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ATPM 15.04
April 2009




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Accessory Review

by Chris Lawson,

Showcase for iPhone 3G


Developer: Contour Design

Price: $35

Trial: None.

Hard cases, soft cases, metal cases, plastic cases, clear cases, colored cases…the iPhone case market exploded even faster than the iPod case market did. Everyone and his brother is marketing an iPhone case these days. Longtime Mac accessory maker Contour Design jumped into the fray with their Showcase, updated for the iPhone 3G. Let’s take a look and see how it stacks up.

Contour has essentially done nothing more than update their relatively ancient Showcase design for a slightly different shape. Longtime iPod users may have even had one of the prior showcase models, which have been around for at least five years now. The basic formula is still the same: clear plastic with rubber edges for easier grip.

The biggest design beef I have with the Showcase is the clear back. It doesn’t really serve any useful purpose other than to show off the chrome Apple logo and “iPhone” label, and the clear polycarbonate scratches easily, making the case look used very quickly. For that matter, the clear portions of the front of the Showcase don’t add anything to its functionality either—they merely serve to carry on the Showcase design language.

Those of you who prefer function to follow form will probably think I’m being too picky here, while readers who prefer that form follow function (and Apple has arguably done a brilliant job of making things, including the iPhone, attractive and functional in the Jonathan Ive era) will be nodding their heads and asking “Why?” It’s not exactly jelly stripper heels, but it’s not a pair of Tiffany cuff links either, and the Showcase certainly doesn’t help the iPhone’s overall appearance.


The Showcase presents an attractive enough face, though a screen protector would be greatly appreciated.

Getting the iPhone into the Showcase is easy enough—just open the clamshell, slide the phone in, and snap the clamshell shut. Getting it out, however, is another story. Why remove it at all? Mostly to clean the screen, since the Showcase doesn’t include any sort of screen protection. (In theory, it should be compatible with most screen protector products.) Opening the clamshell can be a real challenge and occasionally requires the assistance of a small screwdriver.


The headphone jack cutout is amply sized for even the largest headphone plugs.

The rest of the case is very functional and well-designed. The headphone jack cutout is plenty big enough to allow for even the largest headphone plugs, and the volume/silent button cutout allows for easy access to all three side buttons.


The cutout for the volume buttons and silent switch is plenty big enough to allow easy access for any size fingers.

There’s no problem accessing the dock connector, either, although it’s almost a certainty that flush-fitting accessories won’t work with the Showcase—or any other rigid case, for that matter.


The Showcase allows for easy access to the Dock Connector but prevents flush-fitting accessories from working while the iPhone is in the case.

The rubber perimeter of the case isn’t as grippy as many of the silicone “skin” cases, but it’s certainly easier to grab onto than the phone itself. With the weather warming up lately here in Michigan, I’ve stopped wearing my ubiquitous winter fleece jacket at work, which means my phone lives in my shirt pocket or my jeans pocket most of the time. Silicone cases are so grippy that it’s hard to remove the phone from a pocket, especially a pants pocket. The Showcase is just slippery enough not to have that problem.

Those of you who don’t like carrying a phone in your pocket—or really enjoy looking like a nerdy, street-clothed Batman—will be happy to know that the Showcase comes with a belt holster for Old West-style iPhone street dueling. You can holster the phone in a vertical or horizontal position, with the screen facing in or out (Contour recommends facing the screen inwards for maximal protection).


This is Contour’s recommended configuration for holstering the iPhone.


If you get bored with the horizontal configuration, you can also holster your phone vertically.

Unlike some of the competition, the Showcase’s holster does not have the ability to double as a stand, and the clip feels a little flimsy where it attaches to the holster. Not being the holster type myself, I can’t attest to the real-world durability of the clip or holster, but consider yourself forewarned.


You can also holster the iPhone with the screen facing out. No matter how you choose to do it, you look like a giant geek.

For $35, the Showcase isn’t a bad deal. There are similar cases out there for slightly less money, but there are a lot of things to like about the Showcase. It gives just the right amount of grip and protects the iPhone very well. With an included screen protector and a solid back, it would be just about perfect.

Reader Comments (2)

G. Watson · April 5, 2009 - 16:40 EST #1
It looks a lot like my Otter Box case. Same price range and should give the phone decent protection. I carry mine in my pocket... less chance of having it hit the floor or having someone swipe it.
R · April 10, 2009 - 17:35 EST #2
I can recommend this product - I've used it for over a year and it has worked flawlessly. The density of the cover has protected the iPhone from a couple of nasty drops w/o any problem. I'd recommend a thin screen film for max protection. The belt clip can work as a stand on a level surface. Well made, very secure.

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