Contour Design Showcase for iPhone

This is my fourth iPhone case review and with each one comes a stronger knowledge of what works and what doesn’t work in real-life use. Before I get into the review I thought I would post a paragraph from the Contour Design website that provides an overview of the new Showcase for iPhone.

My impressions of the “Showcase for iPhone”
The newly announced “Showcase for iPhone” from Contour Design offers a hybrid design, using both rubber and acrylic to create a beautiful looking case. Contour Design has also improved upon the overall design of the case by making the case one-piece. Unlike other acrylic cases, including their own iSee case for the iPhone, the Showcase features a hinged design that opens up to allow the iPhone to be slid into it – offering a very snug fit (See Photos #3 and #8). Unlike some other two-piece designs such as the Belkin Acrylic case you never have the feeling that the iPhone would fall out even if it should fall and land on the ground.

The front of the “Showcase” is very similar to the design of their iSee case, where the iPhone’s touch screen is left unprotected for use, while clear acrylic covers the upper and lower areas of the phone’s front – leaving an opening over the speaker and proximity sensor at the top and an opening at the bottom to provide access to the home button (See Photos #1 and #2). The case also features a large, clear, acrylic window on the backside designed to help show off the Apple logo and the fact that you’re a proud owner of an iPhone. There is also a small opening for the camera lens. The Showcase was also designed to provide full access to the headphone port, Standby/Power button, volume control, and silent/ringer switch (See Photos #6 and #7). The rest of the case, mainly the sides, front and back perimeter, and lower back third of the case is adorned with hard-shell rubber. This added touch of rubber not only helps to provide some shock-protection but also gives the case and your iPhone a very rich look. (See Photos #4).

The belt holster that is included with the ‘Showcase’ was improved over the one that was included with the iSee case as it provides a wider belt clip and a more stable stance for holding the iPhone horizontally as a stand. I still would like to suggest that Contour Design figure out a way to give their holster more of a ’tilt’ to make viewing a more pleasurable experience from close distances.

If you have read my previous iPhone case reviews you know that I am not a big fan of holsters and belt clips for my phone. The holster that is included with the new ‘Showcase’ is no exception, though for purposes of this review I did carry it around in the holster (and on my belt) during the few weeks of testing. The holster is a full length holder for the iPhone with a large belt clip on the back. The iPhone can be placed into the holster either face down or face up giving you the choice between added protection and quicker access. There seems to be a slight ‘grip’ advantage and clicking sound when you place the iPhone face down into the holster.

My biggest gripe with holsters and belt clips is that they always seem to be getting in the way when getting into the car or just sitting back in a chair. I also feel as if I constantly need to re-check it to make sure the clip is still securely on my belt. Just a few days ago one of the things I fear about using a holster came true; I was down at the beach photographing the marsh that was enveloped in fog. When finished I walked across the street and walked up a small sand hill / barrier that separated the road from the beach and ocean. When walking down the hill to go back to the car I started to trot a little bit in order to prevent my feet from sliding on the sand. When my legs hit solid ground, my body jarred just enough to pop the iPhone from the holster and watch it land face down on the rocks that lay on the edge of the road. The good news is the ‘Showcase’ protected the iPhone, while luck protected the screen — as it landed face down on the hard dirt ground yet survived without a scratch. Actually, when I analyze it, the case might have helped protect the screen since the edge of the case creates a small lip around the screen, helping to keep it slightly OFF the ground when face down.

Comparing Cases

All of the cases I have reviewed to date were designed to provide full use of the iPhone while still protecting them — the Showcase is no different. Since the launch of the iPhone back in late June I have reviewed four different cases. When compared on their own merits each of these cases have impressed me, however, when compared to the case(s) before it, they don’t always make for an easy pick. When I review a new product I think it is only fair to you, the reader, to provide some comparison to the ones I have reviewed before it. I also have found that my opinion changes slightly over time, based on everyday usage as well as the overall ‘in-hand’ feel — especially when compared to other models that I have tested.

The Showcase for iPhone vs. Belkin Acrylic Case
The Belkin Acrylic case was the first case I used with my iPhone. I love its completely clear design as well as the very useful and compact belt clip which also doubles as a great stand – supporting the iPhone both vertically and horizontally. While I never trusted the belt clip on my belt, it was and still is the best case for those who mainly want an iPhone stand with some basic protection. If the iPhone/Belkin case ever dropped – the two piece design would quickly break apart – tossing your iPhone out with potentially damaging results.

The Showcase for iPhone on the other hand provides a more rugged one-piece design compared to the Belkin case. The Showcase offers clear acrylic in areas that best show off the iPhone and features rubber along the edges and lower backside which provides for increased shock protection. Indeed, when my iPhone and case dropped to the ground, the case stayed firmly tight around the iPhone, helping to protect it from scratches and damage.

