Though new cell phones get the most attention at mobile trade shows like CTIA, much of the show floor is devoted to accessories like smartphone cases. Even when I have just a few minutes, I always take some time to check out the various wares because I never know when I'm going to find a iPhone case that can
What the heck is D30?
Its cases focus on durability, but Tech21 doesn't rely solely on rubber or hard plastic to protect your phone from bumps and bruises. It also uses a non-Newtonian substance called D30. In its "natural" form, D30 is sort of an orange goo that might get dumped on a contestant's head during a Japanese game show. And if you think that's weird, just consider how D30 behaves in your hands. If you handle it gently, it almost feels like soft putty. Press your finger in slowly and you'll leave an impression that will stay for several minutes. You can pull it like taffy, as well, and it will break off into tiny bits that will get all over your clothes.
Yet, if you strike it firmly or throw a ball of it against the ground, it suddenly becomes hard as a rock. I tried it a few times and marveled about how a sharp hammer blow barely made a dent. In reality, that's the whole point of D30. It can mold to soft touch, but it also absorbs shocks and deflects the impact away from your precious cargo. Tech21 only uses a small amount of D30 in its cases, but it's enough to make a difference.
The Impact Band
Tech21's cases come in all sizes, from a simple bumper called the Impact Band to a fully watertight case called
iPhone fans will recognize that the Impact Band looks a lot like the free bumpers that Apple gave away shortly after the iPhone 4 debuted. But while the Apple bumpers were more about solving the iPhone 4's unfortunate attenuation problem, the Impact Band is clearly about keeping your handset safe. Like the bumper, it only wraps around the iPhone's edges, but it's thicker and is made of a firmer material. It comes in three colors (black, clear or pink) and it won't distract from the iPhone's clean lines. On the inside of the Impact Band you'll see an orange stripe running round the perimeter. That's the D30 material resting right against the iPhone's metal side.
The Impact Band slipped on my
Though the iPhone's display and rear panels aren't protected, the Impact Band wraps around either side to offer some protection. There are gaps in the band for the docking port, the speaker and microphone, the headset jack, and the ringer switch. You can access the ringer switch easily, but the hole around the headset jack could be larger. It's not an issue if you're using Apple's standard wired headset, but you may have trouble fitting a nonregulation headset. Also, I had to press quite firmly to activate the volume bottoms with the band on.
I used the Impact Band for several days with my
Out of all the cases I saw at CTIA 2012, Tech21's products were the only ones to make it on our Best of CTIA list. Indeed, the Impact Band delivers on Tech21's promises for a sturdy case that will protect your iPhone without being too big or ugly. At $39.99 it is expensive, and I'd tweak the design a bit, but for most tumbles and falls, the Impact Band and D30 do their jobs.