled openings for the iPhone’s various controls. The two pieces (front and back) snap together with loud clicks that make it sound like the plastic is breaking, but it won’t; I had no durability issues in my month of testing.

There are no options for attaching the Bandshell to your person, and although the hard plastic does offer good protection, that’s not why it’s there. The Bandshell, as you may have guessed from its name, is all about sound. The bottom of the back can slide out around your iPhone’s speaker, thereby providing some extra audio kick (as with a bandshell, don’t you know). The right side is flattened out, which allows the iPhone to stand on its side. You’ve basically just turned your iPhone into a mini-speaker.

Is this worth it? Maybe. The extra audio is nice, and could be helpful if you listen to music on your iPhone a lot. Also, the flat edge provides a nice rest for your thumb if you’re holding the phone in your right hand. But it’s not the best looking case out there, and doesn’t provide much functionality beyond the stand and audio kick. The Bandshell is a great case when you’re iPhone is resting on a night stand or desk, but it’s not the best option for frequent app usage or conversations.

CandyShell

CandyShellIf you’re looking for something a little more conventional, you can’t go wrong with Speck’s CandyShell ($34.95). This soft shell case has been around for a while, and now features a soft, rubberized center so your iPhone is all snug and comfortable. This is a one-piece unit, and it’s still a bit difficult to get the iPhone in and out (special instructions are included). Also, there’s no lanyard or belt clip, and the soft plastic backing is easily scratched. Better that than your phone, though, I guess.

Still this case is quite popular and is a great option. This is because it has a nice, subtle design that’s often updated with new colors (currently eight color combos). It’s also very comfortable to hold and it doesn’t take up much space. The openings allow for proper access, and the power and volume buttons are actually easier to use despite being protected under the case. A screen protector and cleaning cloth are included.

The CandyShell is one of the cases you’re happy to leave on your iPhone no matter how it’s being used…other than sitting in a dock. If scratches bug you, though, you may be seeking a replacement sooner than you’d like.

HardJAC Graffito

My wife hates this case. I rather dig it. Konnet’s HardJAC Graffito ($22.99) is a thin, hardshell case that focuses more on design than anything else. It comes in two styles: a black model with a white lightning bolt, and pink with a white flourish. Both designs come with a screen protector that carries the design over to the top and bottom of the front of the iPod, framing the screen. And of course, you can download an image to use as your iPhone wallpaper.

HardJAC Graffito

Now, I said my wife hates it, but that’s solely because I’ve been evaluating the black model. I’m sure it’d be a different story if I had pink, because beyond the design, this is a pretty good case. Again, no lanyard or belt clip option, but the hard plastic is so thin that you could easily insert it in a third-party belt clip. It’s very easy to get the phone in and out of the case, and scratches are harder to detect than on the CandyShell.

I’d like to see Konnet release more designs in this line, as I really have no interest in either lightning or flowers. The HardJAC Graffito is an excellent, inexpensive option for basic iPhone protection, just make sure you’re happy with the current designs.

Shine

ShineOur second option from Konnet is the Shine ($28.99). This case is very similar to the HardJAC Graffito in construction, but without the artwork. Rather, you get a solid metallic case in blue, pink or red. No matter what color you choose, you get a second silver model for free, as well as two screen protectors: one normal, one reflective.

I really like the look of the case, but I’m a sucker for shiny, metallic objects. It’s like talking into a Christmas tree bulb. Unfortunately, looks are pretty much all you get. The ultra-thin case does offer some protection and is surprisingly scratch resistant, but it’s slick to hold. I want a solid grip in my iPhone cases, and the grip here is slippery. Not a good thing when you’re using a $200 phone.

Conclusion

It’s probably not fair to include the Bandshell in this roundup, as it’s so different from the other three. However, the Bandshell is different from every case I’ve ever used, so where else should I put it? It’s a good case for listening to your iPhone, but not as good for normal use.

The other three are more comparable, and of them, the HardJAC Graffito is my favorite. It’s easy to use, easy to hold, and features a striking design that’s carried around the entire phone. I think Konnet needs to release more designs for it to be a big seller, but they’ve definitely got the rest of it down.

See other iPhone 3G/S case reviews:

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