Introducing the iPhone case I hate to love the most

After receiving the iPhone 4S as a gift last year, I went shopping, as I usually do, for a case. I had previously used a dark "Smoke" Incase Snap Case on my iPhone 4 and was disappointed with how time had taken its toll on the case. The corners were cracked, the ring around the camera had fallen apart and the once soft grippy feel had been replaced with a more sticky feel. All this had happened while I had never dropped the phone and only had it either in my pocket, my lap or on a table.

My god! It's full of cases!Photo credit: Camillo Miller

So off to the one place I know that has the largest amount of iPhone accessories per square foot: my local Apple store. My mission? Simple. Find a case that matches these requirements: thin, light, grippy, simple.

There were cases that were thick, cheap feeling, slippery, bright, expressive, expensive, films, leather, plastered in brand logos or awful textures. Something for almost everyone and anything in-between. But where are the thin, simple, flat cases? All I wanted was something that was like my old Snap Case, simple, thin and felt good to hold, but something that wouldn’t crack from being the sole item in a pocket.

I can feel the power in my hand!

Behold, the Clear Frost Incase Snap Case V2 for iPhone 4/4S

I couldn’t seem to find anything that matched up with my expectations of having a minimalist case. So I settled on the clear frost variant of the case I had previously owned. Having had the same case before, I knew the drill with this one and I’d start seeing cracks on the corners eventually. The problem was, I didn’t expect to see them after a few months.

Fast forward to last week, the black ring around the camera flash on my case cracked. I contacted Incase for a warranty replacement of my Snap Case and their warranty program asked me to describe in detail within 255 characters what the problem was. I used all 255 characters. They asked for photos, I sent photos. They approved my application and sent me a replacement case. However, unlike other manufacturers, they ask that you send back the defective case on your dime (really pinching pennies guys).

So when I received my replacement case, I thought it would be interesting to compare my 9 month old case to the brand new one:

Incase Snap Case (Clear Frost)

The Clear Frost variant of the Snap Case is by far the best covering for the white iPhone, if you’re going to be using a case.

Incase Snap Case (Clear Frost)

And the back. I’m not a huge fan of the black ring around the camera, but it serves its purpose to prevent glare when you’re taking a photo with the flash enabled.

Brothers from the same mother

Here is the new and the old. I can’t believe how much dirt, grime and sweat this case absorbs, changing its frosted white appearance to a more coffee-stained look.

One ring to rule ... ahh never mind.

Broken all the way through.

And I even though this case has a terrible life expectancy, I still think it’s the best case on the market today (and I’d love to be proven otherwise) and this is my thinking why:

  • The case itself is thin enough to give you the impression of protection against nicks, cuts and scrapes, but not thick enough to make the phone feel much different from going “naked”.
  • The clear frost works well with the white variation of the phone, allowing the Apple logo on the back of the device shine through in a muted sort of way.
  • The case covers the back of the phone, not just for protecting, but to also allow it to grip to your pants or a table to avoid sliding.
  • Unlike silicone cases, this cover doesn’t sick to skin or dust and has a hard sturdy feel.
  • The case glows (yes, it glows!!) at night when you use your phone as a flashlight…

Cue the Lightsaber sound effect

Let it glow, let it glow, let it glow

So despite how much it sucks to have to shell out $30 for a hunk of plastic you know won’t make it a whole year (even without dropping it) sure stinks, and without much competition for simple thin cases, I doubt I’ll find something better than this. Incase’s warranty policy regarding replacements also needs to fall in line with what consumers expect (I don’t want to have to pay for shipping the case back to you. If you want it that badly, then you include a shipping label for me). I guess we’ll have to put up with awful case designs or bad build quality, or just accept the fact that you’re likely to find some way of accidentally scratching up your most cherished device and go completely in the nude.

I’d rather not risk it myself.

Update (2012-08-19): The replacement case I received has already begun to show signs of cracking in the same areas as indicated in this post. The fractures are small and the phone has yet to be dropped.