UPDATE 3/28/11 – For those still hitting this 3GS review… I’ve been using the new iPhone 4 case for a couple weeks and need to get the review finished but I didn’t want everyone to keep waiting. So far I really like the case. My wife is using one as well and also likes it a lot. It’s holding up very well and no real issues with connections or buttons/switches. Full review soon..but so far it’s a go!
UPDATE 2/4/11 – While talking with Magpul today they let me know that the flaw I mention in the update below from 7/2/10 has been fixed on the iPhone 3G/3GS case. It was a geometry issue in the pre-release cases like I had. My case came from SHOT and was not (as it turns out) the same as the final retail case. So everyone buying the case should be fine. I am expecting the iPhone 4 case any time and I’ll be posting another review of that once I receive it.
UPDATE 7/2/10 – This review still gets a good many hits every day so I wanted to update it with my longer term experience. Don’t buy this case. Well..I guess you can’t as Magpul still isn’t selling them and even posted they know of some issues. Over time the material starts to soften up and the case gets loose and doesn’t fit well. When I took the case off to sell my iPhone 3GS to upgrade to the new iPhone 4 there were spots on the back of the phone that were almost sanded due to the movement and edges of the case letting fine dirt in.
So..don’t. But hey, if you’re a Magpul fan and want to buy one drop me an email. I no longer have a need. It doesn’t fit the iPhone 4. 🙂
And now for something completely different…. I’ve mentioned before that I like it when my hobbies and interests collide, and one of my hobbies is shooting. I shoot rifles and handguns for fun and sometimes competition. At SHOT in Las Vegas Magpul, who make a lot of nice tactical weapon accessories, announced several new products, including an iPhone case, which was a little surprising..but maybe not too surprising. Magpul are kind of the masters when it comes to injection molded polymer accessories, but unlike others that do it theirs are very high quality. As an example, here is a video that they made showing the durability of their injection molded PMAG magazines in a crazy torture test comparison. While I couldn’t get to SHOT show, I will one year, I did know several people going and one was nice enough to stop by the Magpul booth and get me a case. As of right now they still aren’t shipping yet but should soon. Just a note here, when I review an item I almost always try and use it for a while before writing a review. I’m not a big fan of “unboxing” reviews or Day 1 reviews. About the only time I’ve done that was my review of the AT&T Microcell and I had people begging me to write that, so I did.
Even so, the bottom line is that it’s an iPhone case and there is shortage of decent cases on the market. So why bother? Personally I think they did it as a fun exercise. Magpul has been known to build interesting parts and do some short run items just for fun. But after using the case for about six weeks I hope this isn’t a short run, it’s a very well done phone case.
As you can see there isn’t much on the front of the case. While many thought that the Magpul case would be similar to an Otterbox case, that isn’t so. This is not a bomb-proof case like the Otterbox. For me, that’s a good thing. I don’t need that level of protection for my phone and the size of the Otterbox would keep me from carrying the phone in my pocket. For those that expected more in the way of screen protection you’ll be disappointed, I’m afraid. The case rises above the screen just a tiny bit on the sides so it would only protect a straight down drop on to a smooth surface. Anything with texture might cause a problem.
For those of us familiar with Magpul’s PMAGs the back will be familiar as it has a similar square grip surface along with the Magpul logo. As you can see the hole for the camera lens is already there and while that’s normal for all cases it’s not for this one. When you get the Magpul iPhone case new not all of the connector and button access holes are there. The dock connector, headphone jack, and mute/vibrate slider are all covered and must be cut out. The case has lines so it’s easy to do, but you get to decide if you want them or not. I guess if I was running all over enemy territory in really bad conditions I may not want the dock connector exposed, but since most of my time is spent in exciting meetings or data centers it’s not a big deal.
The picture here shows where I cut out the mute/vibrate slider.
While not a big deal to cut them out, it does bring me to my major complaint about the case. It’s a bit thick in some places. For example, I need to cut the slider out more as I can’t really work it when it’s in the vibrate mode. I have real short finger nails and mine won’t slide it back to ring mode. I also had to cut out more on the dock connector to get my charging cable to snap in easily. Minor annoyance, but still there. This leads me to my one other complaint….
Again, for those familiar with Magpul’s other offerings like the PMAG and their MBUS (Magpul Back-Up Sight) the material used for the case is different….it had to be. If they used the same solid polymer as their other items you’d never get your iPhone in or out of it. There is no flex or give. The iPhone case material is very good. It has almost a rubbery feel, especially on the thicker corner areas. Great for protection when dropped. The downside I’ve found is that if you, for some reason, take your iPhone in and out of the case a lot it will eventually stretch. The picture above shows this in the upper left of my case where I sometimes pull the case back to get to the mute slider. I never take my phone out of the case so if I had just cut out more for the slider this wouldn’t have happened, but keep this in mind if you do remove yours a lot. I’m going to buy another case in Flat Dark Earth when they ship so it’s not a big deal for me.
The other items like volume and the lock button don’t need to be cut out. There are “buttons” molded in to the case that pass presses through to the real buttons on the phone. They work just fine.
With those two minor complaints in mind everything else about the case is good. My biggest problem with iPhone cases is wear. My previous case was an iFrogz case that looked great, for a while. After about 3 months it looked like I had taken a belt sander to the back and the material was getting very brittle. I’m not easy on some of my equipment, especially my phones and it showed. After 6 weeks the Magpul case still looks brand new which is a testament to the material they use. It has flex and give, but isn’t wearing like others. It’s also not a slick material which works well for me as I drive with my phone on the center console of the car. With slick cases, like the iFrogz, the phone would move at times. It’s nice to have the phone sitting in one spot all the time again. Probably the biggest feature of the case is the price. Magpul will be selling these for $10 each in Black, Flat Dark Earth (FDE), or Foliage Green. I plan to get another in FDE. To me, simple iPhone cases in the $30 range are crazy so it’s nice to see good cheap offerings out there.