ZoFunk Grip Sleeve
Requirements: iPhone 3G
There are silicone sleeves galore for iPods and iPhones, and there are even silicone keyboard protectors for laptop and desktop Macs. Naturally, ZoFunk would have their own version of the ubiquitous “skin” case for the iPhone, available in red, white, black, or clear.
The Grip Sleeve is Yet Another Basic Silicone Case. With a giant hole in the back of it.
Most of the typical features of silicone cases apply to the ZoFunk Grip Sleeve. The sleeve is stretchy to easily fit over an iPhone, can be washed with mild detergent and water to keep it clean, and the surface of the case is tacky. The last feature comes in handy if you’re the type who leaves your phone sitting on a flat surface in the car while driving. There’s enough friction between the case and the cupholder cover in my Mazda to keep the phone in place even on a highway exit ramp at 45 MPH.
The power button is protected by a layer of silicone. The headphone jack cutout is a little small, though.
The only cutouts on the Grip Sleeve are for the camera, the headphone jack, the silent button, the Dock Connector, and, inexplicably, the Apple logo. The volume and power buttons are protected by a thin layer of silicone through which they’re easily actuated.
The volume buttons are also protected by a layer of silicone.
The textured finish—the case is ridged like a bullseye centered on the phone’s Apple logo—is unappealing to my eye; I’d have preferred a uniformly smooth finish or perhaps something fine-grained like anodized aluminum. The ridges seem like their whole purpose, other than collecting dirt, is to focus attention on the Apple logo cutout.
Hey, look at me, I’m hip and trendy because I have all these waves radiating out from the Apple logo on the back of my phone. Yes, the logo you won’t see because I’m holding the phone in my hand.
I’ll readily admit that I don’t understand the point of having a cutout for the Apple logo. Then again, I’ve been using Macs and Apple products since 1988 and never believed in showing off the logo merely as a status symbol. The whole purpose of a case is to protect the device inside it, and ZoFunk seems to have forgotten that important point.
Here’s another shot of the back, sans phone.
By putting a penny-sized circular cutout in the back of the case, the iPhone is directly exposed to scratches and other damage. It’s also one more place grit can sneak under the case to become trapped between the phone and the case. The good news, however, is that because of the flexibility of the silicone, it’s easy to remove the case and wash it off, which you’ll probably want to do on a regular basis, especially since the sticky material tends to attract dust and dirt.
The only other drawback to the extreme tackiness of the silicone material is that it makes an encased phone nearly impossible to retrieve from a jeans or shirt pocket. This is mildly annoying for us guys; ladies who carry their phone in a purse probably won’t care one way or another.
At least it looks normal from the front. Not half-bad, actually, and better than some of the competition.
ZoFunk makes a hard plastic screen protector that is included with the Zoe Case (see below), but they don’t include it with the Grip Sleeve. (You can buy it separately for an extra $10.) They should, because the Grip Sleeve provides essentially zero screen protection. In fairness, though, neither do most other skin-style cases. You’ll probably want to get a separate screen protector.
There are numerous silicone cases like the Grip Sleeve on the market. Most of them are around the same price and provide approximately the same features. It’s really a question of how much you like the design and appearance of the case. The Grip Sleeve isn’t bad, but it’s not great, either. For $15, you can probably do better, especially with that enormous cutout in the back of the case.
Requirements: iPhone 3G
The Grip Sleeve is far from the only trick in ZoFunk’s bag. They have traditional hard cases, too, and the flagship among these is the Zoclear, a hard-shell case with an integral screen protector and belt-clip-cum-stand.
It does a great job of protecting the phone, though, with its integral screen protector. After a day or two, you forget that it’s there.
Design-wise, it’s similar to cases like the Contour Showcase, but to my eye, it’s more attractive than the Showcase due to greater consistency in the construction. That’s not to say it’s perfect—there are mold lines and hard edges that would make Jonathan Ive weep—but the all-black face and all-clear cases look better than the mix that the Showcase has.
Too bad the clip holding the case closed is (a) flimsy and (b) nearly impossible to open without tools. I had to use a screwdriver to open the case to remove my phone. Fortunately, the case is designed so that you won’t need to do that often.
The latch at the top of the case feels a little flimsy without a phone in the case, and the belt clip has its own latch that sounds like it’s breaking every time I open it. ZoFunk did go the extra mile with the belt clip, though; it’s the first belt clip I’ve seen that follows the advice I’ve been giving for years and folds out as a “kickstand” to let the case stand on its own. This is a really useful feature if you’re sitting at a desk or on an airplane, since you don’t need to prop the iPhone up against anything (or clip it on the seatback pocket) to watch videos.