The Showcase for iPhone vs. the iSee for iPhone
While both of these models are made by Contour Design and both share a very similar feature set, the Showcase stands out thanks to the one-piece design and rubber enhancements that help to give it a more distinguished look and better protection. The holster on the iSee case CAN be used as a horizontal stand but is a bit unstable in that position, while the holster on the Showcase offers good stability – though I wish it angled back a bit further.

The iSee case is made up of two pieces – the acrylic body and a slide-on acrylic door that snaps into place on the back of the case. This two-piece design along with the fact that it is entirely made of plastic means that it will not offer protection from anything beyond every day scuffs and scratches. However, the 100% acrylic design was designed to show off the entire iPhone.

The Showcase for iPhone vs. the iSkin Revo
I must admit that the iSkin Revo is a hard act to follow. This all rubber case offers FULL protection of your iPhone and even includes a non-adhesive protection / privacy shield for the screen area which makes this the only case that protects 100% of your iPhone while still providing full access. I wish that other case companies would include a protective shield for the screen with their cases. Even the buttons and ports are fully protection including a flap that covers the headphone jack – helping to keep dust/debris from getting inside. The only switch that isn’t covered is the tiny silence/ringer switch. The iSkin Revo also includes a removable hard-plastic screen guard that can be stored on the backside when not needed. This screen guard will help to protect the screen from sharp objects when placed in a pocket or pocketbook.

A feature lacking in the iSkin Revo is any kind of belt clip or stand and in the quest to offer unmatched protection of your iPhone, the iSkin Revo also has one small design element that has been a bit of a problem for me. The rubber part of the case that starts directly below the screen area covers the entire width of the front-bottom of the iPhone – including the home button. While I applaud the full protection, I have found that the raised rubber lip makes it a bit tricky to hit the space bar when typing on the iPhone. When typing on the on-screen keyboard I noticed that many of my words were lacking spaces between them because the rubber lip got in the way of what I thought was a screen-tap to the spacebar. Because of this I actually appreciate the way the Contour Design Showcase leaves this area (over the home button) without protection.

Where the Contour Design Showcase makes your iPhone look ready for a night on the town – like a Tuxedo for your iPhone, the iSkin Revo makes your iPhone look ready for outdoor adventures. The hard rubber and acrylic combination of the Showcase make for a beautiful, rich looking case while offering good overall protection. The hard rubber exterior also allows for a nice grip without the rubber feel of silicone cases. I actually enjoy having both ‘wardrobes’ for the iPhone as I can change the case style to fit the activity or function.

Conclusion
The new Contour Design Showcase for iPhone is a beautiful and well thought out case for the iPhone. The clear acrylic covers the front top and bottom of the iPhone as well as a large portion of the back of the phone. The clear acrylic design allows the beauty of the iPhone to be seen while still protecting it from everyday activities, while the hard-shell rubber coating that surrounds the case helps to offer better shock protection if the phone is accidentally dropped. The one-piece design of this case also helps to provide better protection for your phone in case of a drop compared to the two-piece design of all other acrylic style cases.

The Showcase was designed to allow full access to all the functions, buttons, and ports by leaving cutouts in the case that surround these areas (See Photo #6 and #7). The only added protection I would have liked the Showcase to include would have been for the headphone jack. Leaving it exposed isn’t any more of a problem as it would be with any phone or MP3 player, but since it is a place that could ‘catch’ small dust particles or debris, a hinged-rubber tab to protect it would be a nice addition.

I also feel that if the included belt holster should be made more secure – from having a better grip on the belt to holding the iPhone more securely. For basic activity (walking around the office, etc.) it does its job, but for anything beyond that, the holster doesn’t hold onto the iPhone as well as it should. Even if you hate wearing holsters, you’ll appreciate the fact that the holster will double as a horizontal stand for the iPhone. I cannot tell you how often I use the stand feature – especially when watching video podcasts at my desk. I would like to see the holster design allow the stand to support the iPhone/case in the vertical position as well.

The Contour Design ‘Showcase for iPhone’ is one of the nicest looking iPhone cases on the market and offers better protection that any other acrylic case I have seen or reviewed. While it doesn’t offer as much shock protection or even as much overall protection as the all-rubber iSkin REVO it does strike a great balance between form and function. From its one-piece design and intelligent use of see-through acrylic to help Showcase your iPhone, as well as the hard-rubber trim that will help protect it from bumps and bruises, the ‘Showcase for iPhone’ truly lives up to its name. Contour Design sells the case for $34.95 which is seems to be a good value when compared to other cases. It ships in a very Apple-like black box with window that ‘Showcases’ the case and includes a Holster with belt clip that also doubles as a horizontal viewing stand.

One last thing
The iPhone / Showcase combination will not fit into the iPhones included docking station. Instead of removing it each time, you may want to use the holster as the stand and plug the docking cable directly into the iPhone. While this is a good work around it is not a perfect solution, since the holster only supports the iPhone in hoirzontal mode. Great for vidoes and using cover flow, but not great for accessing buttons, websites, email, and more.