I have what I can only describe as an unhealthy obsession with device cases. Where most see a necessary evil required to keep the demons of grime and accidental breakage at bay, I see… clothes for my phone.
Case in point — see what I did there? — in the months before I actually purchased my new iPhone, I bought four separate 4S phone cases. I obviously have a problem, but rather than relegate me to some accessory addiction treatment facility, the folks at Speck have instead fueled the flames by sending me three of their own cases to review.
Hey, at least this way the GeekDad audience can benefit from my ridiculous disorder.
The Speck Pixelskin is a lightweight, flexible and easily grip-able silicon case. The raised square pattern that gives this case its name provides excellent protection against drop damage first and foremost by making your phone incredibly easy to hold on to. In addition to its no-slip pattern, the Pixelskin also boasts all the proper cut-outs for easy access, rubberized mute and volume button covers and a nice raised bezel to protect the otherwise nakedly exposed touchscreen. This solid design makes for a comfortable grip, but the real difference between this case and more inexpensive (if delightfully novel) options is its sizing. The Pixelskin provides a form fit on both the 4 and 4S model iPhones. This case excels on most fronts, especially comfort and mute/headphone access, but its oh-so-textured exterior both adds a bit of overall bulk and makes it less pocket-friendly than many other models.
Speck has recently expanded on their classic CandyShell line with some new additions. The CandyShell Grip provides all the protection of the original’s sturdy two layer design – a rigid outer covering with a rubberized inner liner, extended overhang for screen protection and flexible corner reinforcement – with a unique four-quadrant texturized back. This provides a similar sure-grip to the Pixelskin without so severely compromising the iPhone’s dainty form factor. The visible contrast between the brightly-colored shell and the black textured pads also provides some additional visual appeal. The Grip was designed with horizontally-aligned gaming and texting in mind, but the “finger pads” along the case’s back prove equally comfortable when cradling your iPhone upright during marathon phone calls. The CandyShell Grip is sized to accommodate the new 4S, with properly positioned button covers and a larger mute switch port. The dock connector, headphone jack and camera opening are also super-sized, making for a case that provides proper protection without forcing the user to sacrifice functionality.
The CandyShell Card also supplements the older CandyShell’s blend of hard shell coverage and interior rubber shock-absorption with a bonus card slot. Speck cleverly uses the existing rubberized interior to provide a pliable backing for this slot, and a cutaway on the far end makes it easy to push out your cash or ID with a flick of your thumb. The CandyShell Card’s best feature, however, it its overall feel. The back of the case is slightly larger than the front, giving it a vague wedge shape that fits well in the palm. Though it lacks the physical texturing of the aforementioned models, it somehow manages to feel just as comfortable (and noticeably more natural) in-hand. Unfortunately, despite offering ample protection and the same responsive button covers of those other models, it does come with a few associated hindrances. Because of its size, the openings for the mute switch, charge port and most obviously the headphone jack are cavernous by comparison. This means that switching to silent mode is a chore, and attaching larger size (read: non-OEM) headphones or audio cables is nigh impossible. Likewise, the camera opening, while sizable on the outside, sharply tapers in toward the phone itself; this kind of thing that could make avid iPhone photographers very nervous. Even the card slot itself, this case’s big selling point, isn’t exactly accommodating. At best you can squeeze an ID a couple of credit/bank cards in there. It could certainly prove helpful for a night out or as a solid “sometimes case” for vacationing, but there are simply better wallet replacements available. More to the point, removing this particular model from your iPhone is nothing short of a pain. As in “summon the Jaws of Life!”
In summary, Speck’s latest offerings run the gamut. The Pixelskin is comparatively inexpensive and provides proper protection, but isn’t always pocket-able. The CandyShell Card, on the other hand, serves as a passable combination case/storage solution providing you’re willing to accept less-than-easy access to the mute switch and headphone jack and that you never, ever plan on taking it off. The Grip, however, offers the best of both worlds. It boasts both maximum coverage with minimal fuss, and, while not quite as sexy as the original CandyShell from a purely visual standpoint, ably combines form and function.
Review materials provided by: Speck.