Concept: 2 out of 5
Execution: 4 out of 5
Yeah, but: I really like their logo.
The Long Version: The worst thing about the Speck Candyshell Grip is the name, and that's the last time I will ever type it in full. I must not be their target market, because that middle wordlike sequence of letters was almost enough to stop me from buying this thing. But careful inspection of the product photos showed that only the brand name appears on the case, so I went ahead with it. I picked the yellow, but it's also made in white, red, black, and blue.
My first impression of the iPhone case – once the packaging with that word that I won't repeat was safely disposed of – is that it's attractive and very well made. My previous iPhone case experience is with the Sena and Twelve South leather cases, but I've used plastic, silicone, and hybrid cases for my old Blackberry. The Speck beats them all. It's a thin layer of polycarbonate, slightly flexible, that's bonded to the inner rubber and with the gripper panels (apparently) bonded to it in turn. What look like little bumpers on the corners of the case are actually expansion joints that let the case stretch to fit over the phone, giving a solid hold from its one-piece design.
The rubber on the back of the case really does provide a solid grip, while the smooth plastic still makes it fairly pocketable. It's not the best of both worlds, since that's a situation that can never really exist, but it's a good compromise. There's also a pronounced ridge around the perimeter of the case that keeps the screen away from flat surfaces, and the case had no problem snugging over the screen protector that I have installed. The buttons are easily activated with rubber over-buttons, except for the ringer/vibrate toggle, which has a cutout that's sized for a finger, but too small for a thumb.
The headphone cutout isn't overly generous. My usual pair of earbuds just sneaks in, although the case will happily accomodate my Sony 7506 monitors and two other pairs of earbuds – but not at the same time, of course. I measure the opening as 8mm across, so if your headphone jack is approaching that try the case before you buy it. Naturally, the cutout for the 30-pin connector is large enough to accommodate Apple's original cables, but anything that's designed to sit flat to the base of the phone, like a dock, is out of luck.
One quirk of the Yellow case is that it's extremely difficult to accurately reproduce the colour. Speck's own website shows this case's colour – officially called "Butternut Squash / Black" – as two different interpretations of yellow. Most of the product shots that I've seen in other reviews lean toward 'canary', which isn't right. The case isn't the same colour as Sony's old 'sport' walkmans, with more orange in it than the usual outdoorsy-ruggedy electronics colour. The photo above shows it on a colour reference card, with neutral greys along the bottom, and it's pretty close to the real thing – but even colour-calibrated monitors will reproduce it slightly differently.
Marketed as a 'gaming' case, the Speck __________ Grip does a good job of turning the flat glass iPhone 4/4s into the rounded plastic iPhone 3G. But its corners are comfortable to hold, the grip panels work well, and it hasn't turned out to be the lint-magnet that I feared it could be. My only real "oh, well" moment with it was when I discovered that the slightly curved back means that the phone can wobble a bit when it's resting on a flat surface, making typing just slightly more awkward. But if I wanted great typing instead of good looks, I would have bought a Blackberry, right?
Five-month update: After months of use I'm still a fan of this case, but it has some definite wear-and-tear. The soft rubber around the perimeter has worn down, including one spot where the hard plastic shell shows through, and the little nubs are gone. I've also dropped it a couple of times, which is probably why the hard plastic has broken around the headphone port, the dock connector, and the bottom speaker and microphone ports. These are all places where the plastic is thinnest, and since the case is actually held together by the bouncy rubber lining, it's not structural. Just the same, I've added another case to my lineup and expect to only use the Grip when its extra protection is likely to matter.
last updated 8 july 2012