The belt clip design on the Zoclear is great. You can stand the iPhone up in a horizontal position…
…or in a vertical position.
The clip also rotates 180 degrees, allowing you to put the phone in whatever orientation you want on your belt. You can stand the iPhone up either vertically or horizontally, and you can remove the clip entirely if you’d rather carry your phone in a pocket and don’t want the added bulk.
The Zoclear’s clip detaches if you don’t want the added bulk in your pocket.
ZoFunk designed the Zoclear with an integrated thin plastic face that acts as a screen protector. There’s a small cutout over the handset speaker and one for the power button, but the rest of the phone is entirely protected by a layer of plastic. Touching the screen through the plastic is marginally less accurate than touching the bare screen, but probably not noticeably so unless you’re doing a great deal of typing or gaming. I didn’t see any drop in typing accuracy (perhaps helped by the smart auto-correction features in the iPhone’s spell-checker) or in pointing accuracy while using the Zoclear with the iPhone.
The Zoclear is somewhat happier propped up in its horizontal position than in its vertical position, as you can see here.
The headphone jack cutout is a little on the small side if you use third-party headphones with a larger plug, but it works fine with Apple’s headphones. The volume and silent buttons are easily accessible, as is the power button on top of the phone. There’s a cutout in the back of the case for the camera lens to peek through, allowing for unobstructed photos, and the dock connector cutout is plenty wide for a sync cable and the speaker/microphone setup while being deep enough to provide a good degree of protection.
The Zoclear is of a clamshell design, but doesn’t fit together as nicely as one might like.
If it weren’t for the forgettable build quality of the case and that flimsy-feeling belt clip, this case would be almost perfect. As it is, $27 is a pretty good deal for this level of protection and style, especially with a built-in screen protector. I think this might be my favorite iPhone case yet.
Requirements: iPhone 3G
If you’re just looking for basic, hard-shell protection for your iPhone, you’d be hard-pressed to find something more functional than ZoFunk’s Zoe Case. It’s a two-piece, rubberized plastic case that snaps together over your phone, available in either red or black. The inside is lined with some mouse-fur felt to reduce the risk of scratches to the back of the phone, and the rubberized plastic material provides just enough grip to make the phone easy to grab without sticking inside a pocket like the Grip Sleeve does.
Ah, such fine mouse-fur fabric. It does keep the iPhone scratch-free, though.
(As an aside, I assume that name is pronounced the same way that Zoe McLellan’s name is, “ZO” instead of “ZO-ee.”)
Another great feature of the Zoe Case is the included screen protector, which ZoFunk also sells separately for $10. Using it with the case is highly recommended, because the edges of the case cause dust and dirt to accumulate along the sides of the screen. While using the Zoe Case, I found a weekly removal and cleaning with a soft cloth was in order, as wiping the screen down while in the case simply pushed all the dust to the sides of the screen. The screen protector minimizes the potential for grit to scratch the glass screen in these situations.
The case is fairly attractive if you can ignore the fit-and-finish issues, but it really needs a screen protector.
The various cutouts on the Zoe Case are well-designed, and the headphone jack is big enough to allow larger headphone plugs. Fit and finish aren’t that great, though. There are little bits of “flashing,” thin strips of extra material, around most of the cutouts.
More crying, this time by Uncle Steve, too.
The mold lines all around the perimeter of the case are ugly, and the latching mechanism that keeps the two halves of the case connected can be extremely difficult to release if you decide to remove the phone from the case. All in all, it would be a much more attractive case if the factory spent a little extra time cleaning up the production process a bit. Mold lines make Baby Ive cry, and Apple users are a notoriously demanding lot.
You can see that the cutout is plenty large even for headphones with huge plugs, like Grados. Note also the mold lines that are making Baby Ive cry.
The latching mechanism here can be finicky, but it works pretty well. Like the Zoclear, it’s not a case designed to be removed often, but unlike the Zoclear, it needs to be.
The Zoe Case provides a good level of protection, especially with its included screen protector, but the relatively poor finish of the case takes away a lot from an otherwise good product. I think it’s fair to say that, for $21, customers are entitled to demand a higher degree of refinement, and other than that, ZoFunk really has a solid product here.